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China Ends One-Child Policy

After decades, the Communist Party’s central committee relaxes rule, allowing two children per family.

After 35 years and untold millions of babies aborted, China has agreed to end its one-child policy and allow all couples to have two children in order to “balance population development” and “address the challenge of an aging population,” according to Xinhua News Agency.

The Communist Party’s central committee made the decision this week in a meeting about China’s five-year development. In 2013, the government agreed that couples could have two children if one parent was an only child. Yet due to decades of family-planning propaganda and economic deterrents to having children, only 12 percent of eligible couples decided to have a second child.

The one-child policy was introduced in 1979 as a way to control population growth and increase living standards. It led to forced abortions and sterilizations, a yawning gender imbalance, and the normalization of abortion. In 2013, the Chinese government said 336 million babies had been aborted since the government first encouraged population control in 1971.

The government’s reasoning, however, is purely economic: The United Nations estimates China will lose 67 million workers from 2010 to 2030 while increasing its elderly population from 110 million to 210 million. By 2050, the elderly would make up one-quarter of the population, meaning a ballooning elderly population depending on a dwindling workforce.

Census data shows the policy, combined with a traditional preference for boys, has led to a serious gender imbalance—there are about 115 boys born for every 100 girls. That has led to sex trafficking, mail-order brides, and kidnappings as parents desperately desire to secure brides for their sons. Recently, a Chinese economist offered his own desperate solution for how to handle the gender imbalance by allowing several men to marry one wife. Xie Zuoshi, economics professor at Zhejiang University warned that a surplus of single men could lead to an increase of violence and rape, so it only made sense for men to share wives.

The actual impact of the policy change on everyday Chinese citizens is yet to be seen as local officials decide which policies to implement or dismiss. For instance, although forced abortions are banned, the practice still continues in China, often in rural areas.

–By June Cheng