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Scholars Call for an End to China's One-Child Policy

China's one-child policy is unshakeable, a top family planning official announced on January 14, 2013. Minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission Wang Xia said:

The policy should be a long-term one, and its primary goal is to maintain a low birth rate and be gradually perfected.

The debate about whether it's time to phase out the policy started in China recently, fueled last year partly by public disgust with instances of forced abortion. In July 2012, 15 scholars called for a two-child policy; in Nov 2012, over 30 economists urged an end to the one-child policy. The announcement, which dismissed speculation that the one-child policy would be scrapped, has triggered another heated debate on Chinese social media. On Sina

A screenshot of a report about single children as "little emperors" in China (from youku)

A screenshot of a report about single children as “little emperors” in China (from youku)

Weibo, it became the number 1 hot topic on January 16 and 17. On the Weibo survey, over 12,000 web users maintained that it was time to phase out the one-child policy while only about 5,000 still support the policy.

The supporters argue that China has already got a big population, without the policy, there would be too many people. Global Times Chief Editor Hu Xijin [Hz] took the lead:

支持坚持计划生育大格局,同时支持部分、逐渐放开一些具体政策。中国的高生育率得以控制住,这是了不起的社会成 就。我不希望后代们生活在20亿人口甚至30亿人口的中国…我周围的很多双独已经开始生2个孩子了, 祝贺他们。但这不意味计划生育的终结。

I support the one-child policy; at the same time, I support a gradual relaxation of certain policies in some areas. The control of China's high birth rate is a great achievement. I do not want future generations to live in a country with a population of two billion or even three billion. Young couples around me who are both the single child of the family have already been allowed to have two children; I congratulate them. But that does not mean the end of the one-child policy.

However, supporters seemed to ignore China's current demographic problems caused by the one-child policy. Many scholars and economists argue that the one-child policy resulted in a series of long-term social problems, including a rapidly aging population and gender imbalance. The also say  that the Chinese would not have had many more children without the policy.

Co-founder of Ctrip Liang Jianzhang[zh] called for urgent reform of the policy:

僵化的生育政策导致倒金字塔的人口结构,为中国经济发展埋下了巨大的隐患,引发各种社会问题,改革刻不容缓!

This rigid policy led to an “inverted pyramid” population structure with unforeseen risks to China's economic development and various social problems. Policy reform is not to be delayed!

Liang also wrote [zh] a commentary on the Chinese version of Wall Street Journal explaining why maintaining a low birth rate is no longer necessary.

Professor Wu Bihu from Beijing Univeristy further explained:

因为计生委有行政编制、准生寻租、超生罚款等利益链,国家不应被计生委绑架。强制人流谋杀生命、独生子女社会问题、性比例失衡、老龄化、城市化育子成本蹿升出生率下降等,都已预示计划生育政策可以洗洗睡了。

There's a chain of interests involved within the Population and Family Planning Commission, as it concerns many people's jobs and large fines for a second baby. However, the state should not be “kidnapped” by the Population and Family Planning Commission. Forced abortion, the social problems from a single child, the imbalance in the sex ratio, a rapidly ageing population, the declining birth rate due to the rising cost of child-raising, all of these have indicated that the one-child policy can go to sleep.

Yuan Li[zh], chief editor of Wall Street Journal China provided some revealing numbers to support Wu's statement:

计生委成立于1981年,有50万全职雇员和600万兼职员工,每年征收的罚款达数百万美元

The Population and Family Planning Commission was founded in 1981. There are now half a million full-time employees and 6 million part-time staff. They receive fines of up to millions of dollars each year.

Economist Mao Yushi[zh] echoed:

其实,取消计划生育全国几十万的计生干部都要失业。这是生死存亡之战。

In fact, the abolition of the policy means thousands of cadres would lose their jobs. This is the battle of life and death.

Social researcher Yi Fuxian[zh] analyzed on his blog:

现在很多人认为城市化可以保证中国经济继续高速增长。本文从人口结构分析,中国不可能重现日、台、韩当年那种经济奇迹。中国现在经济放缓并非偶然。城市化也是生育率跳跃性下降的过程,中国需要果断停止计划生育。

Many people think that urbanization can guarantee China's continued economic growth. From the angle of population structure, it is impossible for China to experience the economic miracle Japan, Taiwan and Korea has experienced. The slowdown of China's economy is not accidental. The process of urbanization also resulted the decline of birth. China needs to stop one child policy immediately.

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