China's One-Child Policy

Tyrene White

in Political Science

ISBN: 9780199756223
Published online November 2011 | | DOI:
China's One-Child Policy

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In 1979 China’s “one-child-per-couple” policy, or one-child policy, was launched. The policy was part of a multifaceted reform program pursued by the new regime under Deng Xiaoping, and its goal was to limit young, childbearing-age couples to only one child or, failing that, two children. With a population of about 1 billion in 1980, China’s leaders were convinced that only a strict program of population control would make it possible for China to achieve its development goal of “modernization by the year 2000.” This radical social engineering effort was directly at odds with much of China’s reform policy, which saw the state begin to retreat from its pervasive role in every aspect of family and social life. By subjecting childbearing to direct state regulation—that is, claiming that the state had the right and obligation to decide who was allowed to have a child and when—childbearing was effectively “collectivized” at a time when the economy was heading the opposite direction. It is no surprise, then, that the progression of the one-child policy was followed very closely by scholars, journalists, and human rights activists. An impressive body of scholarship has been compiled on this topic, despite serious constraints on research in the 1980s and 1990s. Four national censuses and annual sample surveys have helped improve the quality of demographic data available, but data on policy implementation has been patchy. As a result, two types of studies are dominant: (a) comprehensive works that provide an overview of policy evolution, implementation, and outcomes and (b) case studies that provide more detailed analysis of local policy processes. A third category of scholarship explores the impact and consequences of enforcement, particularly a skewed sex ratio at birth and a rapidly aging population. The scholarship on the one-child policy reflects the nature of the topic, which is broadly interdisciplinary, and the policy has been of great interest not only to political scientists but also to sociologists, economists, anthropologists, historians, and demographers. The works included here bear witness to this breadth of scholarly interest.

Article.  6059 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Political Institutions ; Political Methodology ; Political Theory

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