China ends controversial one-child policy

Parents will now be allowed two children, according to a report on state news agency Xinhua.
China announced the end of its hugely controversial one-child policy on October 29. AFP Photo
China announced the end of its hugely controversial one-child policy on October 29. AFP Photo

BEIJING // China abolished its hugely controversial one-child policy on Thursday.

All couples would be allowed two children, announced the official Xinhua news agency. It cited a communique issued by the ruling Communist Party after a four-day meeting in Beijing to chart the course of the world’s second-largest economy over the next five years.

China – the world’s most populous country – is “abandoning its decades-long one-child policy”, Xinhua reported.

Xinhua said on its microblog that the decision to allow couples to have two children was “to improve the balanced development of population”.

The decision does away with an unpopular policy that was long considered one of the party’s most onerous intrusions into family life.

The policy restricted most couples to only a single offspring, and for years authorities argued that it was a key contributor to China’s economic boom.

Family planning restrictions were introduced in 1979 as a temporary measure to curb a surging population and limit demands for water and other resources. After the policy was first implemented, rural couples were soon allowed two children if their first-born was a girl.

But after years of strict, sometimes brutal enforcement by a dedicated government commission, China’s population is now ageing rapidly, gender imbalances are severe, and its workforce is shrinking.

The concerns led to limited reforms in November 2013.

The party announced that it would allow couples to have two children if one of the parents is a single child, the first substantial easing of the policy in nearly three decades.

It also allowed a second child for some couples in urban areas, but relatively few have taken up the opportunity.

The decision announced on Thursday removes all remaining restrictions limiting couples to only one child.

The Communist leadership met in Beijing to discuss ways to put the country’s stuttering economy back on a smooth growth path as it struggles with structural inefficiencies and social policies left over from an era before it embraced market reforms.

Known as the fifth plenum, the conclave discussed the next five-year plan for China – the 13th since the People’s Republic was founded in 1949.

Over four days of meetings the 205 members of the central committee, including around 170 alternates, examined the specifics of the plan, which was largely worked out through a process of national consultations before the leaders even set foot in the capital.

The country’s rubber-stamp legislature will officially approve the resulting document next year.

China has enjoyed a decades-long boom since the ruling party embraced market economics and opened up to the rest of the world from the late 1970s.

The process has transformed the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people and propelled the country to global prominence.

But growth has been slowing for several years, and analysts say the party needs to embrace further liberalisation to avoid falling into the stagnation of the “middle income trap”, when developing countries fail to fulfil their full potential.

The meeting reiterated the Communist party’s goal to double 2010 GDP by 2020, as part of its aim to achieve a “moderately prosperous society” by the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party’s founding.

* Agence France-Presse and Associated Press

Published: October 29, 2015 04:00 AM


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