Is the One Child Policy Finished—And Was It a Failure?

Is the One Child Policy Finished—And Was It a Failure?

Dorinda Elliott:

China’s recent  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 , 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?

Dorinda Elliott is Editor at Large at ChinaFile. In her “day job,” she is Global Affairs Editor at Condé Nast Traveler, where she spearheads coverage of global issues and corporate social...
Alexa Olesen is a Brooklyn-based writer who focuses mainly on China, particularly on politics, culture, and the one-child policy. She covered China for eight years as a correspondent for The...
Andrew J. Nathan is Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. He is also chair of the steering committee of the Center for the Study of Human Rights and chair of the...
Ouyang Bin is an Arthur Ross Fellow at the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society in New York and Associate Editor of ChinaFile, where his major interests concentrate on China’s political...
Michael Zhao is a multimedia producer who focuses on environmental issues in China. From 2003 to 2005, he was a News Assistant in the Beijing Bureau of The New York Times, where he worked with...





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