The end of forced family planning?


For years, the writing has been on the wall for China’s infamous family planning measures. Though there have always been some exceptions to the One-Child Policy, the government began a significant loosening back in 2013, when it became legal for couples where one partner is an only child to have more than one child. China then transitioned to a Two-Child Policy on January 1, 2016. Since then, signs have grown that Beijing is dissatisfied with the small size of the baby boom that resulted from the 2016 change in policy, and is willing to take action to further loosen family planning policies.

  • “Independent fertility,” i.e., no birth restrictions at all, is a policy option under serious consideration in Beijing, a source tells Bloomberg.
  • “The leadership wants to reduce the pace of aging in China’s population and remove a source of international criticism,” Bloomberg reports, citing the same source.
  • A decision could be announced late this year, or early next year, according to a second source.
  • A loosening seems very likely. One sign is that the Party-line-towing Global Times published an op-ed that pointed out, “One thing is certain: China’s understanding of population has been changing and a growing population is now being considered more of an asset than a burden.”
  • “Too little, too late” is the mantra you will hear from most foreign observers. For example, Justin Fox, a columnist at Bloomberg, followed up on the outlet’s reporting with an analysis titled “Ending China’s birth limits won’t bring a baby boom.”
  • Learn more about the history of China’s family planning policies from this Sinica Podcast episode with Mei Fong, or from her book, titled One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment.