High-Level Planning Group Reported To Be Reassessing China's One-Child Policy (story in Chinese)

October 20, 2004

Reporter Li Yumin describes the deliberations of a government planning group comprising three senior officials and some 250 experts. The group was formed to research population trends and their impact on economic growth. (See also China Business Account).

The Chinese government appears to be increasingly concerned about China's aging population and the future impact of distorted sex ratios. According to the article, Yu Xuejun, who heads the policy planning unit of the Population and Family Planning Commission, suggested that "a policy allowing two children per family would be better." Yu noted, however, that altering the current "one child" policy is serious and requires careful consideration. Li also says some Chinese economists worry that the aging of the population may lead to an economic slowdown such as Japan has been undergoing recently.

But not everyone agrees. Zhao Beige, deputy head of the Population and Birth Planning Commission called a news conference to argue that Western nations' troubles with an aging population show that the one child policy is not to blame for China's "aging crisis." Some experts link the distorted sex ratios to the use of ultrasound to detect and abort females. Zhao said China was now looking into ways to control this kind of sex selection. However, she pointed out that Korea and Singapore also have unbalanced sex ratios. She suggested that the two real reasons for the distortions are the influence of traditional son preference and the absence of a system of social security for the countryside.

Reporter Li also cites a report written by the Washington, D.C., based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to demonstrate international concern about these issues. The CSIS report notes that China will lose 18 to 35% of its working age population by mid-century; the ratio of citizens of working age to those beyond retirement was 6:1 in 1970 and will be 1:2 in 2040; three-fourths of Chinese workers lack formal pensions.