The Myth of the One Child Policy

This is Part Two of a Three part series. Part One.

In the major cities of China, despite everything we’ve heard, it is not uncommon to see people with more than one child. In my classes in Guangxi I was shocked to find that maybe only 50 out of my 500 students were only children. When I asked them how many children they wanted to have, they would say, “I’ll have one, but I want two or three.” The other students giggle at the answer, and then quickly agree.

Mao's grandson with his TWO (2) children

So let’s look at two more examples of the One Child Policy in modern China from the perspective of my friends.


My friend Mary in Yizhou had just completed her entry to the Communist party, and as a teacher she is considered a government employee. One day we were chatting about this and I said, “So now you can really only have one child?”

“Yes,” she said quietly.

“So you should pray for twins,” I offered.

“That’s a good idea, I should,” she said.

“But you can’t pray, because you are in the party.”

“Hmmm,” she said, thinking for a moment, it hadn’t really occurred to her before, “Maybe you could pray for me to have twins, it’s the only way around the policies.” She was quite proud of the loophole she had discovered.

In China, fertility clinics have become much more popular in recent years since twins, triplets, or more, don’t break any regulations. People here are always impressed when they find out I have a twin brother.


My co-worker here in Nanjing is the only child from her parents, and her husband is too. Their parents’ obedience entitles them to have a second child. Grace is now pregnant with this second child, and just the other day was showing me the certificate that gave them the legal permission to have it. The paper work takes about a month.

She has been complaining a lot about the practical differences between her first and second child, even though both are legal. For one, she gets less time off to recover after the pregnancy. The hospital will also stop giving her child a gift on Children’s Day, since that is for only children. I also detect a hint of jealousy from her co-workers whose parents didn’t follow the rules.

Without the government’s approval an illegal child results in fines for the parents, denies them free education (they have to pay for it), and it also denies them a Hukou (city citizenship) which provides health insurance and a pension.

In the countryside there are still campaigns encouraging people to only have one child. Tomorrow we’ll be looking at some of the lesser known problems caused by the one child policy. Part Three.

Boys AND Girls are the hope of the nation. Stenciled propaganda common in the countryside.

About T

I have been working in China for nearly five years now. I have traveled to more than 30 cities and towns, and have lived in 3 provinces. I am interested in issues concerning development in China and the rest of the world. I hope to provide a balanced look at some of the issues facing China as it continues its rise to power.
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3 Responses to The Myth of the One Child Policy

  1. Pingback: Mao’s Fuzzy Math and the One Child policy | Seeing Red in China

  2. Pingback: Mao’s Fuzzy Math and the One Child policy | Seeing Red in China

  3. Pingback: The Problems They Didn’t Foresee | Seeing Red in China

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