The Current

China's one-child policy changes to fix demographic deficit

As China's notorious one-child policy comes to an end, we're asking how it persisted for as long as it did and how it has changed the face of Chinese society for generations to come. China is hoping a new two-child policy will help manage an aging population, but many say too little, too late.
Critics say the change in China's one-child policy comes too little too late because the population will not grow fast enough to avoid its demographic deficit. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)

The Chinese Communist Party's announcement arrived with little fanfare yesterday.    But it will transform family life for millions of citizens.

China's long-standing "one-child policy" is no more. All families may now have two children.

The one-child policy had enormous ripple effects across society.  Girls were often disposed of, or sent away to be adopted, as families waited for boys to be born ... causing both great pain, and a national gender imbalance.

China is attempting to change its aging demographics with a two-child policy but the one-child policy will continue to affect the country's demographics for decades. (Reuters/Carlos Barria )

Just as demographic forces ushered in the policy 35 years ago to help stem runaway population growth, demographic forces appear to be behind this new easing. 

Jan Wong was in China when the one child policy was introduced. She had just graduated from Peking University. She went on to become a foreign correspondent from Beijing, and has written about her experiences in her book "Red China Blues." Jan Wong joined our Friday host Matt Galloway from Fredericton, where she teaches journalism at St. Thomas University. 

Jeremy Paltiel is a political scientist with a specialization in China at Carleton University.  He was in our Toronto studio.  

Listen to our interview from March 2011 with Xinran sharing the stories of women who gave up their children to confirm to the one-child policy: (Warning: Some of what you'll hear might disturb you.) 

In 2011 we spoke with Xinran, author of "Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love". In the book, she recounts stories of women who gave up their children, mostly girls, in an attempt to conform with China's strict family policy. 21:39

This segment was produced by The Current's Ines Colabrese and Sujata Berry.