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China's one child policy

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 17 August 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:361
  1. Malcolm Potts, Fred H Bixby endowed chair (
  1. School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-7360, USA

    The policy that changed the world

    The Chinese one child policy is unique in the history of the world. It was a source of great pain for one generation, but a generation later it began to yield important economic benefits. For China, and the world as a whole, the one child policy was one of the most important social policies ever implemented.

    Rapid population growth is an unforgiving task master. Even with the one child policy—as a result of the high birth rate a generation before—China still has one million more births than deaths every five weeks. The Chinese State Council launched the policy in 1979, “so the rate of population growth may be brought under control as soon as possible.” However, the root cause of the policy lay back in the 1960s with Mao Zedong's belief that “the more people, the stronger we are”—an ideology that prevented China from developing the highly successful voluntary family planning programmes that countries such as South Korea and Taiwan had put in place in the 1960s.1

    Deng Xiao-ping, the acknowledged architect of China's contemporary economic miracle, was a …

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