Impact of change
The One Child Policy was implemented in 1979 as a governmental response to the pressing issue of an unsupportable population. China’s population was close to one billion at the time, and there were widely held concerns over the very real possibility of famine due to the limits of natural resources in supporting the population.
Traditionally, big families were regarded as extremely desirable. In particular, boys were considered “blessings”, and thus a family with many boys was regarded highly in Chinese society. However, if the issue of population were to be controlled or even reversed, this cultural norm had to be changed. Thus, the Chinese Communist Party implemented the One Child Policy, legislating that every family was limited to one child, except in extenuating circumstances. Such circumstances were geographical location, such as fishing or forest areas, or sparsely populated areas, or if the first child had a non-hereditary disease or disability. Generally, persons in rural areas tend to have two children (legally), and those in urban areas have one. Families who have one child receive a certificate which entitles them to an annual bonus on their salary, and various other benefits. They are also celebrated and honoured by their community. Thus, the one child policy has reversed the traditional social norm of the large family being most desirable.
The One Child Policy is enforced by Family Planning Officers. These persons have the authority to fine offenders (those who have more children than their legal quota), and to force women to undergo sterilisation procedures after fulfilling their quote of children. They also have the unofficial power to perform “abortion raids” on women suspected to be illegally pregnant, forcing women to abort their babies, even in the latest stages of the pregnancy. Abortion clinics proliferate both rural and urban areas, characterised by rushed abortions (which are not always performed properly, particularly in isolated regions), and garbage bins overflowing with aborted foetuses.
This policy has resulted in horror stories of female infanticide. The traditional cultural belief that males are superior and more desirable than females has seen continuity), abandoned children, and women being forced to go into hiding whilst pregnant to escape the pressures of the family planning officers. The policy has resulted in a significant gender imbalance, whereby in many cases men outnumber women 12:10. Many men have even given up hope of ever finding a wife with such hopeless odds.
The single child generation has resulted also in a generation of “little emperors”, heavily spoilt and pampered children, doted on by their parents. This “Me” generation is characterised by a vast number of norms and values which are far removed from traditional Chinese society, particular those Western-style values of independence and freedom of speech.