What Is the Legacy of the One Child Policy? By yuvan das


Preceding the one-child policy

The one-child policy was a very controversial and hated policy instated in China around 40 years ago. It was in 1949 when the current ruler of China, Mao Zedong, had decided that in order to make the country as a whole stronger, they needed to have a bigger population. So he proceeded to encourage all couples to have many, many children. Birth control was also condemned, and he banned the import of other kinds of protection and contraceptives. Many people decided to follow in his lead, and soon enough, the population had doubled.


Reason for the One Child Policy

Under the rule of Mao, the population of China spiraled way out of control, and it began to become a problem in the nation. After Mao died, the government steered the nation into a completely different direction, as it was decided that some drastic measures would have to be taken in order for China to have a normal sized population. Thus, in 1979, the One-Child Policy was put into effect, changing the course and the development of the nation completely


The Removal and Legacy of the Policy

Flash forward to 2013, where the policy was relaxed a bit, allowing for a bit more freedom, as well as more choices. However, it wasn't until January 1st, 2016, that the policy was removed for good. The law now states that couples are allowed to have two children, and that was expected to solve most of the problems caused by the drop in population. However, this was not the case, and there were many issues that arose due to the legacy of the one-child policy.

Parents Don't Want More Children

One of the biggest reasons why the population isn't improving is simply because many parents choose not to have more children. For the past 40 years, everyone in China was subject to the one child policy, and many are so used to everyone having just one child that they simply don't want to have any more. Also, children cost a lot to support financially, and many families simply don't have the means to support another one in the struggling economy. Also, since families in China are very competitive, many children are enrolled in costly and time consuming after school activities and have heavy workloads. This takes up so much of the child's and the parents' energy that many people feel even less inclined upon having more children.


A Rapidly Aging Population

One of the most prominent issues in the present that was caused by the one-child policy is the fact that the population truly is growing older. This means that there are more people who are retired, or unable to work, meaning that there aren't as many young, strong people to do the more physically and mentally demanding jobs. As a result, the economy is suffering, and there is not much that can be done about it except to just wait for the new generations of Chinese people grow to the age where they can work, and then fix the economy from there. Also, the elderly cost more in general, as many need helpers, or have the need to live in a retirement facility. This also means that many people who are capable of doing strenuous jobs are forced to take care of the elderly, meaning that even less people are working hard jobs. In fact, the population is aging at such an alarming rate that statistics have shown that by 2050, 34% of the population will be seniors over 60.


A Gender Imbalance

On top of the rapidly aging population, there is also a population imbalance between the two genders. Essentially, there are many more men in China that women, and that is largely due to the one-child policy. China is a very misogynistic society, and men are held in higher regards than women. Since people were only allowed to have one child during the years that the policy lasted, many decided that they wanted a boy. This meant that if they realized that they were carrying a girl, many women went to get abortions. It is a sad truth, and one that only happened because of the one-child policy. This also means that since there are many more men than women, many men simply won't get married or have children, therefore reducing the population even further. According to statistics, as of 2015, men outnumbered women by over 33 million.


Governmental Petitions and Advertisements

The Chinese government has realized how important it is for the population to grow, and they have also realized that many parents simply aren't willing to have another child. Because of this, many posters, petitions, and advertisements have been covering the country, all in support of having multiple children. Some examples of slogans that have been used in such advertisements are "Get to sleep early, stop playing cards, work hard to produce a child!" or "No fines, no arrests, go ahead and have a second child!". There have been other things that have been modified in order for parents to have more children as well. For example, the original maternity leave, which consisted of only 98 days, has had many months added to that total.

Rejection to Advertisements

While these advertisements have been pasted everywhere, the reaction to them was not very positive. Many believed that the government was having too much control over them, and many were upset that the government had the power to tell people when and when not to have kids. To quote one such angry person: "You can't just make people have kids when you want them to, or stop when you tell them, we are humans not pigs!". And it's true, as the government really is trying to treat the population like animals. This is bad for the population, however, as studies show that the birth rate will most likely only go up to on average 1.5 children per family, still creating a decrease in population, as every family has to have 2 parents. Factor the gender imbalance into that equation, and the population is still declining at an alarming rate.

Influence of Legalism

Overall, the state in which China is in as of now clearly reflects the beliefs and influences of Legalism. In Legalism, the government had control over all, and would enforce any drastic measures, even if they were humanly cruel, is they were believed to improve the state of the country. The mere existence of the one-child policy shows that traces of Legalism are still very prominent in the world, as it showed that the government's control is absolute. Even though the one-child policy has been removed, there are still some traces of Legalism to be found in it's wake. For example, the advertisements and propaganda made by the government to try and force people to have more children is another example of how today's society still connects with legalism. As previously mentioned, treating humans like animals when it comes to having choices is almost the essence of Legalism, which is why China's society today reflects that.



This issue sparked many different questions and concerns in my mind, and I feel as if this is a very important issue as it will impact China for the generations to come. The first question that comes to mind is: How did people let this happen? How could people let something like this just happen without doing anything about it? It just seems so shocking that people could let something like this happen to their country, and only stop it when the damage is so large that it's nearly irreversible. Regardless, this is something that will be in the hands of the new generation to fix, and it will be a slow, hard process, but I believe that one day, the one-child policy will be something of the past, and that the legacy of it will serve as a reminder of one of the most controversial policies ever created.

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