via the Guardian: Time running out for China’s one-child policy after three decades

Time running out for China’s one-child policy after three decades

As list of exemptions grows, experts predict scrapping of rule said to have prevented 400m birthsChina baby
Even if the one-child policy is scrapped, many Chinese couples say they are unlikely to have bigger families because of the expense. Photograph: Afp/AFP/Getty Images

Chen Xi once saw the one-child policy as a brick wall, unyielding and inevitable. Now she considers it a nuisance.

The turning point came in November when, just as she began the fifth month of her pregnancy, Beijing announced a big change to the contentious policy, allowing couples to have two children if one parent is an only child. Chen, a 28-year-old employee at a state-owned enterprise, should qualify – her husband does have siblings, but she does not.

Yet her hopes may be dashed: although she is pregnant with her first child, she lives with her husband’s 16-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, and family planning officials may consider the teenager her own.

As Chen fruitlessly searched the internet for details, her emotions turned from hope, to confusion, to anger – first at the lack of information, then at the policy as a whole. “This policy has so many downsides – it violates natural law, it makes kids spoilt and thankless,” she said. “Sooner or later, they’re going to have to give it up. It’s really just a matter of time.”

Chen is not alone. While experts doubt the relaxation will deliver a baby boom, they say it has delivered something else entirely: a paradigm shift for many Chinese people who, over three decades, have grown numb to the government’s role in their reproductive affairs.

The policy’s pitfalls are common knowledge: it has engendered an economically perilous demographic crunch and human rights abuses such as forced late-term abortions, abducted infants and the use of violence to collect fines.

Yet “resistance against the policy has never really been that strong”, said Wang Feng, an expert on China’s demographics at the University of California, Irvine. “That’s why I think this top-down change – when the government says ‘now the policy has outlived its use and needs to be changed’ – that actually triggers a change in thinking.”

Five years ago, Wang estimated, only three out of 10 Chinese people were adamant that the policy should be scrapped. “Now, with the announcement of this change, it may not be an exaggeration to see a shift to the other way around. Maybe nine out of 10 would say it’s about time to get rid of this.”

Last week, the wealthy coastal province of Zhejiang became the first to sign the revision into law. Hubei in central China and Guangxi in the south could follow suit by March, state media say.

Authorities say the policy has prevented 400m births since its implementation in the late 1970s. For evidence, they often point to UN estimates that the country’s birthrate has dropped from 4.77 births per woman in the 1970s to 1.64 in 2011. Yet experts have called the figure into question. China’s greatest fertility drop-off occurred in the decade before the policy was introduced, they say; its continuing decline mirrors that of other developing nations.

China already allows many people to have two children, such as couples who are both only children, and ethnic minorities.

Yet many of these families refrain, unwilling to bear the economic cost of a second child. Since the early 1990s, “there’s been no tightening up of the policy, but the fertility rate continues to decline”, said Zuo Xuejin, an executive vice-president at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. “So the basic driver for declined fertility is socioeconomic change.”

If China’s demographic trends hold, the country will probably scrap the policy by 2020, according to Zuo. “By 2025, the government will be encouraging people to have more children.”

Yet the policy will almost certainly continue to have a hold on people for years, experts say, for reasons that have little to do with demographics. For leading officials, backtracking on a three-decade-old policy would entail an intolerable loss of face. The country’s sprawling family planning bureaucracy, which levies more than £1bn annually in fines, is too deeply entrenched to suddenly dismantle.

“At the same time as China announces this policy change, it says the government will continue to put population control as its main mission,” said Cai Yong, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “You see a contradiction right there.”

Chen is still waiting for details on her eligibility, and probably won’t find answers until Beijing formally legislates. She badly wants a second child, unlike many of her colleagues. “If my child doesn’t have any siblings, she’ll grow up very lonely,” she said. If she finds out it is illegal, she will book a flight to the US and hopefully give birth there, granting her child foreign citizenship.

“Before, most people would go to Canada, but some policies changed, so people don’t go there any more,” she said. “Going to America is really popular. If that’s what it takes, that’s what I’ll do.”

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New Chinese law: Visit your Parents – CNN.com

Human Imprint Synopsis:

In a country where a one-child policy and an aging population prevail, the traditional family is being turned on its head. China is a rapidly developing country that is improving its economic position by sending more of their children to universities, even abroad.  However, as the money starts to come in, dependents of the “little-prince” generation are wondering if their kid will ever come back home to take care of them. Recently, the “Law of Protection of Rights and Interests of the Aged” was established in an effort to make sure that kids are not turning their back on their parents. A social necessity or infringement of human rights? What do you think?

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Story Via: New Chinese law: Visit your parents – CNN.com.

New Chinese law: Visit your parents

By Meng Meng and Katie Hunt, for CNN
updated 6:36 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
Watch this video

In China, visit parents or face jail?

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New Chinese law requires children to visit elderly parents
  • Care of growing elderly population a big challenge for China’s leaders
  • One-child policy and economic reform have broken up extended family
  • Some say law controversial and hard to enforce

Hong Kong (CNN) — Lola Wang, a 28-year-old marketing officer in Shanghai, makes a six-hour trip to Shandong to see her parents twice a year — once during the Lunar New Year and again during the National Day holiday in October.

“I feel like I should visit my parents more but having a job in the financial industry means I have to work long hours and sacrifice some of my personal time for work,” Wang, an only child, tells CNN.

Wang’s dilemma is faced by many young people in China, where a one-child policy and three decades of economic reforms have accelerated the decline of the traditional extended family.

It’s also a matter of concern for China’s new leaders as they grapple with the burden of supporting the growing number of elderly people.

New law

New Chinese law: Visit your parents

A new national law introduced this week requires the offspring of parents older than 60 to visit their parents “frequently” and make sure their financial and spiritual needs are met.

“People are accusing young people of not visiting their parents enough,” says Wang, adding she agrees with the aims of the law.

“Admittedly, some of them use their career and long working hours as an excuse. My problems are that I do care about my parents, but I have little vacation and my parents live far away.”

According to Xinhua, China had about 185 million people above the age of 60 at the end of 2011. The figure is expected to surge to 221 million in 2015 and by 2050 a third of China’s population will be classed as elderly.

Neglect

The “Law of Protection of Rights and Interests of the Aged” was amended by China’s legislature in December after a spate of reports about elderly parents neglected by their children.

In one particularly horrific case in Jiangsu province, a local television station reported that a farmer had kept his 100-year-old mother in a pigsty with a 440lb sow.

Chen Shoutian told the station his mother had been happy to live there: “She wants to stay here because she feels it is convenient,” he said.

A modest pension and social welfare system, particularly in rural areas, means elderly people are usually dependent on their children for support.

More than a fifth live below the poverty line, according to figures from the National School of Development at Peking University.

Changing values

Although respect for the elderly is still deeply engrained in Chinese society, traditional values like filial piety have been weakened by the country’s rush to modernity.

“The traditional family support system is eroding for many reasons and I think the government would like to slow this process down,” said Albert Park, the director of the Emerging Markets Institute at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

The law stipulates that children cannot give up their inheritance rights in attempt to evade their duty to take care of their parents. It adds that children should pay a monthly allowance to their parents if they refuse to take care of them.

The legislation also allows for the elderly to sue their children but does not specify the process or what penalties they might face.

It may also prove difficult to enforce, says Ding Yiyuan from Beijing Yingke Law Firm. He told the Guangzhou Daily newspaper the law fails to qualify the word “frequently.” He added that few elderly people were likely to sue their own children.

Controversial

The law’s introduction has proved controversial. Some say it puts too much pressure on those who move away from home for work, study or other opportunities.

Cheng Zhegang, 50, whose only child is studying for a master’s degree in the United States, said the law “distorts the parent-child relationship.”

He hopes his daughter will head to a big city like Shanghai or Beijing to find a job on graduation and not return to the small town where she grew up.

“I don’t want my daughter to have a burden both physically and spiritually,” he told CNN.

“For me, my daughter’s career is the most important thing. As the parent of an only child, I have spent so much time and money on my daughter’s education and now I want her to be successful.”