This House believes that the people's republic of China should abandon the one-child policy.

Since 1979 the People’s Republic of China has pursued a population control policy that limits all families in China’s largest provinces (with some exceptions), to no more than one child. The Chinese government introduced the policy to alleviate social and environmental problems that it had determined to be a result of over population. The policy is controversial both within and outside China for a variety of reasons.

Many consider child-birth to be a sacred, inalienable right of citizens. Others worry about the economic and social consequences of a policy that will create a more aged population. The policy is enforced at the provincial level through fines that are imposed based on the income of the family and other factors. However, there are still many citizens that continue to have more than one child. In April of 2010, a new Chinese census showed that the population, the world's largest, rose to 1.34 billion as of last year, from 1.27 billion in 2000. This put its average annual growth at 0.57% over the decade, down from 1.07 per cent in 1990-2000. It also showed that people over the age of 60 now account for 13.3 per cent of China's population, compared to 10.3% in 2000. Its reserve of future workers also dwindled; with people under 14 now make up 16.6% of the population, down from 23% 10 years ago. All of this sparked renewed debate on the subject.1

1 Page, Jeremy, “China’s One-Child Plan Faces New Fire”, The Wall Street Journal, 29 April 2011, 

The one child policy skews gender demographics

Many Asian cultures have a preference for sons over daughters due to traditions involving inheritance. Further, in rural communities a son is often preferable to a daughter simply because of the amount of work that they can do for the family. As well as this, sons act as primary caregivers for the parents when they go into retirement and the son’s parents are often treated better than the daughter’s.

It is for these reasons that often when a Chinese family finds out that they are set to have a daughter they attempt to selectively abort it and try again for a son. This is technically illegal in China, however, this has only led to back alley abortions which often carry a much higher chance of mortality for the mother. Further, it has also led to parents abandoning female children or leaving them to starve so that they may try again with a son. In China’s rural provinces it is much more difficult for the authorities to deal with every case given the sheer number of people over such a large area and as such these crimes often go unprosecuted or punished.

This process not only leads to human rights violations, as mentioned, but it also skews the gender balance of the Chinese population. Specifically, since the implementation of the policy in 1979 many men are finding there are simply no women to marry. By 2020 it is estimated there will be 40 million men unable to marry in China simply because of the lack of females.1

1   Baculino, Eric. “China Grapples with legacy of its ‘missing girls.” MSNBC. 09-14-2004.


The Chinese authorities are getting better at preventing selective abortion of females since it was banned in 2005. Whilst the demographic changes resulting from the one child policy are regrettable, they are ultimately what the Chinese authorities are seeking from the one child policy. 40 million men who cannot marry are unlikely to have children and contribute to China’s population problems.

Whilst there is harm to society from these men being unable to marry, the problem of overpopulation in China’s future which is being prevented by the one child policy outweighs this harm significantly.1

1   Associated Press. “China Will Outlaw Selective Abortions.” MSNBC. 07-01-2005.

The one child policy is ignored by Chinas elite

The one child policy is a policy that can be ignored fairly easily by richer people within China. Through their ability to bribe officials as well as their ability to hide extra children using foster parents and the like, it is easily possible for richer people to flout the one child policy. This has shown itself in the form of many wealthy Chinese officials, entrepreneurs and celebrities who have been caught ignoring the one child policy. For example between 2000 and 2005 1968 government officials in Hunan violated the one child policy.1

Given that this is true, the one child policy serves to create social division in China. It is perceived by the poorest Chinese communities as an obstacle to prosperity. By imposing harsh penalties (both moral and fiscal) on parents who attempt to maximise not only their future welfare, but also their family’s economic prosperity by trying for a son, the one child policy undermines social development within China’s rural and working classes. Moreover, it serves to entrench negative perceptions of Chinese officials and business owners as corrupt tyrants. How else will marginalised communities relate to a law that undermines the cohesion of their families and that the wealthy can exempt themselves from? 2

1   Liu, Melinda, ‘China’s One Child Left Behind’, Newsweek, 19 January 2008,

2   ibid


The policy itself has no malicious intent and is not aimed to harm different communities to a different level. An argument about the rich ignoring the one child policy is an argument for better regulation of the current policy, which is meant to be completely fair no matter a family’s status or wealth, not the abolition of the policy itself.  

The one child policy results in sweeping human rights violations

The One Child policy is often strictly enforced in China and many parents are given information about contraception to prevent any chance of an unplanned pregnancy. However a large number of pregnancies- within any population- are inevitable, despite the precautions that parents may take. Whether as a result of defective medication, irresponsible behaviour, or simple bad luck, sufficiently frequent sexual activity will always lead to pregnancy.

Reports from human rights workers indicate that the Chinese states deals with such eventualities by forcing women to have abortions against their will. By some accounts, the state directly detains and punishes women who resist family planning policies.1 The psychological trauma caused by this is almost indescribable. Not only does a forced abortion represent a significant attack on a woman’s bodily autonomy, procedures of this type are officially contextualised as correcting the results of wrongdoing. The woman is not counselled or assured that she is not morally culpable for her actions; she is placed in a position where the destruction of her foetus is portrayed as the inevitable result of her own lack of responsibility. Chinese women are made to feel directly responsible for the loss of their unborn children or for the circumstances that gave rise to their pregnancy.

Further the Chinese authorities often force people to be sterilised against their will. This has happened in some cases almost immediately after birth, which is incredibly traumatic for the people involved. Further, should these people ever leave China it prevents them from raising a family in the future with more than a single child. Again, forced sterilisation in this way causes large psychological harms due to the manner in which the person’s body is violated.2

1  Life Site News.  "Forced Abortion Still a Reality in China Says New Amnesty Report." Life Site News. 27-05-2005.

2  Elegant, Simon. “Why Forced Abortions Persist in China.” Time. 30-04-2007.,8599,1615936,00.html


The Chinese authorities outlaw forced abortions. The violations of human rights are outliers and rarely occur. When they do they are punished badly.

Such violations are regrettable; however the one child policy carries a number of benefits for the vast majority of Chinese families. Since the implementation of the policy family planning in China has become significantly better and thus the overall benefit to all of China outweighs the harm that is incurred by a tiny minority of people. 1

Without population control measures, quality of life in China would decline for all citizens who must compete for limited jobs, healthcare resources, and access to social services, particularly in rural areas.2

1  Associated Press. “China Will Outlaw Selective Abortions.” MSNBC. 07-01-2005.

2  "Family Planning in China." Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China.

The one child policy is needed for population control

The One Child policy in China acts as an extremely powerful check on the population. With 1.3 billion people, problems of overcrowding and resource depletion in China are bad and will get significantly worse without change.1

The reality of the abolition of the one child policy is that with an increase in birth rate from the current level of 1.7 to 2.1 which is not unreasonable given population growth in other countries, there would be 5 million more births per year in China than there are now resulting in 250 million more people by the middle of this century.

Given that China is already one of the biggest contributors to global warming in the world, the addition of another 250 million people would be catastrophic in the prevention of damage to the climate. Ecological damage of this kind has been a common feature of overpopulated societies, china included, for centuries. Soil erosion, depletion of soil nutrients in arable land and pollution of water sources are already an increasing problem in China, desertification for example causes US $6.5billion of losses to the country each year.2 Further, the strain on Chinese resources would also be incredible. The policy also prevents other problems associated with overpopulation, such as epidemics and the growth of slums.3 Stable and balanced population growth requires that the policy remain in place for the time being.4

1   "Family Planning in China." Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China.

2    People’s Daily, ‘China Faces Challenge of Desertification’, 1 September 2001,

3    Revkin, Andrew. “An End to One-Child Families in China?” New York Times.28-02-2008.

4    Yardley, Jim. "China Sticking with One-Child Policy."


Interventions and contraceptive techniques such as condoms and sex education have proven to be more effective than the one child policy in aiding population control. Thailand and Indonesia for example achieved the same ends as China in reduction of their population just using these methods of birth control and family planning.

Further, the benefits of one child in population control are often exaggerated. From 1970 to 1979, through education and an emphasis on having smaller families and more time between pregnancy the Chinese government was able to reduce its birth rate from 5.2 to 2.9.

Population growth within China at a stable rate, which a replacement fertility level of 2.1 would bring, might actually be beneficial. The extra man power will be useful to China, it would mean that instead of having its population decline from 1. 341 billion today to 941 million by 21001 as is currently projected there would be a more stable population which would result in less problems with an aging population.2

Other critics question the assertion that the One-Child policy is effective at achieving population control in the first place. Fertility levels dropped between 1970 and 1979 due to government policies that pushed for later marriages and fewer births.3 Additionally, economic growth and social programs are likely to encourage smaller family sizes -- this phenomena has been observed in other countries without similar government policies.4 In cities and wealthier rural areas, surveys indicated that women on average wanted to have fewer than two children, which is below the "replacement rate" of 2.1 children per couple.5 It is difficult to isolate the One-Child policy as the primary cause of declining birth rates when other socioeconomic factors also affect families' decisions.

1   ‘China Population (thousands) Medium variant 2010-2100’, United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2010 revision,

2   “The most surprising demographic crisis.” The Economist.  05-05-2011.

3   Feng, Wang. "Can China Afford to Continue its One-Child Policy?" Analysis from the East-West Center. No. 77. March 2005.

4   Engelman, Robert. "What happens if China's 'one child' is left behind?" Worldwatch Institute. 03-03-2008.

5   The Economist. "The child in time."  10-08-2010.

One child benefits women

It is reported that the focus of China on population control helps provide a better health services for women and a reduction in the risks of death and injury associated with pregnancy. At family planning offices, women receive free contraception and pre-natal classes. Help is provided for pregnant women to closely monitor their health. In various places in China, the government rolled out a ‘Care for Girls’ programme, which aims at eliminating cultural discrimination against girls in rural and underdeveloped areas through subsidies and education.

Within many Chinese communities, women have traditionally been the primary caregivers for children; however, with fewer children, they have more time to invest in their careers, increasing both their personal earnings and the national GDP.1,2

1  “Family Planning in China.” Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. 1995.

2  Taylor, John. “China-One Child Policy,” Foreign Correspondent. 02-08-2005.


The benefits for women in this situation could easily be enforced via legislation, without the need for a one child policy to begin with. The gain from mothers who are able to work could easily be replicated through family planning and a greater focus on equality between genders in the country. As it is, the one child policy as defined in side opposition’s case causes women’s rights to be violated and often results in the deaths of otherwise healthy baby girls.

Single child families are economically efficient

The one child policy is economically beneficial because it allows China to push its population growth rate well below its growth rate in GDP.

This has allowed the standard of living in China for the average Chinese citizen to improve significantly since the policy was implemented. Specifically speaking, since 1978 the income of the urban population in China has increased tenfold.  Per capita housing space has also increased both in towns and in rural areas allowing Chinese people to enjoy a higher standard of living.

Further, the individual savings rate has increased since the introduction of the One Child Policy. This has been partially attributed to the policy in two respects. First, the average Chinese household expends fewer resources, both in terms of time and money, on children, which gives many Chinese more money with which to invest. Second, since young Chinese can no longer rely on children to care for them in their old age, there is an impetus to save money for the future.

On top of this, the one child policy has also been instrumental in the eradication of poverty in China. Often, the greatest problem with poverty is that families grow to unsustainably large sizes and as such the entire family is forced to be hand to mouth. However, the one child policy prevents this from happening and as such allows for the single child to be educated properly without providing too much strain on the family. Hence, by improving educational attainment and by reducing the financial pressures bearing on poor families, the one child policy has contributed significantly to reducing poverty within China.1

1   “Family Planning in China.” Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. 1995.


The Chinese economy may well have grown anyway; correlation is not causation. It was not the one child policy that has caused China’s incredible economic growth but the opening up of the Chinese economy to the market.

Moreover the economic benefits from the one child policy do not come without costs.

“An associate professor of economics at Columbia University, Lena Edlund, found that a 1% increase in the ratio of males to females equates to an increase in violent and property crime of as much as 6%, "suggesting that male sex ratios may account for 28% to 38% of the rise in crime.”

Further to this, the economic benefits of the one child policy do not outweigh the harms to human rights that the one child policy causes.1

1    “One-Child Policy, Chine Crime Rise Linked by Study.” New Yorks Sun. 19-11-2007.