China’s One Child Policy: Friend or Foe?

Written by EMERY SHEN

Last winter, I went back home to Beijing, where I used to live before moving overseas. Needless to say, I was over-excited, for I’ve been away for such a long time. However, I was not used to the scenes I was seeing in shopping centers, and the boasts I was hearing from proud parents, and even grandparents, regarding their only child’s latest accomplishments and achievements.

‘Come on, stop crying, daddy will get you a bigger, better one,’ The mother begged her child crying on the floor, as I walked around the children’s department in a top-notch shopping center. ‘That one won’t be as good as the one daddy’s getting you. Come, come let’s check it out!’

The boy shook his head furiously, and continued to bawl, at an even higher pitch and with even more ferocity. I walked away, slightly sympathetic, for this, was the result of the One-Child Policy implemented by the government since 1979. Relaxed only in recent years, it resulted in children being born into the center of attention of billions of families around China, and them having significantly less sympathy, more timid and less competitive compared to those born before the policy. However, the government claims absolute victory for the policy, for 250 million births have been prevented between 1980 and 2000 and had set the country on the right demographic track for its brilliant economic success in recent years. But, at what price?

Of course, first up, none of those children will experience the bittersweet sibling rivalry, as well as the sharing between everyone – experts have indeed found, through games designed together by economists and psychologists to test for real intentions behind certain behaviors, that the ‘Little Emperor’ generation is less trustworthy and less trusting, according to the Monash University Melbourne study. This means that these children are less likely to take risks due to their lack of trust in new, foreign matters. In the words of business, this means that they’re, as a result, less likely to take on jobs with more risk, such as freelancing and self-employment, which could possibly make a huge difference on the nation’s economic growth as new entrepreneurs grow less likely to take risks.

On the other hand, the balance between two genders was extensively upset as couples aimed to have sons and aborted girls. Experts estimate that there are now about 33 million more men than women, and be it prioritising the future breadmakers of the family, or just personal preferences, this policy had caused boys to come before girls. Sex selective abortions were carried out and the UN estimates that 115 million females in China have been missing since the implementation of the policy. Imagine the entire female population of Britain, Canada, Australia, Spain and France all gone, either being thrown down the river, or their crying drowned out by the demands of government officials rigorously enforcing the fines for a second child.

The policy had also resulted in a family structure of ‘4-2-1’, with the numbers signifying four grandparents, cared for by the two adults in the middle who themselves have yet another child to care for. For generations during the implementation of the policy, this had been the case, placing extreme workload onto the working class. By 2050, it is predicted that there will be about 25% of the population who will be 65 or older despite the recent termination of the policy, and with the median age rising up to 45 years old from the 32 in 2005. China, essentially, had became an old age home with a duty-heavy working class.

In the end, it is highly doubtful that individuals of the nation have benefited from the policy. Possibilities of implementing the policy elsewhere in other countries? Unless you want your people, your church and your feminists rioting for this basic human right.


Somera, Nina. “Disturbing the descendants of the dragon: one child policy and women in China.” Women in Action, Apr. 2008, p. 58+. Global Issues In Context, Accessed 6 Mar. 2018.

Connor, Steve. “One-Child Policy: China’s Army of Little Emperors.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 10 Jan. 2013,

Kluger, Jeffrey. “China’s One-Child Policy: Curse of the ‘Little Emperors’.” Time, Time, 10 Jan. 2013,

Parkinson, Justin. “Five Numbers That Sum up China’s One-Child Policy.” BBC News, BBC, 29 Oct. 2015,

Zhu, Wei Xing, et al. “China’s Excess Males, Sex Selective Abortion, and One Child Policy: Analysis of Data from 2005 National Intercensus Survey.” The BMJ, British Medical Journal Publishing Group, 9 Apr. 2009,

2 thoughts on “China’s One Child Policy: Friend or Foe?

  1. Reeve

    Very well constructed article, I completely agree with you throughout your whole piece, though you are a bit late on this topic. But your opening point did waver me a bit. I don’t think that it’s that valid to infer that because of the “less trustworthiness” of the one child generation that, without evidence, it will harm the entire economic structure would be negatively affected. And completely conflicting to the economic growth that you mentioned before.

  2. Becky Naughton

    We are studying demographics and dependency ratios in economics currently, trying to understand the impacts on macroeconomics. You have captured so many of the key points in this. In a lot of developed countries we are seeing the fertility rate decreasing to less than 1.5 kids per woman. This poses a lot of interesting points of discussion, especially when thinking about the overpopulation of the world. Would love to talk more to you on this topic. Great piece of work!

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