China’s One-Child Rule Turns Into a Time Bomb

Pascale Trouillaud, Google News, October 25, 2011

China’s one-child policy has prevented almost half a billion births but has turned into a demographic time bomb as the population ages, storing up huge economic and social problems for the country.

As the world’s population hits the seven billion mark, straining the earth’s resources, China can claim to have curbed its birth rate to around 1.5 children per woman since the policy was introduced in 1979.

Without the birth limits, which no other country applies as rigorously or on such a scale, the world’s most populous nation would have hundreds of millions more mouths to feed than the 1.34 billion it has now.

But from modern cities to remote villages, its implementation has involved abuses from mass sterilisation to abortions as late as eight months into the pregnancy. Baby girls have also been abandoned and killed.

Couples who defy the rule can face fines amounting to several years’ salary, have access to social services cut and even go to prison. Their so-called “black children” have no legal status in China.

{snip}

But three decades on, demographers, sociologists and economists are warning of a looming crisis as China becomes the only developing country in the world to face growing old before it grows rich.

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By 2050, a quarter of China’s population will be over 65, the Commission for Population and Family Planning said, compared to just nine percent today.

{snip}

The upside-down pyramid–whereby a single child shoulders responsibility for two parents and four grandparents–is a major headache for the government, particularly as unemployment rises, forcing more and more people to migrate to cities for work.

Liang Zhongtang, a demographer involved in family planning, said the pressure would grow as Chinese born between 1962 and 1972 retire.

“Nearly 30 million babies were born each year during that period, compared to six or seven million each year right now, you can imagine how big the burden on the government will be,” he said.

{snip}

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  • Anonymous

    Even though I readily acknowledge that there are many problems inherent in the one-child policy, what else can a country with 4-5 times too many people do? There’s not really an easy out for them any way you look at it.

  • Peejay in Frisco

    If the population of a nation gets old, so what? It is better than the alternative.

  • Dennis

    While I agree that 400 million abortions since 1979, forced abortions, etc., are more of a bad thing than a good thing, if you think about it, the ultimate irony (from the standpoint of persons who describe themselves as antiabortion or “pro-life”) is that the government of China saw fit to put those policies in place precisely because in previous years, and decades, and generations, and centuries, the Chinese have been so amazingly, mind-bogglingly “pro-life” that there are now one billion, 340 million of them.

  • Tim Mc Hugh

    I read somewhere what the TRUE intent of China`s one child policy is. It`s not about controlling population, it`s about engineering the destruction of the nuclear family. An entire country with no brothers or sisters or cousins or Aunts or Uncles… A totalitarian regime plan to (in the article`s words) “breed out the genetic Bonanza response”… In other words, the state is now your family. No more Hoss and Adam riding to the rescue of Little Joe. No more Greg and Peter sticking up for Bobby Brady…The State demands your absolute loyalty because their is no one else to give it to.

  • Anonymous

    At least they’re not admitting millions of aliens from every race, color and creed known to man!! They may have a lopsided age pyramid in 2050 but China will still be China.

  • rjf101

    I agree with the first poster. Although I abhor abortion and forced sterilization, and wish that everyone could have exactly the number of children they want, China dosn’t really have much of a choice. Their population is simply too large.

  • Question Diversity

    On the other hand, without one-child, China would have a population of about 1.8 billion today. And nobody would think that’s a better situation than what is there today. All those extra Chinese would mean that Chinese labor is even cheaper, making job outsourcing even more attractive. More Chinese mouths to feed means food prices would be even higher. Then there’s the environmental and quality of life concerns…not that it’s great now, but it would be even worse with somewhere between 400 and 500 million extra people.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t buy this, such concerns are a joke in Chinese context. To be old in China you don’t need much more than the daily bread. Housing is cheap (in the countryside, if all else fails) and health care is minimal. Now, if they start running out of able-bodied farmers to grow rice the old-fashioned way, they will invest in mechanization (see Japan or American rice growing methods) and the problem will go away. Although in practice, given the history of traditional Chinese agriculture a hundred years ago with an able-bodied population that was several times less than what it is now on the same amount of land, it should be obvious that even mechanization wouldn’t be needed. They simply have far too many people, able-bodied and otherwise, given the land area. Having a significantly smaller next generation will be no different from Europe’s smaller surviving population after the Black Death, with significantly higher per capita land and capital availability .

  • voter

    This is a very biased article. So what are they recommending — tht the Chinese should have MORE babies?

    What a great idea!!!

  • john

    China’s one child policy has proven a disaster in more ways than those posited in this article.

    Perhaps the biggest problem is the alarming growth of the male population versus the female. Since most Chinese (and a lot of other populations for that matter) prefer male children, the net effect of this ill-considered policy has been for the hapless Chinese people to abort female fetuses.

    The effects of this hare-brained policy are already evident. There are and soon will be a lot more marriage-age men than women in China. As this has never happened before in known history (that I know of anyway) the results of this are rather unpredictable, though I suspect they’ll be unpleasant. Tens of millions of unhappy Chinese men, seeking mates, could make for a very unstable situation both domestically for China and internationally.

  • Anonymous

    “I abhor abortion and forced sterilization, and wish that everyone could have exactly the number of children they want”

    — rjf101

    In the over-popuated world that we are all coming to (and soon), that will be an impossibility. It is simply not realistic. There are going to be great changes in the world. China was simply the first to recognize it.

  • Dutchman

    In China children don’t appear to be loved very much. They get run over by trucks and 18 people walk buy until one finally attends to the child-too late, alas-and in another incident a boy gets hit and killed by a truck and the family and driver haggle over the compensation while the body lies squashed under the wheel! The notion that all races and cultures are at bottom alike is a myth. Only the DWLs pay lip-service to believing it.

    Maybe China will solve their massive retiree problem by hitting them with trucks?

  • Frank Wolfe

    One thing that no one is speaking on is the gender gap. I have read that for every 100 women in China, there are 121 men. This means out of every 100 men, only 79 women are available. This is a recipe for social disaster. Try being told that you will never have any women available for you and see how you react. I predict that within 10 years, China will see an explosion in rapes, gangs and outright anger and this will create a major economic and social disaster. So they don’t need to wait until 2050 for their problems to begin.

  • Browser

    10 — john wrote:

    China’s one child policy has proven a disaster in more ways than those posited in this article. The effects of this hare-brained policy are already evident.

    As this has never happened before in known history (that I know of anyway) the results of this are rather unpredictable, though I suspect they’ll be unpleasant.

    __ __ __ __ __

    Not so! This has not yet “proven” to be anything. If so, where is the proof? By your own statement, all you are doing is speculating. So far, their wealth and productivity and standard of living are increasing enormously (while ours are falling).

    Hair brained? Are you one of those who would welcome another billion Chinese in the world?

  • Istvan

    The one child policy is not the problem. The problem is abortion for sex selection. If each family had one child, regardless of sex, the sexes would be roughly equal. The government could then work on a smooth transition to a smaller, more manageable population. Continuous, explosive population growth is not a wonderful thing and eventually something has to give. Better a one child policy than death by disease and famine.

    However, an excess of males my not be that bad of a thing. So many males are into gaming and computers that a lack of spouses may not cause all the mayhem people expect. All these modern diversions may prevent crime as well as ambition, at least among East Asian populations. Nothing prevents mayhem among blacks.

  • anonymous

    12 — Dutchman wrote at 7:16 PM on October 26:

    “Maybe China will solve their massive retiree problem by hitting them with trucks?”

    One possibility is that peopled can keep on working until they are no longer able. Then there’s the “Brave New World” option — 60 and out. Out the chimney, that is to say.

    Another option is to allow seniors only very limited lifestyles.

    Whatever is going on China, they seem not to have such a shortage of young people that they cannot have more engineering students than we have college students whatsoever.

    Still, there is a huge risk. The phrase “China in upheaval” is part of the world’s vocabulary for a reason.

  • Anonymous

    4 — Tim Mc Hugh wrote at 6:22 PM on October 26:

    “I read somewhere what the TRUE intent of China`s one child policy is. It`s not about controlling population, it`s about engineering the destruction of the nuclear family. An entire country with no brothers or sisters or cousins or Aunts or Uncles… A totalitarian regime plan to (in the article`s words) “breed out the genetic Bonanza response”… In other words, the state is now your family. No more Hoss and Adam riding to the rescue of Little Joe. No more Greg and Peter sticking up for Bobby Brady…The State demands your absolute loyalty because their is no one else to give it to.”

    “I read somewhere,”… Oh how convenient! Well, I also read somewhere that the same thing has happened in the West due to capitalism and over-emphasis on the individual. In fact, I don’t have to read it, I see it every day.

  • Anonymous

    No problem, if China becomes short of able bodied Chinese, the West can sent them millions by then, perhaps even a billion or two. I really wonder how many Chinese would go back willingly?

  • Anonymous

    12 — Dutchman wrote at 7:16 PM on October 26:

    “In China children don’t appear to be loved very much. They get run over by trucks and 18 people walk buy until one finally attends to the child-too late, alas-and in another incident a boy gets hit and killed by a truck and the family and driver haggle over the compensation while the body lies squashed under the wheel! The notion that all races and cultures are at bottom alike is a myth. Only the DWLs pay lip-service to believing it.

    Maybe China will solve their massive retiree problem by hitting them with trucks?”

    From what I’ve seen and learned about it, I’d say that the problems of so many new drivers is the issue. I saw films of drivers in China a few years ago. I couldn’t believe what I saw. Many cars were hitting people and just driving on. It was like bumper cars. But something else is going on as well. I think if WE had the recent brutal and bloody history that China has had in the last century, we’d be less sensitive too. After all, many here would be fine with someone else’s mother dying of starvation or cancer because they don’t want to pay any taxes. We demand and end to abortions for even the poor, but don’t want to pay a cent to feed them. Squashing them on the pavement may actually be more honest.

  • Saul

    I live in China. The strain on the younger population will be more than offset by the decrease in competition for limited resources. Anyone that has been to China knows it cannot sustain a higher population than it has now. Any decrease will mean a higher standard of living.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t get this whole “aging” of the population thing.

    1) What’s so wrong about growing old? Is the alternative – dying young – any better?

    2) With a reduced birthrate less money has to be spent on schools and care for the young. Roughly the first and last 20 years of a person’s life are economically unproductive (birth-20 & 65-85). It actually balances out.

    3) China has only been able to make the great economic advances and improvements in living standards that is has because it has brought down its birthrate. Hundreds millions more people would be a crushing economic burden.

    4) Despite everything the doomsayers well, say, China still has millions of births per year and an enormous population. It isn’t going to disappear.

    5) I do not mean to sound morbid but even a very large elderly population is only a TEMPORARY problem. These people are at the TOP END of the population pyramid and they will eventually be removed from it. The problem SOLVES ITSELF in a few decades (no morbidness intended).

  • wat tyler 23

    Dear all, Most Americans I regret to say have not a clue about the long term intentions of the Chinese. The Chinese are going round the world Treasure Hunting, they know that their land mass as large as it is, is not enough. They have chosen Africa as their Lebensraum to be. They are there doing all manner of [good]of works, to help the Africans better their [future Chinese] country. They are there with bribes helping themselves to raw materials [Mug Black Dictators love a good Bribe], they build roads,bridges,Build Hospitals,schools,improve,agriculture,put water on tap.Now the reason for all this,well is it not nice to have all the infrastructure,comforts in place and ready for you. The Chinese are going to have the largest and most powerful Navy the world has ever seen,[Zheng He 1371-1433],it will make what ever America has had in the past and now look like Sardine tins. The Chinese could at any one time have up to and beyond one Million men at sea,the Chinese will not this time make the mistake as in the past of not capitalising on their strength. The Chinese will go to Africa and do a take over, they will have knowledge of every thing there, after all, they built all the roads, harbours, infrastructure,they would have the ability to put many,many Millions of men ashore,game over for the Africans. The Chinese could also back this up with the most powerful Ballistic weaponry. America,Russia,Europe by this time are just shells of their former selves[wanked out] will be able to do nought about it but Whimper. It is called the numbers game,Hitler put three Million men against Russia, like Napoleon before him he did not understand the numbers game,Russia put even greater numbers up to repel them end of story for Hitler/Napoleon. At the time of the Korean war the Chinese were Known as the Yellow Peril, those times have not gone away,think about it.

  • V. Jeffreys

    Say what you will about China’s population problem and whatever social and political pathologies may have contributed to it, but I’ll bet cases like this one here in the US are few and far between in China.

    http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-10-21/news/30326094_1_pregnant-woman-pregnant-mom-brooklyn-rooftop

    A 34 y/o pregnant mother of 13 kids with no reference made to a devout Catholic married household.

  • Hapalong Cassidy

    This is the most damaging aspect of China’s one-child policy: it applies only to the Han Chinese and not to the numerous non-Han minorities that make up about 10% of the population (a percentage which will undoubtedbly grow). Granted, with the exception of the unruly Muslim groups out on the fringes, China’s minorities are not as burdensome as those of the West. However, none of those groups is as productive as the Han, and the increasing numbers of them will dilute China’s strength in the future. Chalk another one up to short-sighted communist policies. The policy certainly is in keeping with good ‘ol fashioned communism, which despises nationalism and the traditional family

  • Murgatroyd

    Well, then the UN must demand that China take in tens of thousands of high-fertility refugees from Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan and Burma to make up for its falling birth rates and possible labor shortage. Diversity is a strength, just as it is in the US, and China could use some diversity to strengthen itself, some lower IQs to make things fair. Any response except for “yes” is racist and bigoted.

    The UN demands this of the US and look how well it’s working here.

    China’s one-child policy has prevented almost half a billion births but has turned into a demographic time bomb as the population ages, storing up huge economic and social problems for the country.

    Wait until the US dollar fails. China will be circling the drain even faster than the US.

  • Anonymous

    Tim McHugh said: An entire country with no brothers or sisters or cousins or Aunts or Uncles

    You are absolutely right.

    After one generation, no brothers or sisters.

    After two generations, no uncles, aunts, or cousins.

    Where does Jackie Chan stand on this?

  • Deirdre

    I’d rather have that problem than the one we have here. Slow death of Whitey. I wonder what people are talking about when they say that white people are slowly waking up. I just don’t see it at all. Very depressing.

  • Michael C. Scott

    Demographically this means that while China is full of very poor people today, it will be full of very old people a generation from now. The cost of labor there is going to go way up, which will make outsourcing less attractive.

    On the plus-side for China, the extra half-billion people that would have been born except for the “one-child” rule would have resulted in even more environmental damage than they’ve already inflicted on themselves; China is extremely polluted as it is.

    As for the imbalance between men and women there, I can safely make two predictions: (1) Men who actually want to marry will have to treat women better than east Asians typically do, (2) homosexuality will receive more tolerance than it currently does, and (3) Chinese men will marry North Korean women in large numbers. I believe we’re already seeing the last of these (really, who in their right mind wants to live in North Korea aside from the ruling Kim family?)

    I doubt rape is going to be much of an issue, due to the draconian Chinese justice system; they tend to shoot the perpetrators of major crimes and send the next of kin a bill for the cost of the ammunition. When I was there in 1987 there were three men in Nanjing who were luring young women in from the farms around the city with promises of good jobs. Instead of finding them the promised work, they raped them and then forced them into prostitution. All three perps were executed.

  • Anonymous

    @ 17 – Why are you jumping on 4 ? He made a valid point. You seem to be implying because he doesn’t have the citation in his back pocket the postulation is somehow invalid? Many of us read dozens of articles a day and simply don’t bother to memorize the details of printing. Not to mention that really isn’t the point, the ideas are what is important. 4 added something to the conversation and it was a suggestion worth considering. On the contrary, you needlessly ridiculed someone and then implied he made up a phantom article, an accusation whose motivation I’m not even sure I understand. Your post was both unhelpful and unintelligible.

    For the record, I’m not number 4 and don’t know number 4. Just don’t like seeing worthwhile contributions attacked without reason.

  • white is right, black is whack

    28 — Michael C. Scott at 12:49 PM on October 27:

    I’ve heard the same thing, and that they even execute drug users and drug dealers. People whine about our justice system (especially white liberals, race hustlers and neocons who are trying to pander to blacks and hispanics about how ‘racist’ it is, etc) but at least the judges here will listen to the defendants and say, “Ok, let’s hear your side of the story.” You have the right to not talk to the police once you’ve been arrested. You even get a lawyer for you, even if they aren’t perfect. You don’t have to even take the stand or testify against yourself in any way. I sat in on a jury long time ago and the judge said, “While our system isn’t perfect, it’s a whole hell of a lot better than other countries.”

    I think our justice system is far too lenient with violent criminals. I think if they publicly executed violent criminals (murderers, robbers, rapists, etc) and with harsh tactics (hangings, beheadings, stonings, firing squads, etc) and left the bodies out on display for a few days to send a message to people thinking of doing the violent crimes they did, you’d see the violent crime rate in this country go down real quick.

  • Anonymous

    Re the “no brothers or sisters/aunts or uncles”, as far as I’m aware two adults who were both single children and marry are allowed to have two children. So it will skip out every other generation in the family but won’t be single kids forever (if we can assume the policy will continue on into the future, and also assume that they will “take advantage” of the rule and indeed have two children). I’m of the opinion some sort of an event, be it a war or a global downturn or whatever, will interrupt this at some point in the not-too-distant future anyway.

    Re the van driving over the child – I’ve written it on here before – in China, anyone who is not in the family/friend circle is an obstacle, a hindrance, or there to make money out of, and therefore the concept of being a “good samaritan” to a stranger is largely foreign to their culture. Family is the battleground in China.

  • Anonymous

    Both the unbalanced demographics and sex ratio are only temporary. In 60 years, everyone will be wealthy, because of greater resources/person, and the sex ratio will be back to 50/50. This is because as rare females become ever more valuable, families will begin to value their daughters as much as their sons.

    China has the right idea. The future belongs to them.

  • Anonymous

    import Mexicans.

    but seriously its all coming down to war and famine and soon there wont be an overpopulation problem.

  • Anonymoose

    All this apocalyptic thinking about what might happen in China due to the gender imbalance is a little off base. Maybe a nomadic or tribal society would go out looking for women. The Chinese will not.

    Men can get involved in pub and cafe society. They can play go or chess. Or play or follow sports. They can do the same things men without women do here. There could be increases in rape and homosexuality, but only unscrupulous men resort to these outlets, apart from men who are homosexual of their own accord.

    External colonization cannot relieve internal population pressure. Maybe, as suggested, the Chinese will attempt to colonize Africa or other places, but the numbers sent abroad would number in no more than tens of millions at the most. Not enough to relieve China’s internal population pressure.

  • Anonymous

    “4 — Tim Mc Hugh wrote at 6:22 PM on October 26:

    I read somewhere what the TRUE intent of China`s one child policy is. It`s not about controlling population, it`s about engineering the destruction of the nuclear family. An entire country with no brothers or sisters or cousins or Aunts or Uncles

    Very interesting Tim. It makes sense. The Asian way however is all family to the detriment of society as a whole. Hire only family members no matter how unqualified.

  • Anonymous

    How Chinese treat non family members especially girls.

    Chinese Toddler Run Over, Ignored By Passers-By, Dies Amid …

    Oct 21, 2011 … BEIJING — A toddler who was twice run over by vans and then ignored by passers-by on a busy market street died Friday a week after the …

    http://goo.gl/JdQwh

  • Anonymous

    Wat Tyler Thank you. China also holds the lease on the Panama Canal. Chinese own vast amounts of real estate in Washington state and California.

    Will the Chinese prevent the Africans from immigrating to Europe?

    Or will they dump them on Europe?

  • Anonymous

    “On the plus-side for China, the extra half-billion people that would have been born except for the “one-child” rule would have resulted in even more environmental damage than they’ve already inflicted on themselves; China is extremely polluted as it is.”

    Most of the air pollution west of the Rockies and in Western Mexico comes direct from China.

    I remember during one heat wave 110 F I was going to have lunch with a Chinese Dr who had just come back from vacation in China.

    He wanted to go outside to eat. I thought he was crazy. He explained that the entire month in China all he saw was gray pollution, very dark in the city and lighter in the country.

    He just wanted to see blue sky.

  • Anonymous

    Coolies both in China and in their overseas slave labor sweatshops have done without women even the cheapest prostitutes for centuries.

    1/3 of the population of medieval Europe were celibate clergy. It can be done.

  • Crystal Evans

    The biggest mistake in China’s One Child Policy is that it did not take into account those living in the rural areas. In order to farm, families need many hands to work the fields. In the past, peasants had large families for that reason. Now, they are being told that if the first child is a girl, they can have another child, as a result, the girls are often abandoned while their parents keep on trying for a son. Some try to have more children without a birth permit to increase the chance that they will have a son. Since there is no social security for these people, their sons are all that they have that will take care of them in their old age.

  • Charles Hastings

    An excess population of unattached males means more SOLDIERS willing to leave home.

  • Anonymous

    Black market fertility drugs are also used by many in China. If you have twins or triplets, you double or triple your chance of having a son. Since you are only allowed to have one full-term pregnancy, this is seen as the best possible option for a lot of young couples.

    Apparently, these drugs only cost a dollar or two in China. I think that they are still EXTREMELY expensive here in the USA.

  • Anonymous

    I suppose Western policy “experts” wold tell China to open its’ borders to hundreds of millions of illiterate African immigrants. That would clearly solve their problems!

    You’re safer in Shanghai or Wuhan than you are in ANY American city, and they’re all much, much, MUCH, poorer. Why do you think that is? White contempt for Africans and Hispanics is justified, but East-Asians have proven that they are capable of assimilating and improving upon European technology. Viewing them with anything less than reverence is utter hubris.