China Loosens Some Censorship of One-Child Policy Criticism
Image: Yi Fuxian, South China Morning Post


HONG KONGAccording to the South China Morning Post, Officials on the Chinese mainland have lifted a six-year ban on a book that exposes the consequences of the One-Child Policy.


Yi Fuxian, a doctor and expert on the One-Child Policy, was only able to publish A Big Country in an Empty Nest in Hong Kong in 2007 because the book was banned on the Chinese mainland. Last month, authorities lifted the mainland ban and cleared the way for his book to be published there for the first time.


On April 28, Dr. Yi gave an interview with Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post about how he came to research the One-Child Policy. You can find the whole interview here, but below are several of the most illuminating answers Dr. Yi gave during Raymond Li’s interview:


What prompted your research on family-planning policy?

I was born in a rural town in western Hunan where the locals have a well-preserved culture of sustainable human reproduction and a strong sense of perpetuating the family. Even when I was very young, I was telling myself that I would have to have at least three children when I married. I went to the US in 1999 to further my studies in pharmacology and later in biology. But another reason I left China was to fulfil my childhood goal of having a big family, which is impossible under China's one-child policy. Not long after I arrived in the US I realised some of the misconceptions about Chinese, even held among the Chinese themselves, including the myth that we as a people have a burning desire for more children. To the contrary, I found out that Chinese-Americans were reluctant to have children. So the Chinese propaganda based on such a misconception is wrong. Then I began to write intensively about the flawed policy, which formed the basis of my book.


How did the public and mainland authorities respond to your comments?

I have to say that the public response was very negative at the time, with probably 90 per cent of online commentators disapproving of my criticism. But there has been a gradual shift in public opinion on the family-planning policy since late 2004 when the central government ordered a cabinet-level review of the policy. It was very encouraging to see an enormous interest in my writing that appeared online, and some of my articles in newspapers affiliated with Xinhua and People's Daily calling for an abrupt end to the one-child policy received as many as a million hits, with many more positive comments. However, the review panel was dominated by officials and academics who favoured family planning and it decided to maintain the stringent policy. I was then subjected to heightened censorship, and the book I published in Hong Kong in September 2007 was banned on the mainland two months later.


How did the book come to be published on the mainland last month?

Even though the book was officially banned, it was widely discussed and circulated online, and there has been no shortage of interest from mainland publishers over the years. Statistics from the 2010 census that were made public in November that year cast the Family Planning Commission in a bad light and substantiated many findings in my book. Last year I was approached by China Development Press, affiliated with the Development Research Centre of the State Council, about publishing the book on the mainland. It was delayed several times during a period of several major political developments including the leadership transition during the 18th party congress in November.


Even though authorities have begun to fine tune the policy, do you think China still has a chance of moving towards a sustainable population?

I'm rather pessimistic. Even if the family-planning policy were terminated today, it would be too late to solve our rapidly ageing population, the drastic shrinkage of the labour force and the gaping hole in social-security funds that the country has already begun struggling with.


This apparent loosening of the Chinese government's stringent censorship of critical words about the One-Child Policy is welcome news, even if it is already too late to reverse the damage that the policy has done (as Dr. Yi noted).


Social and Behavorial Consequences of the One-Child Policy


The mainland release of Dr. Yi's book comes on the heels of another study measuring the social impact of the One-Child Policy. A team of Australian researchers surveyed 421 individuals who were born in China either just before or jsut after the implementation of the One-Child Policy. (Within a few years of the policy's intriduction in 1979, 91% of children in China were only children.) They learned that the individuals born after the policy were less altruistic and trusting than those born before the policy was introduced. 


The adults born after the One-Child Policy were:


  • 3.3% less altruistic
  • 4.5% less trusting of others
  • 8.3% less willing to take risks in an investment scenario
  • 7.6% less competitive


The original study (available by purchase only) can be found through Science Magazine.


All Girls Allowed ( was founded by Chai Ling in 2010 with a mission to display the love of Jesus by restoring life, value and dignity to girls and mothers in China and to reveal the injustice of the One-Child Policy.  “In Jesus’ Name, Simply Love Her.”

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