China: The two-child policy

By Li Shimin

He Xiao Yong, a teacher at Jinan University, has been married for more than seven years. In 2011, his wife Lei Ming gave birth to a child. Now his son is nearly seven years old. Seeing that many of their friends have chosen to have a second baby, the couple is discussing whether they should have a second child, too.

China put an end to the 35-year-old One-Child Policy and enacted Two-Child Policy on Jan. 1, 2016. Since the new policy began, the number of new births has increased a lot. In 2016, the number of new-born babies was about 17.9 million, increasing by 11 percent compared to 2015. Among the new-born babies, 45 percent of them are the second kid in the family.

Chen Xi Zi gave birth to her first child in 2015 and her second child in 2016. “When I went to the hospital while pregnant with my second child, there were much more many pregnant women than in 2015. Also, I found that there were more pregnant women aged above 35. Most of them were going to give birth to a second baby,” she said.

“It is an interesting situation that a large part of pregnant women with a second child are quite old. Not many young women want to have more than one kid,” Chen added.

According to a survey conducted by China Women’s Federation, more than 53.3 percent of interviewed families didn’t want to have more than one child. More than 60 percent of families in the city were not willing to do so.

Gao Li, a teacher studying sociology, has studied what factors affect couples’ decision to have a second baby. In her opinion, couples may consider their financial ability, health and family relationship when they are discussing whether to have more than one child. The education system and population policies of the country are also important factors.

Lei Ming is one of those young women who don’t want to have a second child. “I have already had a son. It is enough. I can’t afford to raise another child because the cost to support his education and other issues is too high. Furthermore, if I have two sons, it is hard for my husband and me to prepare for their weddings and houses,” she said.

According to a study conducted by Xu An Qi, a sociologist working in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, it cost about ¥310,000 on average in China to support a child from his birth to his graduation from college. The figure would double if a son is about to get married and his parents pay for his wedding and house. The high cost to raise a child often stops young couples from having more than one baby.

Although the cost is enormous, some people like He Xiao Yong still want to have a second baby. He has tried to persuade his wife to have one more child. “I think if my son has no siblings, he will be lonely. He has little time to learn how to get along with kids of his generation. He may become selfish and won’t like sharing with others. I think it is bad for his growth. Also, if he has siblings, he can seek help from them when in trouble,” he said.

He Xiao Yong and his son

The One-Child Policy has been criticized for many years. Above all, many people complain it deprives them of freedom to conceive. Moreover, it is common that six people in the family, including the couple and their parents take care of just one child. Whatever the child wants, they try their best to satisfy them. These children can become spoiled and self-centered. When these children grow up, they alone are responsible for taking care of their parents and even grandparents. They may face heavy financial burden. Last but not least, the One-Child Policy accelerates the aging of the Chinese population, which may affect the growth of Chinese economy. Thus, Chinese government decided to put forward the Two-Child Policy.

He Xiao Yong failed to talk his wife Lei Ming into having a second baby, and finally he gave up. “I have to respect my wife. She has given a lot to our kid. On this issue, I should listen to her. My parents also respect our choice,” he said.

Nevertheless, not all women can be as lucky as Lei Ming. Some women are forced to give birth to a second baby by their husbands or parents. Before the Two-Child Policy came into effect, women were prohibited from giving birth to a second baby. However, things have changed now. Some of them are facing great pressure from their family who want them to have one more baby.

“Sometimes, women are in a weak position. According to the Chinese law, women have the right to refuse to conceive. I think women should know how to defend their right. Nevertheless, all family members should negotiate together on this issue,” Gao said.

Although many young couples don’t want to have more than one child, there are more families with two children than before. The change in the family structure has an influence on the society. Some companies have launched new products to satisfy the desires of families with two kids. For example, many car companies, such as Ford, have paid more attention to the need for cars with seven seats, like SUV.

Some scholars studying Chinese population and economy are worried about the future of China. Liang Jian Zhang, a professor at Peking University, wrote a book, “Are There Too Many People in China”.

“The birth rate of China is quite low now. Only if China gives up population and family planning can China develop sustainability in the future. Also, the government should develop the education system and social welfare system to encourage young couples to have more babies,” he said in the book.

 

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