One-child Policy

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The One-child Policy, known also as the Family Planning Policy, was a policy in Communist China, initiated in the 1980s, that prohibited any family in urban China from having more than one child. The policy did not apply to rural families. It was an attempt by the government to limit China's population and was often broken by citizens who can afford to pay the fines.

The policy was backed up by draconian laws that impose fines many times a poor person's annual income, and local officials are frequently known to coerce, or even force women who do not have a birth permit to undergo an abortion, because their own livelihoods are on the line if their district's birthrate exceeds the official quota. Couples who defied the policy may also lose their jobs.

In much of rural China, couples have a strong preference for male children for cultural and financial reasons. A male child will inherit the possessions of his parents, carry on the family name and any business, and work to support the parents when they are too old to support themselves. A female child, in comparison, will serve only to marry into another family, and contribute nothing to the property of her parents. Thus the demand for a male child is easily strong enough that rural families will often selectively abort baby girls before birth. This has already caused an asymmetry between China's male population and female population in some rural areas, with the male population vastly out-numbering the female population. And others speculate that China will become "the world's first gay superpower".[1]

Since 2013 the government eased the One-child Policy strongly. Since then families in which at least one parent was an only child can have a second child now.[2] In 2016, it was scrapped and replaced with a Two-Child Policy, but there are currently discussions to scrap family limits altogether.


In recent years, the Chinese government has created four exceptions to the policy. These are known as the Four Exemptions:

  • The Minority Exemption (少数豁免), for couples with one or both being non-Han Chinese.
  • The Rural Exemption (农村豁免), for families in villages whose children help with the farming.
  • The Elite Exemption (精华豁免), which is given to scholars, athletes, soldiers and others of great importance. This exemption is often given to powerful party officials and their children, this is used as an example of corruption in the party.
  • The Wickedness Exemption (惨厉豁免), a punishment which forbids the person from having children. It is mostly used on criminals.


  1. America Alone by Mark Steyn.