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China’s One Child Policy, Its Contemporary Challenges

26 Mar

China’s ‘One Child Policy’ has become the figurative poster child of modern Chinese legislation, proving to be both a contemptuous yet thought provoking issue since its implementation in 1979. In light of China’s burgeoning population growth, government policies were paramount in shifting the demographics of the country in order to quell poverty and nurture future economic growth. As such, Festini and de Martino (2004) comment that ‘250-300 million’ Chinese births have been prevented, reducing the fertility rate to ‘1.8 in 2001’ which is below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman.



Fertility and Family

Beyond the initial human rights issues, some unforeseen issues have arisen from the policy, particularly concerning discrimination against girls, changing demographics and social difficulties. Research has questioned the discrepancies present  between the Chinese birth ratio of 117 males to 100 females (Gu and  Roy, 1995) commenting that archaic cultures of son preference (Poston, 1997)  still permeate society,  often being blamed for the practised (yet illegal) action of aborting female foetuses. In addition, many girls die due to neglect.

Following this trend, China now faces a social backlash from millions of single men without spouses (Branigan, 2011) in rural areas. To some extent, the disparity between males and females may create an oppressive environment for men whom are denied wives and families. Further anecdotal evidence suggests women are increasingly being kidnapped or trafficked into rural marriages, where eligible women are sparse. Moreover, it is common for women to suffer tremendous pressure to bear a son (Kane and Choi, 1999) which has led to rising suicide rates amongst women .It suggests that future demographics of the Chinese population may change, as men may emigrate and women immigrate in order to seek relationships. Particularly as the Chinese ethos centres so fiercely on marriage, children, the home and supporting ones elders.

 It could therefore be evident that older generations may suffer into old age without adequate support, as their only child struggles financially to support himself and his elders. Furthermore, the traditional process of wives moving into the husbands’ family may become transgressed as men often travel away from their locales and settle elsewhere with a spouse.

Critiques Of The Policy

Potts (2006) provides a reflective analysis on China’s One Child Policy, noting that its modern day success in guiding the population away from socio-economic disaster is now reaching our own doorsteps. This being evident through China’s rapid industrialisation, and fervent consumption of raw materials. The consequences of which are putting strain on demands for oil and staple crops that ultimately drive up global prices.

One may then ask whether the policy has been detrimental to the Global South, as 1.351 billion ( World Bank, 2012) Chinese put pressure on staple crops like maize (Delgado, 2003). This crop feeds livestock, the products of which are deemed luxurious to China’s rising middle classes. Others then argue that the One Child Policy has inadvertently created a myriad of socio-economic deficits on a global scale which influence consumers’ struggle to afford basic foods and energy. Some may discuss that the policy was not strict enough, as ‘Fig 1’ demonstrates a scenario where the policy affects everyone without exceptions (The Economist, 2011). The forecast shows a dramatic difference in population, even by 2030 compared to the UN prediction.


Figure 1: Projections for a strict ‘blanket approach’ to the policy (The Economist, 2011)

Other critics argue that despite these disadvantages, benefits are clear within the domestic sphere of single child families. The policy has essentially removed 150 million people from abject poverty and arguably enabled the economy to grow ‘7-8%’ a year (Potts, 2006).


These innovations in living standards as a whole are examples of the delayed benefits of abstaining from large families, particularly as only child’s are privy to greater access to resources, especially girls who would otherwise lose out to the culture of son preference (Festini and de Martino, 2004). Other scholars too, are quick to point out that the “小皇帝” (Little emperor syndrome) is often unproven by recent psychological assessments by Hesketh et al (2003).  Finding that, although spoiled during childhood, many children without siblings often excel at social interaction. Goh (2011) finds that multiple caregivers have direct access and attention to the one child and will share their resources.


Demographic Shift: Its Complications

The policy has coincided with China’s progression into an aging population, as Festini and de Martino (2004) estimate that by 2050, a quarter of China’s population will be over 65. This is beginning to show a discrepancy between the working population (limited by the policy) and the now surviving parents and grandparents of the one child generation.

In economic terms, the typically youthful labour driven market that has forged China’s success in recent years is likely to grow into a predominantly aging population, one that increasingly relies on the capital of their children. Single children therefore suffer from what some demographers have coined the ‘4-2-1 problem’ which depicts a child having to support his or hers parents, grandparents and those of their spouse.

This socially constructed dilemma is likely to bestow negative aspects both financially and psychologically on the sole ‘breadwinner’ of an extended family. Especially as older generations in rural China are traditionally poorer and likely to remain so (Cai et al, 2012). Suggesting that as China advances further with healthcare and infrastructure, its aging population will become increasingly reliant on their children as they live longer.




China’s rapid growth and ongoing economic success has arguably been enabled by policies like ‘One Child’. Chiefly those resources have been better distributed amongst the population, within a more stable economy. By removing the predicted exponential growth of China’s population, it has helped avoid issues facing other countries like India that are seeing unstable predictions in population.

The balance of ‘greater good’ and individual sacrifice, although politically entrenched and disputed is evidently a working success for the Chinese.  The policy has however become troublesome within the realms of family structure and discrimination. One must ask whether these personal sacrifices have been a temporary fix, or will be proven successful within future population cohorts.

Word count (without captions and references) : 996


·         Branigan, T. 2011, ‘China’s village of the bachelors: no wives in sight in remote settlement, The Guardian, 2 September [Online]. Available:            [accessed 2014,  March 2].


·         Cai, F., Giles, J., O’Keefe, P., and Wang, D. 2012, The Elderly and Old Age Support in Rural China, World Bank Publications.


  •          Delgado, C. L. 2003,  ‘Rising consumption of meat and milk in developing countries has created a new food revolution’, The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 133, no. 11, pp. 3907-3910.



  •          Festini, F. and de Martino, M. 2004, ’Twenty five years of the one child family policy  in China’. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, vol. 58, pp. 358-60.


  •          Goh, E. 2011, China’s one-child policy and multiple caregiving: raising little suns in  Xiamen, Routledge, London.



  •          Gu, B and Roy, K. 1995, ‘Sex ratio at birth in China, with reference to other areas in East Asia: what we know’,  Asia Pac Popul , vol. 10, pp. 17–42.


  •          Hesketh, T., Qu, J. D., and Tomkins, A. 2003, ‘Health effects of family size: cross sectional survey in Chinese adolescents’, Archives of disease in childhood, vol. 88, no. 6, pp. 467-471.

·         Kane, P. and Choi, C.Y. 1999, ‘China’s one child family policy’, British Medical Journal, vol. 319, pp. 992-4.

·         Krishnan, A. 2012, ‘China battles the 421 problem’, The Hindu, 7 October [online]. Available:  [accessed 2014, March 16].


  •          Poston Jr, D. L., Gu, B., Liu, P. P., and McDaniel, T. 1997, ‘Son preference and the sex ratio at birth in China: A provincial level analysis’,  Biodemography and Social Biology, vol. 44, no. 1-2, pp. 55-76.


  •          Potts, M. 2006, ‘China’s one child policy. The policy that changed the world’. British Medical Journal vol. 333, pp. 361-2.

·         The Economist Online. 2011,‘O brother where art thou?’, The Economist, 2 August [Online], Available: [accessed 2014, March 16].


·  World Bank Population Data China, [Online], 2012, Available: [accessed 2014, March 15].

Expectations for China’s Middle classes

16 Mar

Global companies are beginning to focus on the tremendous volume of China’s middle classes, those of which have expendable income for commodity driven markets. It is expected during the next 20 years that China’s wealthy urban coast will possess large spending power as spending will generally evolve from conservative saving habits to relaxed spending and consumption. This anticipated growth within the middle classes juxtaposes against former strategies that catered for upper middle classes and elites (Farrell et al. 2006). Many scholars have researched China’s obsession with foreign designer goods, a facet that allows global brands to enter the Chinese market swiftly and successfully.


The spending power is emphasised in exhibit 1 (Farrell et al. 2006), as millions of Chinese leave poverty and climb the income ladder in urban metropolises. It is expected that the middle classes will account for the largest consumer market in the world, spending 20 trillion renminbi by 2025 (Farrell et al. 2006).

Some examples of China’s large rise in expendable growth are evident in car sales of 13 million in 2009 (Kharas, 2010) and its 700 million cell phone subscriptions  (Lau and Menn, 2009). However, the Chinese middle class although big, still only accounts for 12 percent of the population.  Meaning China has become reliant on investments for its growth rather than home grown consumption.






-Farrell, D., Gersch, U. A., & Stephenson, E. (2006). The value of China’s emerging middle class. McKinsey Quarterly2(I), 60.

-Kharas, H. (2010). the emerging middle class in developing countries (pp. 7-8). paris: oecd development centre.

– Lau, J. and J. Menn (2009), “Apple to launch iPhone in China”. Financial Times, 31 August 2009

China Balancing On Debt

9 Mar



China’s credit and banking sector in 2008 was 10 trillion, and now stands at 24 trillion U.S dollars. This increment is equivalent to the entire U.S banking sector which took more than a century to cultivate. This extensive investment on infrastructure like roads, airports and skyscrapers has been created with government subsidies and lending to offset the worldwide credit bubble. many argue this huge debt will eventually ‘bite back’ at the economy, as debt reliance produces a toxic economy. Optimists view china as capable of growing out of debt, whilst many argue that a crash will eventually occur, despite China’s previous successes (Peston, 2014).

Some reports suggest that China will face either massive over-capacity problems, or a Japanese style deflation (Evans-Pritchard, 2013). Some suggest that although Chinese government may be capable of deflecting large scale economic collapse, it will suffer politically and socially. In many respects, the government’s attempts to sustain growth have grossly inflated debt. The surging property prices and risk-free returns in China echo the pre- 2008 U.S economy. China’s export driven economy deflated after the collapse of Lehman, and subsequent demand from the West. Add to this, the decrease in working-age population and peaking urbanisation will likely see an average wage increase as competitiveness decreases. This may gradually make China a less competitive manufacturer, eventually loosing out to cheaper economies like Vietnam.

Worryingly, Chinese economists are continuing to suggest growth at 7.5% (2014, China media: Growth target) despite concerns that China should aim for sustainable growth. This is being observed in gold prices, as investors seek to protect their assets in what some deem an “unfolding credit crunch” (Critchlow, 2014) through buying up gold reserves. In equal measure, the discrepancies around China’s import figures have fuelled market speculation that China may be stockpiling to foist economic turmoil.

China faces an uncertain future, as analysts’ debate whether the economy will heal itself or falter catastrophically in what could be the largest economic crash ever.



·         Critchlow, A. 2014, Gold price signals China credit bubble bursting as investors seek safety

·                   2014, China media: Growth target,


·         Peston, R. 2014, China growth fuelled by debt and government subsidies,


·         Evans-Pritchard, A. 2013,Fitch says China credit bubble unprecedented in modern world history

Urban to Rural Migration In China

2 Mar


Since the dissolution of the housing restrictions, known as the ‘hukou’ system, China has seen large increases of migration within its borders, primarily from rural to urban. A sharp increase in migrants within the 1990’s due to decreased employment within TVE’s and increased agricultural labour surplus (Démurger et al, 2009) meant  132 million rural workers were found to work in cities in 2006 (National Bureau of Statistics, 2007). Popular sayings quote that 1 in every 5 citizens of large cities are migrants.

Notable pull factors to the prosperous eastern coast of China to cities like Shanghai, include increased living conditions, higher standards of living, reliable water supply and less precarious wages through employment opportunities. In particular, these migrants seek employment within construction, manufacturing, rubbish collections, catering and transportation services. Notable social and economic challenges are occurring within the rural areas left behind as they decrease in population as young workers moving towards cities leave an ageing population behind, thus stagnating economic growth within rural communities as agricultural production decreases. Large cities like Shanghai are also left crippled with strained resources, transport and burgeoning criminal activity. Other aspects concerning health and the transmittance of contagious diseases are also common with large scale migration. Some commentaries suggest that these movements are however temporary and that many migrants intend to return to their rural hometowns (Berg, 2007). However, other negatives consequences of migration persist as in 2010, some estimates declared that one-third of urban crimes were related to new-generation migrants (Hu,  2012). This may also highlight enduring stigmas and discrimination against incoming migrant workers.

There is discussion of discrimination and inequality between these migrants and their urban counterparts. Firstly, the migrants are often subject to informal contracting and wages that are often late or illegally processed. As such many migrants work for longer than legally allowed, in tougher jobs that urbanites are less willing to take (Yao,  2001). Socially, the incoming migrants often perceive themselves as second class citizens in contrast to the urban natives of cities like Guangzhou and Shanghai. However, self-rated wellbeing amongst migrants was unusually high, as they experienced higher mental wellness in regards to becoming upwardly mobile financially.

Other reports also suggest that many younger migrant workers are career building, and using smaller jobs as stepping stones for career progression. This goes beyond the simplistic view that migrants select and remain within low level labour and return home. This suggests that migrants may be well adapted to integrating within large metropolises in efforts to forge new lives within urban spaces.



  • Démurger, S., Gurgand, M., Li, S., & Yue, X. (2009). Migrants as second-class workers in urban China? A decomposition analysis. Journal of Comparative Economics37(4), 610-628.


  • Yao, Yang., 2001. Social Exclusion and Economic Discrimination: The Status of Migrants in China’s Coastal Rural Areas. Working Paper No. E2001005. Beijing: China Center for Economic Research, Peking University.


  • National Bureau of Statistics, 2007. Situation of Rural Migration in China in 2006. Internal Research Report No. 18.





China’s Ignorance To Child Abuse

22 Feb



Despite China’s rapid economic growth and expansion within the global stage, it has long been criticised for glaring human rights issues. The increasing proliferation of abuse on children is compounded by socio-economic factors involving work and family values. China’s historic cultural proverbs have endorsed strong philosophies on keeping problems within the family, as such these unshakable social traditions interfere when domestic abuse on children is hidden from the care system (Qiao and Chan, 2005). This insight portrays barriers in acknowledging physical and sexual abuse against children. Additionally, the limited state interference means that vulnerable children are left alone and without adequate protection.

Shocking cases of physical abuse against infants (overwhelming girls) have become commonplace within a society that prizes boys. One female, Luo Cuifen (26) discovered she had two dozen sewing needles embedded in her body, forcibly driven into her as an infant. It became clear that Cuifen’s grandfather intended to kill her as a baby, in response to wanting a grandson. This form of abuse can be directly related the one child policy that inevitably favours the traditional sole male heir to the family name and titles. This persistent infanticide has skewed gender ratios in China to ‘119 boys to 100 girls’ (Ni, 2007). This case is not unique, and many other female infants are frequently trafficked, abandoned and literally thrown away in response to producing a male heir.

Other high profile news stories have highlighted sexual abuse in rural areas, particularly sexual abuse on children within schools. Some reports suggest that many reported cases are ‘the tip of the iceberg’ as 60% of cases occur within the more remote rural areas (Wu,  2013). Many young victims do not realise the crimes committed against them, and as such will often not tell close family members. Children most at risk usually come from single parent families and those with divorced or remarried parents. Chinese micro-blogging websites have expressed their disgust with the transgression of care shown by many teachers who have perpetrated these crimes. Many commentaries have suggested the waning nobility of the profession. Increasingly, the percentage of children left behind by migrating parents from rural to urban employment has left children vulnerable. The ‘All China Women’s Federation’ suggests ‘37%’ of rural children are at risk from sexual abuse due to this migration phenomena. As such, many children are left without adequate guidance from parents who teach sex education and safety to their children. Particularly the use of self-protection methods like shouting, crying or saying no when they feel uncomfortable. This is exacerbated by parents traditionally not talking about sex education with their children in Chinese society.

China needs to implore wider reaching sex education within school environments to help safeguard children. In addition to expanding social structures that aim to protect vulnerable children. To what extent this will happen still remains unclear.



Ni, C. 2007, A grim tale of child abuse in China, LA  Times,[Online].Available:

Wu, Y. 2013, The abuse of China’s ‘left-behind’ children, BBC,  [Online]. Available :

Qiao, D. P. and Chan, Y. C. 2005, C­­­hild abuse in China: a yet‐to‐be‐acknowledged ‘social problem’ in the Chinese Mainland’, Child & Family Social Work, vol. 10, no. 1, pp.  21-27.

Hong Kong Citizenship, And Attitudes to Mainland China

15 Feb


Since the return of Hong Kong (HK) from the British Crown Colony to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, there has been an overwhelming nervousness from Hong-Kongers towards its superpower China. Skeldon (1994) notes that this transfer of sovereignty has left concerns for political stability and personal freedom for those in HK. Some of the contentions originate from HK and China’s separate histories and political development. On the one hand, HK has transformed from a collection of fishing villages on the southern fringe of China to a globally recognised entity. It has adopted a capitalistic mentality under British rule, forging a distinct ‘democratic-like’ economy which has fostered a high degree of freedom. Mainland China largely suffered through revolution and war which has long denounced the ‘egotistical individualism’ (Lau and Kuan, 1988, p.53) in HK. Yet the area has been synonymous with developing China’s Pearl River Delta region post-reunification. And although there is an increasing merging of populations between these two spheres, the HK people seldom refer to themselves as ‘Chinese’. This suggests that clear distinctions between HK and China persist into the 21st century.


“The Hong Kong University survey conducted in November showed 31.8% of Hong Kong people have “negative” feelings for people from mainland China” (2013 AFP).


Indeed, this quote surmises the failure of social cohesion proposed by the PRC, which advocates the ‘one country, two systems’ approach. Alas, the ‘one country’ popularly utilised by central government for national pride and solidarity is often overlooked by Hong- Kongers who remain indifferent to Chinese cultures, derogatorily referring mainlanders to ‘locusts’ with ‘unrefined social habits’. This is echoed by business elites being disturbed by mainlander’s work ethic and adherence to communist systems, leading to resettlement within their native HK (Ma, 2009).  Other scholars discuss Hong-Kongers as feeling and identifying themselves as different to mainlanders both socially and culturally (Ko, 2012).  However, lingering British colonial identities are also met with contentious relationships, suggesting there is cultural separation from both past identity and current identity. This phenomena has instilled a diaspora within Hong Kong identities. There are fears that HK will be absorbed back into China as just another city, one that bears no unique characteristics. Another node of resentment stems from an influx of mainland Chinese who are driving up property prices through lavish spending in designer stores. The number of mainlanders entering the region for essential products such as baby milk formula after the 2008 tainted-milk scandal frequently leaves locals struggling. The rising number of pregnant Chinese women entering HK to give birth and gain citizenship has sparked opposition from local activists wanting to prevent autonomic citizenship and benefits.


The people of HK are therefore referred to as transient, or in diaspora as ‘not Chinese’ but ‘not British’. Amidst rising caution towards China’s economic and military prowess, Hong-Kongers remain careful by gaining dual citizenship ‘just in case’ in order to protect the freedom of their children and grandchildren.











Ko, V. 2012. Trouble Down South: Why Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese Aren’t Getting Along. [Online]. Available:

Lau, S. K. and Kuan, H. C. 1988, The ethos of the Hong Kong Chinese. Hong Kong: Chinese,

University Press.

Ma, R. 2009, ‘Communication experiences and adaptation of mainland Chinese in Hong Kong and Hong Kong Chinese in mainland China’, Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, vol 38, no. 2, pp. 115-132.

Mcdonald, M. 2012, China Sends Two to Labor Camp for Marching in Hong Kong, [Online]. Available :

Skeldon, R. 1994, Reluctant exiles?: Migration from Hong Kong and the new overseas Chinese, Hong Kong University Press.

AFP. 2013, Hong Kong residents dislike mainland Chinese more than Japanese: poll [Online]. Available: