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China's One Child Policy
Earth has about six and a half billion inhabitants, who are taking a severe toll on the planet, if by nothing more than sheer number. Many of the more modern nations have populations that are feeling the effects of improved quality of life, and their populations are stabilizing or even declining. However, nations that are not quite so modern have yet to experience this change in demographics. Populations are still rising, often very rapidly. One of these nations is China. That is not to say that China is not making an effort to slow the rise of their population, however.
In 1979, the People’s Republic of China initiated a dramatic policy that aimed for major social and economic reform. At the time China contained approximately 1/4th of the world’s population, who lived on only seven percent of the world’s arable land. Many of these people were among the poorest in the world, living a life within the strict refines of poverty. Quality of life was bad, and death rates were high. The government was unable to properly care for its people, who in turn were unable to properly care for themselves. In a drastic effort to put an end to these problems, China’s government started the One Child Policy.
The One Child Policy had good intentions. It was in fact a very well thought out effective idea. However, there were some problems that its inventors did not foresee. First and foremost, couples in China rarely want female children, who are victims of circumstance in that they have few means to support a family. This also means that they have few means to support their parents as they grow old. This sad occurrence stemming from an idea with good intentions is showing its negative effects today. A major imbalance is forming, with millions more men than women filling the ranks of China’s population. An effective genocide is occurring in China, and it is warranted by millions of inhabitants who are even participating in it, all out of necessity. Out of the dust has sprung an adoption trade that shows its effects worldwide, and if you look carefully you can see young Chinese girls throughout the world who have been rescued from China’s one child policy.
In spite of the horrible effects of China’s one child policy, it seems to be working, or at least somewhat. China’s population growth rates are decreasing, if slowly. The population rise is expected to peak around 2030, and then start declining, allowing India to overtake China as the world’s most populous country in around 2040, which is in fact, a problem all its own. The current growth rates of China do not take in immigration however, and the huge influx of people into China’s booming economy is taking an increasing toll on China’s environment. A relatively small amount of China’s land area is even remotely hospitable, and with 1.3 billion people living on this land, you can imagine the enormous impact on the land. Air pollution in China is estimated to cause as many as 1,750,000 premature deaths per year. The world’s two most heavily polluted cities are in China, and they house a population that protests with regularity. This population is rapidly becoming more and more male, and that is resulting in problems.
Approximately 5,000,000 Chinese males are gay and “out of the closet.” This number is rising, and at the same time, the number of women in China continues to fall. Many scientists think that these statistics and their correlation are not a coincidence. Could China’s gay population be increasing? If so, what is the cause? Could it be the imbalance between males and females? No one really knows, but it presents a problem that could have serious repercussions in the future.
Another rather unpleasant effect of China’s one child policy is one of psychological ramifications. It is called the “Little Emperor” syndrome. In other words, many children are becoming, for the lack of better words, spoiled brats. The children of China are becoming the pride and joy of their families, only children that are spoiled beyond reason. Plus, as the economy of China grows and people begin to gain a better quality of life, children are being doted on more and more. Families suddenly have the resources to spend money on their children, and they do. The only children are showered with gifts and the pride of their elders. They are well fed as well, however, not necessarily nutritiously.
China's booming economy is changing the face of its culture. Western influences can be seen everywhere, and a good example of this phenomenon is that of the fast food industry. In recent years, this Western idea has taken a hold in China, and that is beginning to present some of the same problems that are felt in the West. Chinese children, specifically the swelling group that is often referred to as the little Emperors, are being fed the food of the West. They are veering from the traditional, and healthy, diet of Chinese culture, for the foods that have been proven time and time again to be a cause of obesity. So, stemming from this rise in quality of life is a new problem; obesity. Ironic isn't it? So, there you have it, one more problem to attribute to the One Child Policy, if indirectly.
However many problems China's One Child Policy may have produced since its conception, it has still done its job. The goal of the policy was to slow population growth in a nation of more than a billion people. That it has done. The policy has reduced growth by an estimated 300 million people, and that does not even count the unfortunate victims of an effectual genocide. China's growth is slowing, and it will peak, for it cannot grow indefinitely. When it does, perhaps this policy can be halted. Perhaps China will have changed enough to not need it. However, until then, the One Child Policy is likely to stay in place, continuing to perform the task it was designed for, if with some rather severe and unfortunate side effects.
Chan, Christine, Melissa D'Arcy, Shannon Hill, and Farouk Ophaso. Demographic Consequences of China's One Child Policy. Prepared for the International Economic Development Program, Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan. University of Michigan, 24 Apr. 2006. Web. 23 Aug. 2009. <http://www.umich.edu/~ipolicy/china/6)%20Demographic%20Consequences%20of%20China's%20One-Child%20Policy.pdf>.
Hesketh, Ph.D., Therese, Li Lu, M.D., and Zhu Wei Xing, M.P.H. "NEJM -- The Effect of China's One-Child Family Policy after 25 Years." The New England Journal of Medicine: Research & Review Articles on Diseases & Clinical Practice. New England Journal of Medicine, 15 Sept. 2005. Web. 23 Aug. 2009. <http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/353/11/1171>.
Rosenburg, Matt. "China One Child Policy - Overview of the One Child Policy in China." Geography Home Page - Geography at About.com. About.com, 12 Apr. 2009. Web. 23 Aug. 2009. <http://geography.about.com/od/populationgeography/a/onechild.htm>.