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By Thomas F. O'Neill

China’s one child policy has become an interesting topic of discussion in my Cultural Diversity classes here in Suzhou, China.

Most people in America know about China’s one child policy and the fine that is issued against those who violate that policy. Most Americans would disagree with China’s policy calling it a human rights atrocity. I would have to disagree with that assessment though. It’s mostly due to my living in China and witnessing the huge economic growth that China is progressing through.

I was surprised to learn that many of my students at the Suzhou International Foreign Language School, in Suzhou, China have a brother or sister. Their parents paid the fine for having more than one child and for them the fine was like an additional tax.

Couples, in China, who have more than one child, have to pay ‘a social support fee’ - approximately $3,200 USD. Nineteen provincial governments collected approximately 2.7 Billion dollars in fines last year. The ‘social support fees’ as they are called is a substantial source of revenue for provincial governments in the poor parts of China.

One major problem with China’s one child policy is the economic growth rate is beginning to slow because its pool of cheap, young workers is dwindling as the population ages.

The aging population is going to have major economic repercussions due to China’s inability to properly care for its growing elderly population.

The one child policy went into effect in 1979 stipulating that every couple may have just one child (or two for ethnic minorities and for rural couples whose first child is a girl). The rich, however, circumvent the law by having as many children as they want creating animosity among the poor.

The rich, in China, can easily pay the “social compensation fee” — a fine of 3 to 10 times the average household’s annual income - the fee is set by each province’s family planning bureau. Some wealthy Chinese couples travel to Hong Kong, Singapore, or even America to give birth. This angers many poor Chinese who believe they need more than one child in order to be properly supported in their old age. Many of the poor, who live in the countryside, need the extra hands to help in the fields. They also have a deeply entrenched patriarchal desire for a male heir.

The poor have a strong resistance to the population control measures set by China’s provincial governments. If a woman gets pregnant without permission in a rural area and is unable to pay the ‘social compensation fee’ or I should say ‘fine’ for violating the one child policy. She risks being subjected to having the child placed up for adoption.

Some of the poor households in those rural areas of China have sold their infant daughters for approximately $3000 USD to foreigners seeking to adopt Chinese babies. These types of adoptions are considered illegal in China and many of those adoptions were made with the help of corrupt officials and forged documents.

The mounting criticism among the poor will not change the one child policy in China. The government hard-liners will not willingly abandon their population control measure that has provided its nation with an estimated two trillion Yuan in revenue from fines.

Many economists have also stated publicly that the one child policy in China is working. Since the policy went into effect in 1979 hundreds of millions of Chinese have risen out of poverty and China’s standard of education has also risen.

China’s students have the highest global assessment scores than any other nation in the world even outpacing America who ranked 17th globally. The one child policy has also helped China’s overall economy resulting in China becoming the second strongest economy in the world.

The standard of living is continuing to rise in China, substantially, especially in the cities. Many Chinese are now migrating to the cities from the rural areas for higher paying Jobs and to establish a higher standard of living for their school age child. Not to mention providing better educational opportunities for their child that only a City can offer. It seems to be a dark contrast to the inner-city problems that are plaguing the American education system.

There are many that have voiced opposition to China’s one child policy, especially, the various Christian fundamentalist churches throughout China. They use various social media outlets attacking the Chinese Government with unverifiable stories of human rights atrocities. Their fictionalized stories are always posted online in Chinese with the hope of stirring emotional outrage among the readers. Ending China’s one child policy has become their moral imperative.

Many of their online postings state that China’s one child policy is a human rights atrocity. They also claim the last three decades since the one child policy went into effect ranks among the worst crimes against humanity of the last century. “The stains [it] - (the one child policy) - has left on China may never be erased,” one poster wrote in Chinese.

Many economists, however, see China’s one child policy in a different more positive light - the policy on the most part is benefiting China. As I mentioned before, it is lifting a greater number of people out of a life of poverty. It is also providing China’s youth with greater educational opportunities.

For the Chinese Government the ultimate goal is to stabilize the population growth so that all citizens in China can benefit from a more prosperous society.

I personally have not witnessed any human rights atrocities that many are claiming is taking place here in China.

I do understand where China was decades ago in terms of poverty and lack of educational opportunities for its youth. What the country has achieved though over the past 30 years is quite astonishing.

What China has accomplished in terms of economic growth and raising its standard of living to the level it has in just three short decades is quite remarkable to say the least.

On the other hand I’m sure there have been human rights violations over the past 30 years since the one child policy went into effect. There are probably human rights violations taking place now in China. Any human right violation needs to be addressed and dealt with responsibly through the Chinese court system. I was surprised to learn just how fair the Chinese Judges can be when hearing the people’s grievances.

As a foreigner here in China it is understandable that I have fewer rights than a Chinese citizen. That being said though I never felt my rights being trampled upon by the Chinese Government. I was also surprised to learn that a foreigner like me has the same legal rights within the court system as a Chinese citizen. The Chinese citizens and foreign nationals can have their grievances addressed through the Chinese legal system. I never had a grievance before the Chinese judicial system though because the whole time I've been here in China I've never been mistreated. The one child policy may seem like an infringement upon the rights of the Chinese people but it seems to be a necessity.

I was raised Catholic and although I may not be a practicing Catholic now I still believe in God and in the sanctity of all life and every child to me is a precious gift.

Everyone who knows me knows how much I love children but I believe if a couple is incapable of raising a child properly. They should place that child up for adoption so that the child can have a better quality of life.

I do believe in God as I said before but I'm not a religious person and I find it quite irresponsible for religious organizations to post fictionalized accounts of atrocities that have never taken place in China in order to achieve their religious agenda. The majority of the Chinese support the one child policy because they understand the overall benefits it’s having on their country.

My students have stated that the one child policy has provided them with boundless educational opportunities that were once out of reach for their grandparents. They understand also why the policy was put in place because the Chinese Government wants an educated citizenry. One way of achieving that goal is to raise the standard of living through economic and educational means for all its citizens.

It is understandable why the one child policy may have major problems with its implementation but the benefits outweigh the policy’s deficits.

In 2015 China may lift the one child policy allowing couples to have two children.

Will China ever do away with their policies on how many children its citizens can have?

Hopefully, that will come about someday and the sooner the better but only time will tell……..

    Always with love from Suzhou, China
    Thomas F O’Neill
    U.S. voice mail: (800) 272-6464
    China Cell: 011-86-15114565945
    Skype: thomas_f_oneill
    Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found on his award winning blog, Link:

    Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.


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