Is the One Child Policy Finished—And Was It a Failure?
China’s recent decision to phase out the agency that oversees the one-child policy has raised questions about whether the policy itself will be dropped—and whether it was a success or a failure.
Aside from the burdens only children feel when it comes to caring for their parents and parents-in-law, the long-term implications of having a country ruled by only-child emperors are hard to fathom—and, in my view, a bit terrifying.
Most China watchers seem to have always taken for granted that the policy was a necessary evil. I know that I avoided thinking too much about the inconvenient forced abortion question. But at this point, it looks like the smartest thinkers are challenging the conventional wisdom. In a recent academic paper, Chinese demographers concluded:
“The one-child policy will be added to the other deadly errors in recent Chinese history, including the famine in 1959–61 … and the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s and early 1970s. While those grave mistakes both cost tens of millions of lives, the harms done were relatively short-lived and were corrected quickly afterward. The one-child policy, in contrast, will surpass them in impact by its role in creating a society with a seriously undermined family and kin structure, and a whole generation of future elderly and their children whose well-being will be seriously jeopardized.”
I wonder, what does it mean to have a country with no sisters, no brothers? Will those words one day be dropped from the Chinese language?
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