America's One Child Policy
What China imposed on its population, we’re adopting voluntarily.
September 27, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 02
For the last several months, Chinese officials have been floating the idea of relaxing the country’s famed “One-Child” policy. One-Child has long been admired in the West by environmentalists, anti-population doomsayers, and some of our sillier professional wise men. In Hot, Flat, and Crowded (2008), for instance, Tom Friedman lauded the policy for saving China from “a population calamity.” What Friedman and others fail to understand is that China is built upon a crumbling demographic base. One-Child may or may not have “saved” China from overpopulation, but it has certainly created a demographic catastrophe.
Between 1950 and 1970, the average Chinese woman had roughly six children during her lifetime. Beginning in 1970, the Chinese government began urging a course of “late, long, few,” and in a decade the fertility rate dropped from 5.9 to 2.1. But that wasn’t enough for the government. In 1979, they instituted the One-Child policy—which is more complicated than it sounds.
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