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China Doesn’t Have a One Child Policy

China hasn’t had a one child policy for an extended amount of time. But it’s family planning policies are still in effect, only this time they may not be of much use.

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When my wife began teaching in China she was surprised that almost all of the kids in her classes had brothers or sisters. What about the one child policy?

China doesn’t have a one child policy, and it hasn’t had one for an extended amount of time.

As I wrote in May, 2012:

In fact, only 35.9% of couples in China are restricted to having only one child. Nearly two/ thirds of the people in the country have the right to legally have more than one kid without any financial or legal repercussions. If a person lives in a rural area they can have more than one child. Recognized ethnic minorities can have as many children as they want in rural areas, two in urban. A married couple who are both only children can have two offspring together. Foreigners living in China or Chinese who are married to foreigners are not regulated as to how many children they can have. Residents of Hong Kong and Macau are fully exempt from the birth planning policy. Chinese citizens returning from living abroad are permitted to have two children. There is a loophole in the system for twins. When it all comes down to it, the only people who have a one child policy are Han Chinese urban dwellers who have siblings and are married to another Han Chinese person.

In November 2013, China’s family policy has become even more lax, allowing couples where either parent is an only child to have two children. Basically, family planning policies are still in effect and are still enforced, but the “one child policy” no longer applies for a huge majority of the couples in the country. Instead, we’re now looking at a “two child policy.”

Though if the “free market” was allowed to control child birth rates in China the population growth rate would more than likely not increase too much, if at all, making even the “two child policy” more of a moot maneuver than anything else. Basic economic prudence works as well, if not better, than the heavy hand of government. The hallmark of developed countries is an even or, in some instances, declining birth rate. As soon as a population is tied in to the global economic grid its birth rate tends to keeps itself in check. Add to that an economic system where more and more rural peasants are moving to/ working in cities, where children become a financial drain rather than an asset, along with a growing upper/middle class which tends to produce low birth rates globally, and China’s family planning policies are becoming more and more irrelevant.

Basically, these policies are another leftover remnant of an archaic communist security state that is scared to death that it may not actually be needed. Reforms are made here one inch at a time, not wanting to give the impression that the dictatorship is in retreat, as even governments need to retain face. One child, two children, it’s all the same authoritarian theater, but the current incarnation of family planning control will at least get in the way of less and less people.

Filed under: China, Culture and Society, Politics

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3653 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York

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