History of the One-Child Policy


China’s One-Child Policy was formally instituted 30 years ago on September 25, 1980, in an open letter by the Chinese Communist Party. Up until that date, the government had campaigned locally and nationally for voluntary birth control and discouraged excess reproduction. 


The policy was created after Chairman Mao launched a campaign to encourage families to have more children, leading to birthrates of over 4 children per family.  At the same time, there was a food shortage that resulted in part from Mao’s failed economic-planning of the Great Leap Forward, during which 30 million Chinese died of man-made famine.


Even though the birthrate had dropped below 3 children per family by 1980, a new regime of Chinese leaders believed that forcibly restricting population growth would lead to greater economic prosperity.  As a result, a coercive policy was born that would impact the most intimate aspect of every Chinese citizen's life--their family.


The One-Child Policy restricts the majority of Chinese families to one child each. The consequences of having a child without a birth permit vary by province, with fines reaching as high as several times the average annual income. The policy was originally introduced as a temporary measure that would only be in place for 20 to 30 years, but it continues to this day.


To enforce the One-Child Policy, the Chinese government uses a quota reward system for Planning Officials who carry out the birth control policies.  If they do not meet these quotas, they are either punished or lose the opportunity to earn promotions.


In 1984 the policy was slightly relaxed, with rural families and other demographic groups able to receive permits for a second child. But those new exemptions varied dramatically from province to province, and no longer applied if rural families migrated to urban centers. The policy continues to be a major concern for parents who are at the mercy of local officials to approve their eligibility for exemptions.



The Chinese government boasts that the One-Child Policy has prevented over 400 million births, and announced in March 2013 that over the last four decades, they have aborted 336 million children, performed 196 million surgical sterilizations, and inserted 403 million IUD's (intrauterine devices).  The loss of life and imposition on the rights of mothers is staggering.


A growing demographic crisis is emerging in China as the population ages, leaving a smaller workforce to care for a massive number of elderly citizens. Some call this the "4-2-1" problem because multiple generations have grown up as only-children: now, 1 child is often tasked with caring for 2 parents and 4 grandparents. Chinese scholars have pointed to the demographic situation as a major concern in calling for the government to change the One-Child Policy.


The policy also draws criticism because of its brutal enforcement—officials meet quotas by compelling pregnant women to undergo abortions, often under threat of job loss, colossal fines, and even personal harm. Women who still refuse such coerced abortions have been arrested and restrained for forced abortions.  The most high-profile cases have been those of Feng Jianmei, whose 7-month-old baby was forcibly aborted on June 2, 2012.  The image of her dead baby lying next to her (below) quickly circulated the globe and caused uproar both within China and around the world.



In response to the universal condemnation of this forced abortion, the Chinese government began outlawing late-term forced abortion at the national and provincial levels.  Unfortunately, enforcement of this law has been spotty, and forced abortion still occurs.  On March 22, 2013, another 7-month-old baby was forcibly aborted, and that image also circulated widely around the internet.


Another tragic consequence of the policy is China’s growing gender imbalance. Coupled with a traditional preference for males, the policy causes parents to get rid of daughters through abortion, abandonment, or infanticide. This elimination of girls is called gendercide. (Read more about it here.) Experts predict that by 2020, China will be home to 40 million more men than women under the age of 20. That number is equivalent to the total population of men under 20 in the U.S.


Scholars, activists, ordinary Chinese citizens and even Chinese government officials alike have joined together in calling for an end to the One-Child Policy.  But the greatest chorus has been from followers of Jesus both within and outside of China, who have not ceased to pray for God to bring an end to the massacre and slaughter of innocents.  Courageous Christians have stepped out in faith to love girls and women around them in the name of Jesus. 


As of March 2013, the Chinese government appeared to be clinging to the One-Child Policy, only making marginal and insignificant tweaks allowing for two children in very specific circumstances. All Girls Allowed believes that God will bring an end to China's coercive population policy in response to our prayers and our acts of love.  May you join us in witnessing God's deliverance as he parts the Red Sea and walks his people into freedom!


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