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China Rethinks Its One-Child Policy

Is it too late to change China’s one-child policy?

The one-child policy has been in effect in mainland China for over 30 years causing the elder population to grow and tax its social services system. The government is now rethinking its one-child policy, particularly in its large cities.

What would you do if you lived in China and were starting a family?

While China rethinks its one-child policy, Hong Kong hospitals are overburdened by pregnant mainland women crossing the border to deliver their babies in Hong Kong. A baby boom in Hong Kong is forcing city and private hospitals to restrict the number of deliveries. Hong Kong authorities are also cracking down on agencies that promote and arrange for women to cross the border to give birth in Hong Kong.

Pressure to relax one-child policy

A growing number of community centers are cropping up to care for older citizens who do not want to live with or burden their children. According to "China looks forward to the age of 'Silvertown,'" an article in the Financial Times, a single child may be preparing "to care for as many as six parents and grandparents per person."

 With serious economic and population issues at stake in China, the government has relaxed the one-child rule to some degree already. Previously if both parents were only children they could give birth to two children; now if one parent is an only child, the couple can have a second child. Because provinces determine child-bearing policies, Li Jainmin, head of the Institute of Population and Development Research at Nankai Univeristy, believes "the one-child policy will die a quiet death."

May be too late to turn the tide

 On the mainland, especially in large cities, it may be too late to turn the tide and convince young people to have more than one child. Before there was talk of changing the policy, Professor Wang Feng of the University of California, Irvine, interviewed Chinese mothers and found that citizens have accepted the one-child limit and are happy with it. The reactions he got were very similar to what I hear from men and women across the United States. "One child is enough. I'm too busy at work to have any more," says, Zhao Hui, a thirty-eight-year-old Beijing mother of a then four-year-old. "It wouldn't matter what my financial situation was or what the government regulations were, I'd still only want one child," she adds. Most of her friends, she told the BBC News, have the same feeling.

When the Beijing Institute interviewed the city's young-adult population who were only children, it found that 52 percent of them want one child and 25 percent of them want no children-a pattern similar to the direction the United States and other countries have headed.

Even as more people, by choice or circumstance, have one-child families in the US, it is unlikely that the problems faced in China will become social or economic issues here. Without a "one-child rule," enough Americans are still wed to the notion that children need siblings—in spite of ample evidence that they don't.  

Copyright 2011 by Susan Newman