The One-Child Policy and its Effects on China's Orphanages and Population

March 10, 2011
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Whenever she smiled or laughed my heart was filled with joy and hope. This summer I spent six weeks in Beijing, China. One of the highlights of my trip was definitely going to an orphanage outside of the city to actually spend time with some of the babies. The particular orphanage that I went to was called the New Hope Foundation Foster Home, located in the Shun Yi District of Beijing. This orphanage specifically takes in infants and toddlers, usually with severe birth defects. During my time at the home I became especially attached to a certain baby girl, named Dang Cancan. Unfortunately, she had a cleft lip, but that certainly did not stop her from smiling. I absolutely loved holding her and walking around with her, and in just a short amount of time I felt as if she was my own baby girl. We got to meet the owner of the foster home, who moved to Beijing with his wife a few years ago and established this amazing institution after being truly moved when they witnessed the horrendous conditions of some of the orphanages that are funded by the government. They work extremely hard to raise thousands of dollars in order to allow many of these children to have operations that will change their lives. One operation can enable a helpless baby to start a completely new life. They give these children the opportunity to live life to the fullest and I admire them for the work that they do and the amount of time and effort that they dedicate every single day.
Every child deserves to be treasured. Every child deserves a home and a loving family. In the year 1979, Deng Xiaoping, a leader of the Communist Party of China, began enforcing a new restriction, known as the “One-Child Policy”. This rule, put in place to attempt to control the rapidly growing population, limits each Chinese couple to only having one child. Twenty-five years later, people are finally beginning to realize the glitches in this system. The “One-Child Policy” has resulted in many population issues, mainly the fact that thousands of babies, especially females, have been abandoned at birth and placed in orphanages around China.
“Nearly one out of every four people in the country will be over age 65 by the year 2050, demographers have forecast” (Dingding). This proposes major problems when it comes to having enough people that are able to work. Another main issue with this policy is the fact that many families do not want daughters. Their sons are raised and then expected to carry on the family and take care of his parents in their old age, so they are seen as more valuable than baby girls. It cannot really be controlled whether a pregnancy will result in a baby girl or a baby boy, so if a female is born the parents are then faced with a very serious dilemma. Many couples in this situation decide to make a terrible decision; they simply abandon their daughter with the hopes that they can try again and maybe be fortunate enough to give birth to a baby boy the next time around. Some of these abandoned babies are fortunate enough to be found and placed in an orphanage before it is too late, but so many of them are not given that opportunity.

“Chinese official records fail to account for most of the country’s abandoned infants and children, only a small proportion of whom are in any form of acknowledged state care. The most recent figure provided by the government for the country’s orphan population, 100,000, seems implausibly low for a country with a total population of 1.2 billion” (Munro and Rigsby). Sadly, most of these children were abandoned at birth and most of them are females. “This rule has caused a disdain for female infants; abortion, neglect, abandonment, and even infanticide have been known to occur to female infants” (Rosenberg). There are some males living in orphanages in China, but most of them are severely handicapped. It is a known fact that China’s government is very secretive and isolated when it comes to releasing statistics to other nations around the world. Therefore, many of the numbers concerning Chinese orphans and orphanages are estimated and the exact numbers will never be known. "That female infanticide does occur on some scale is evidenced by reports in the Chinese press, but the available statistical evidence does not help us to determine whether it takes place on a large or a small scale” (Johansson and Nygren, 50). In reality, very few of these children could actually be categorized as orphans, because they do in fact have at least one living parent. Unfortunately, many parents decided to completely abandon their poor, defenseless baby at birth. The fact that so many young girls in China are neglected and even killed simply because of their gender will also present issues in the future for the male population. In one article it was said that the policy “has produced what Gu Baochang, a leading Chinese expert on family planning, described as ‘the largest, the highest, and the longest’ gender imbalance in the world” (Baculinao). Eventually, with the male population being stable and the female population steadily decreasing, the men will outnumber the women significantly. This leads to trouble when the current generation of young men grows up and they are searching for a wife so that they may start a family of their own.

Spending time with the children in the orphanage in Beijing made me realize so many things. I realized that there truly is an issue in China regarding the neglect and abandonment of baby girls that needs to be corrected immediately; I realized that there are some truly extraordinary people in this world who are willing to donate everything they have in order to benefit others; I realized that miracles happen every single day all over the world and often go unnoticed; I realized things that I would never have even dreamt of unless I was exposed to them and experienced the feeling in my heart first-hand. Due to the fact that China is not very public with its statistics and information, many people have no idea that this is happening. In fact, many Americans do not even realize that the One-Child Policy is still being enforced in China to this day. People everywhere need to be made aware of the severity of this situation, because every child deserves to have a home, a family to love and care for him or her, and most importantly, a chance to live.

Works Cited

Baculinao, Eric. "China Grapples with Legacy of Its ‘missing Girls’." NBC. 14 Sept. 2004. Web. 14 Oct. 2010. <>.
Dingding, Xin. "One in Four Chinese 'aged above 65 by 2050'" China Daily. 20 May 2010. Web. 14 Oct. 2010. <>.
Johansson, Sten, and Ola Nygren. "Population and Development Review 17." The Missing Girls of China: A New Demographic Account. 1991. Print.
Munro, Robin, and Jeff Rigsby. Death by Default: a Policy of Fatal Neglect in China's State Orphanages. New York: Human Rights Watch, 1996. Print.
Rosenberg, Matt. "China's One Child Policy." 14 June 2010. Web. 14 Oct. 2010. <>.

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