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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

China Ends Decades Long 'One-Child' Policy

China no longer prevents families from having more than one child.

China’s One-Child Policy was dismantled on Thursday after thirty-five years of existence. The new policy will now allow families to have a maximum of two children. The decision was made during a four-day Central Committee meeting.

China established the one-child policy in 1979. An estimated 400 million births have been prevented as a result of the law, which fined Chinese families for having more than one child. The only exception to the law occurred in rural areas. Families whose first child was a girl had permission from the government to have a second child.

China's One-Child Policy has been in existence for over thirty years. (Brenna Devanney/Annenberg Media)
China's One-Child Policy has been in existence for over thirty years. (Brenna Devanney/Annenberg Media)

After years of living with the one-child policy, Chinese students on campus said it will take a while for the law to have an impact. 

“There are so many people in China. I feel like it will be hard to divide attention since it’s been that way for so long,” said USC student Sooahan Ko. “I don’t think it will be a dramatic change where people will have five kids.” 

Xinhua News Agency, the state-run news source in China, announced the policy change. The official statement said the change is intended “to improve the balanced
development of population.” 

The one-child policy was designed to control the population, but now the younger Chinese population has the responsibility to care for multiple grandparents. China’s estimated population is about 1.36 billion, and 30% of Chinese residents are over the age of 50.  

Greg Autry, a Chinese policy expert at the USC Marshall School of Business, said the policy change will continue years of Chinese government control.

“They still believe that the state has the right to tell a woman whether she can have a child or not,” said Autry. “They will coercively punish people who make their own choices about reproduction so the fact whether you can have two or twelve children is not relevant.” 

China has faced much criticism for its treatment of women under the one-child policy for stripping them of their reproductive rights, said Autry. He said, despite the policy changes, China’s childbearing regulations will still result in unwanted abortions, abandoned female babies, and female infanticide. 

While some experts view the changes as a big step for mothers, others said the changes will benefit both parents.

“I don’t really think of it as a feminist issue,” said USC student Shaean Parmer. “It’s a mutual decision for both parents so I think it is a win for everybody.”

The policy change will need to be approved by China’s top legislature before it becomes official.  

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