More important than the Republican Party presidential debate last night was the news that China is ending its famed “One-child Policy.” Berkshire has covered population issues in many publications, including an entire issue of Guanxi: The China Letter in 2007, and we are glad to provide a free download of that issue, with contributions from experts in the US and in China, as background reading today. Click here to download your free copy of the 12-page issue of The China Letter Vol 2, Issue 5: China’s One-Child Policy.
Click these links for the BBC News and CNN stories. And for a 2015 perspective, we asked Robert (Bob) Engelman for his thoughts on the change to the one-child policy. Bob is president of the Worldwatch Institute, well-known expert on global population and the environment, and author of the overview article on population in Volume 10 of the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability and the book More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want. He had this to say:
“The most dramatic fall in China’s historically high fertility rates preceded the institution of the one-child policy in the beginning of the 1980s, when the government non-coercively promoted the small-family ideal and fueled a rapid expansion of family planning clinics and methods throughout the country. Women at the time were being given new responsibilities and status on farm and other collectives, and the combination of these conditions encouraged fertility rates to fall. Two may be more permissive than one, but it’s still birth by permission. Really ending the policy would mean allowing parents to decide for themselves when and how often to have a child, as almost all other governments do–and then creating conditions that all but guarantee low fertility. Those conditions include excellent access to a variety of safe and affordable contraceptive methods and to safe abortion services, along with status and opportunity for girls and women that is in every way equal to that of men.”
We happen to be especially interested in this news because we have several Chinese friends who have just had babies. I’ve been learning about the custom of staying in bed for the first month – and not washing your hair! One of my friends has been posting photos of the special dishes she’s been eating during this first month, and I’m hoping to get full details – we’ll certainly have to have an article on this in the Encyclopedia of Chinese Cuisines.