Experts and the public have been pushing for a phasing-out of the policy for years (it was never designed to be a permanent rule), so it’s exciting to finally see movement in that direction. I find it curious that the government would tackle it this way. They are essentially taking power away from the family planning enforcers by merging them with the Ministry of Health and by putting the National Development and Reform Commission in charge of population policy—but they are not yet changing the family planning rules.
At the grassroots level, this is bound to result in a lot of uncertainty and I’d be surprised if families didn’t try to take advantage of that, to push back and test how much power the family planning officials still have.
And I think retribution for past abuses is something that could emerge and China would be smart to deal with this more directly. There is understandably a lot of pent up anger over the policy.
To respond to your question, Dinda: Chinese ideas about family and kinship have changed dramatically, in part because of the policy, but also because of urbanization, migration and economic growth. And not everyone is an only child. Around 35 percent of Chinese families are subject to a strict one-child rule. Fifty percent or so are allowed a second child if their first is a girl and then the rest are subject to a two or three child policy. What’s always striking to me though is how supportive many Chinese are of such a radical policy. The constant lament heard across China is “Too many people! 人太多” This message has been internalized and many people, even those allowed to have two kids, are opting to have just one.