China, an Anti Natalist Country

By Alex Jackson

Last updated on

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The content on this page is extremely old. Much has changed in the world since this article was written. While many of the concepts will still be relevant, figures and case studies are likely to be outdated at this point.

China’s One Child Policy


  • 1953 - First modern census takes place in China. The population comes in as 583 million.
  • Between 1953 and 1964 the population increased by 112 million as Mao Zedong encouraged larger families in an attempt to make China stronger.
  • Attempts to slow down population growth were started in the 1970s using the slogan “Later, longer, fewer”. People were encouraged to limit families to two children.
  • 1979 - One child policy introduced.
  • 2010 - Population: 1.335 billion.

Reasons for the policy

  1. Combat population explosion.
    • Imbalances between population and available resources. China has 7% of the world’s agricultural land and 23% of the world’s population.
  2. To encourage economic development
    • Improving the standard of living for the population.


  • Law introduced to limit the number of births applied to the Han majority (90% of the population) but not the ethnic minorities.
  • Cash bonuses, improved housing and free education/medical care if couples limit themselves to one child.
  • Free birth control and family planning advice.
  • Age limits and certificates for marriage. Couples would have to apply for marriage certificates.
  • Anyone housing more than one child lost benefits and faced financial penalties (generally 3× their salary).


Demographic Structure

  • Future ageing population and high dependency ratios.
  • Shortage of economically active age group.

Gender Structure

  • Ratio of 117 males for every 100 females among babies from birth through children of four years of age. Normally, 105 males are born for every 100 females.
  • By 2020, an estimated 30 million men will be unable to find a wife and have a child earning them the title “Bare branches”.

Civil Liberties & Human Rights

  • Women pregnant for a second time often coerced into having an abortion or sterilisation particularly during the early years of the policy.
  • “Granny Police” were recruited in settlements to spy on people in their community who might be trying to keep a pregnancy secret.

Civil Unrest

  • Opposition in rural areas, where stronger requirements for sons to work in fields, continue family name and look after parents in their old age, exist.
  • Reports of gender selective abortions, hidden children, abandoned girls and, in rare cases, female infanticide.

Little Emperor Syndrome

  • Indulged and closeted boys who are often arrogant and lacking in social skills.



  • In rural areas, if the first child is a girl then a couple can have a second child.
  • If the first child is unhealthy, a couple can have a second child.
  • If both parents are only children, they can have two children.


  • Total fertility rate has declined from 6.2 in 1950 to 1.6 in 2009, which is below replacement level. The rate of natural increase has declined to 0.5% from 2.2% in the 1970s.
  • Policy has met the most success amongst urban populations. It has been less successful in rural areas where families have continued to have 2 or 3 children.
  • It is estimate that without the policy there would have been an extra 400 million Chinese people born between 1970 and 2009.
  • The reduction in the rate of population growth during the 1990s was accompanied by a noticeable rise in GNP.
  • Greater equality for women as status is enhanced. Women are offered more opportunities for gaining greater knowledge.