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End of China's 'One-Child' Policy Draws International Reactions

FILE - Children study in small rural primary school in the Chang ling Xia Cou village, north of Beijing, China.
FILE - Children study in small rural primary school in the Chang ling Xia Cou village, north of Beijing, China.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) announced at the close of a major meeting that it will abolish its one-child policy, which has been in place for 35 years, and allow couples to have a second child.

In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Ernest welcomed the move by China to abolish its one-child policy as a “positive" measures, but said the United States expects the day when China completely abolish restrictions on birth.

Chairman of U.S. Congressional Human Rights Committee, Republican Congressman Chris Smith, has long been concerned about forced abortions and other human right violations in China. He said in a statement Thursday that the two-child policy has not fundamentally changed China’s mandatory population control policy.

London based international human rights group Amnesty International issued a statement on Thursday saying, although Chinese authorities announced changes in their one-child policy, Chinese women still face the dangers of forced contraception and abortion.

Reggie Littlejohn, Chairman of “Women’s Rights Without Borders" told VOA she believes the two-child policy does not stop population control. She concluded that China should stop forced population control all together, instead of just making adjustments.

"From the demographic point of view, I think because the aging of the population, China is forced to turn to [a] two-child policy; but from the perspective of human rights, a child or two children does not matter, because mandatory abortion is a form of torture, and the two-child policy does not end the problem," Littlejohn said.

Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng said he did not believe the new policy would help much in alleviating China’s social and economic problems. “It is only a replacement of the one-child policy” said Chen, who was imprisoned in China for exposing the brutalities of forced abortions and later fled to the United States.

Fears about China’s shrinking labor pool contributed to the policy change. China’s latest census results show that its population is aging quickly. China’s urban birth rate is less than one child per couple. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2050, 35% of China’s population will be over 60 years of age, leaving China as one of the worst effected countries in the world by population aging.

"If we do not let people have a second child, then the population will further decline. In this case, the elderly will become a more serious social problem and labor shortage problems will arise." Zhong Dajun, director of a Beijing economic think-tank said to Voice of America.

Too late to increase labor pool

Hu Xingdou, Professor of economics at Beijing’s Institute of Technology also believes now is the right time to abolish the one child policy, but he says it will not lead to a major population increase.

“In China's rural area, many families already have two children, or even three, whereas many urban couples choose not to have any kids. With the improvements to China's social security and pension systems, fewer people will feel the need to have any children,” he said.

According to the latest report from the Chinese Academy of Social Science, it costs about $77,000 to raise a child from birth to 16 years old in an average Chinese city. In big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, the cost is higher. Many urban couples are choosing not to have any children at all.

Yi Fuxian, a Researcher at the University of Wisconsin, urges the Chinese government to follow up with better population policies.

"For example, the government should go on abolishing family planning, and then introduce policies that encourage fertility," Yi said. "The two-child policy will only make sense if supported by a series of policies, otherwise it's meaningless. It would only be a continuation of the old policy that views population as a burden to be planned and controlled."

Some scholars say the government faces many hurdles in abolishing family planning policies, one of which is millions of government officials and employees who have been involved in more than 30 years of enforcement would probably be out of work.