China Sticking With One-Child PolicyBy JIM YARDLEYPublished: March 11, 2008BEIJING — China’s top population official said the country’s one-child-per-couple familyplanning policy would not change for at least another decade. The announcement refutesspeculation that officials were contemplating adjustments to compensate for mountingdemographic pressures.The official, Zhang Weiqing, minister of the National Population and Family PlanningCommission, said China would not make any major changes to the overall family planningpolicy until roughly a decade from now, when an anticipated surge in births is expected toend.“The current family planning policy, formed as a result of gradual changes in the past twodecades, has proved compatible with national conditions,” Mr. Zhang said in a front-pageinterview published Monday in China Daily, the country’s official English-languagenewspaper.“So it has to be kept unchanged at this time to ensure stable and balanced populationgrowth.”Mr. Zhang said that 200 million people would enter childbearing age during the next decadeand that prematurely abandoning the one-child policy could add unwanted volatility to thebirthrate.“Given such a large population base, there would be major fluctuations in populationgrowth if we abandoned the one-child rule now,” he said. “It would cause serious problemsand add extra pressure on social and economic development.”China, with more than 1.3 billion people, is the world’s most populous nation. For nearlythree decades, it has enforced one of the world’s strictest family planning policies. Mosturban couples are limited to a single child, while farmers are often allowed to have two.Critics say the policy is coercive and has led to numerous abuses, including forced abortions,which continue in some areas.
National family planning officials have tried to reduce the abuses, but local officials are stillevaluated partly on how well they meet population goals. Supporters of the policy say it haskept population growth from reaching unsustainable levels. Government officials often saythe policy has prevented roughly 400 million births, though some independent scholars andscientists cite a figure of around 250 million.Today, China has a rapidly aging society that demographers warn could present significantproblems. Already, the work force is defying the popular impression that the labor supply isendless. Factories have reported shortages of young workers in recent years. At the sametime, the one-child policy is considered a contributing factor to a gender imbalance that hasraised concerns that there may be too few women in the future.Officials have tinkered with the policy over the years, but have resisted any sweepingchanges. Speculation arose in recent weeks that some sort of deeper change might becoming. Last month, Zhao Baige, a vice minister in the national family planningcommission, prompted a spate of news reports when she was quoted as saying that Chinawas studying how it could move away from the one-child policy.“We want incrementally to have this change,” Ms. Zhao said, according to Reuters. “I cannotanswer at what time or how, but this has become a big issue among decision makers.”A day later, a strong denial was issued in the state-run Beijing News under the headline,“News of abandoning the one-child policy is inconsistent with the facts.”But the uncertainty quickly deepened. Wu Jianmin, spokesman for the Chinese People’sPolitical Consultative Conference, the advisory body to the national legislature, suggested ata news conference that changes were being considered.“The one-child policy was the only choice we had, given the conditions when we initiated thepolicy,” Mr. Wu said.“When designing a policy,” he noted, “we need to take into consideration the reality. So asthings develop, there might be some changes to the policy, and relevant departments areconsidering this.”
Mr. Zhang’s comments on Monday in China Daily seemed to put an end to any debate overtiming. He told the newspaper that quickly abandoning the policy would create many newproblems.China Daily reported that the population was growing by up to 17 million people a year.http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/11/world/asia/11china.html