Education And Debate

Health in China: The one child family policy: the good, the bad, and the ugly

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7095.1685 (Published 07 June 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1685
  1. Therese Hesketh, research fellowa,
  2. Wei Xing Zhu, programme manager, East Asiab
  1. a Centre for International Child Health, London WC1 N1EH
  2. b Health Unlimited, London SE1 9NT
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Hesketh

    Abstract

    Rapid population growth in China during the 1950s and '60s led to the “late, long, few” policy of the 1970s and a dramatic reduction in the total fertility rate. However, population growth remained too high for the economic targets of Deng Xiao Ping's reforms, so the one child family policy was introduced in 1979 and has remained in force ever since. The strategy is different in urban and rural areas, and implementation varies from place to place depending on local conditions. The policy has been beneficial in terms of curbing population growth, aiding economic growth, and improving the health and welfare of women and children. On the negative side there are concerns about demographic and sex imbalance and the psychological effects for a generation of only children in the cities. The atrocities often associated with the policy, such as female infanticide, occur rarely now. China may relax the policy in the near future, probably allowing two children for everyone.

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