Family planning or math game, the review of China’s new relax policy

| September 15th, 2014

Family Planning poster in China during 1960s-1970s, courtesy of National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland

To increase the falling fertility rate in China, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has eased the one-child policy conditionally in 2013, namely the relaxed policy which means a couple could generally only have a second child if either parent is an only child. According to the national health and family planning commission, the new policy occurring with the population growth rate will be limited and under control; the ideal situation of expectation of CCP to administrate national concerns is 14 billion people living in the China till 2020.

China’s family planning policy has been widely criticized for a long time. After entering the era of digital social network, the image is drastically strengthen, for instance, cases in regard to forced labor inductions or having privilege to have one more child, have put China’s government in an embarrassing situation. The recent relaxation of family planning policy seems to be gaining most Chinese citizens’ approval. The investigation of Sina Weibo shows that more than 60% of users are willing to have a second child. Nevertheless, rational and cold-hearted materialists already considered the consequence that it is actually a fickle game. Why does it fickle? Firstly, the title of China’s family planning policy is always simplified to One-child policy, but in fact, it should be one and a half child policy. One-child policy is only directed to Han nationality with permanent urban residence certificate, also couple who both are an only children is not included. Hence, about 30% of people have an only child and more than 50% are at a rate of 1.5, and the fertility rate of 1.5 is widely accepted by international experts.

Furthermore, assuming the relaxed policy would not change in the future 20 years, as a consequence of that, the population could be well controlled by the CCP. For example, if a structure of a one-child policy’s family is 4-2-1 (grandparent-parent-son/daughter), a relaxed policy’s family should be 4-2-2. When it comes to Generation third (son/daughter), it is supposed to have one-child only. But according to the above assumption of proportion, there are 30% probabilities that both parents are only children and could have two children. While about 50% probabilities to have one child only. Despite the fact that experts predict the population will increase by one million to nine million people per year under the influence of those 30% probabilities, a lot of evidence show that when a country’s development reached a certain level, the rate of fertility naturally decline below the replacement fertility rate which is 2.1. This is not only associated with national income per capita, culture and policy, but more or less the tendency of human development which is well illustrated by the developed countries like Germany and Japan as well as middle-income countries like China, they are all facing the crisis of reluctance to have more babies. As a result, from Generation third onwards very likely to return back the structure of 4-2-1, and repeat again and again.

So far, the number of applicants is just 270 thousand couples but the qualified families exceed 10 million. The astonishing effect of lower percentage may not support the opinions of one-child policy opponents to accelerate economic development. Conversely, the CCP views the dissidents is to against authority by the West standards like human rights, or politically incorrect. The relaxed policy was therefore a symbol to improve the images of CCP’ cruel measure and that smooth the tension between critics. In brief, the CCP won’t give up the one-child policy completely unless it truly undermines the base of Party.

Lucian T. H. Hsu is the first Ph.D. from the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies of Tamkang University of Taiwan. He was the visiting fellow in Western Michigan University of US and Monash University of Australia. He is now a freelance writer and researcher.

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