I have no siblings. My parents felt they could give me a better life on my own than if I had a brother or sister. This, sadly is not the case, for families throughout China, who had no choice.



A poster publicizing the one-child policy. Source: aswegers on Flickr

A poster publicizing the one-child policy. Source: aswegers on Flickr

I have no siblings. My parents felt they could give me a better life on my own than if I had a brother or sister. This, sadly is not the case, for families throughout China, who have been affected by the one-child policy, who are forced, with threats of fines if they have more than one child. China’s current population is approximately 1.3 billion, and could have been considerably higher (250 million births were prevented between 1980 and 2000 [1]) if it were not for this controversial arrangement. But are these drastic measures at all necessary? Would China work better with an even bigger population?

China’s one child policy, starting in 1978, forced parents to only have one child in a bid to reduce the growth of the vast population. The government knew that the resource deficit could be close, so wanted to limit the population, quickly and efficiently. However, as soon as this Anti-Natal policy was introduced this became one of the most talked-about human rights controversies of modern times given its hugely discriminative nature. There was rises in the cases of female infanticides, where baby girls were killed off at the chance of having a boy. Furthermore, there were many instances of boys being spoiled to the point of becoming obese and it worries me how that this could have been allowed to happen.

I’d like to reverse the commonplace opinion that China has too large a population and think that China would benefit from reversing the one child policy. It is common knowledge of the differences between MEDC’s (More Economically Developed Countries) and LEDC’s (Less Developed) however China is different. Yes, Hong Kong is one of the financial capitals of the world, of course, industry and the manufacturing sector in China is booming yet it is not an MEDC. It is not even an LEDC. China, arguably, is an NIC: a Newly Industrialised Country. China, in my eyes, could so easily become a MEDC, all it needs is some great new minds (and human rights compliance, but don’t get me started on that) and greater economic stability. What is the key to this? An even higher population. Even higher than 1.3 billion.

China obviously is worried about overpopulation, but underpopulation is surely more of a problem. Getting straight to hard fact, China’s population density is 140/km2, and is ranked 80th in the world, well behind the UK with 255/km2 – the UK is even known for it’s Laissez Faire policy for births. Surely this means that China doesn’t need to cut down, at all? In fact, it has space to fit more people comfortably. The Chinese Government obviously wants to control the population, and keep it manageable – they don’t want a resource deficit after all. It is clear, however, that in a variety of cases, that a large population supports, as opposed to hinders the well-being of a country. Lets compare China to those with denser populations. The city state of Singapore and Monaco stand out to me, as two regions, set hugely apart geographically. Both have a very high population density, and both are some of the richest areas in the world; Singapore thanks to it standing as a international financial centre, and Monaco, for gambling, and low taxes. Even provinces within China, such as Hong Kong, and Macau, are so very similar, with high population densities on top of financial successes. China has the chance to become a financial haven, a manufacturing haven, and a gambling haven, all in its massive 9,640,821km2 of land area[2].

The peak of one of Hong Kong's many financial towers. Source: Nathan Liu (Author)

The peak of one of Hong Kong’s many financial towers. Source: Nathan Liu (Author)

China does have many issues in which holds it back from developing. On various occasions, I have walked through Hong Kong, and been in a seemingly well-off part of a city, passing through shopping centres and office blocks, and been suddenly thrown into a village of buildings made from corrugated tin and various waste materials. It of course is a shock, but it more so is an insight into what life living in China is really like, and how much of the population can live a ‘high-life’ eating in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the world, and divulging in shops we could only dream of shopping in, while others, are forced to settle for a way of life so underprivileged, we can’t help but feel ultimately sorry for them. I must note that Hong Kong and Macau are entirely exempt from the one child policy, but this doesn’t solve poverty[3]. Poverty is not going to go away, yet supporting it could drastically help China. If China’s large population is becoming a problem, then China should help support everyone, the rich and the poor, so everyone’s well-being is high, so they can work on developing without anything to hold them back.

As I aforementioned, there is little doubt that these people don’t have jobs. Many own shops and restaurants, many simply work in them; and some in high profile financial positions. That said, I want to bring forward them three words you read almost daily: “Made In China”. China is the heart of manufacturing and will never step down as this. China has been given the title of an NIC for this reason, it makes most of its money through making that stuffed toy, pencil, pair of jeans or laptop. This has done little wrong in the past, so maybe China has no need to change. Yet this is not the way forward. This is not the much needed change. Not only have their been cases of suicides at Chinese factories, notably the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, who are known to manufacture products from Apple and Intel, but wages are painfully little. Steve Jobs did once confirm that “Foxconn’s suicide rate is well below the China average” in an email conversation; this worries me even more, as if 9 suicides between March and May 2010, and 17 by February of 2011, is below average then something is seriously wrong[4][5]. Corporations cannot afford to manufacture elsewhere, and this will not change, but could this be holding China back from developing? There are high profile, high earning jobs to be had, which China can benefit from drastically.

A young girl, who could be her family's only child, gazes towards a camera in China. Source: mrlins on Flickr

A young girl, who could be her family’s only child, gazes towards a camera in China. Source: mrlins on Flickr

By stopping new births, China has the danger of sustaining an ageing population, in a similar fashion to Japan. Current projections estimate that by 2050, a massive 39.6% of the Japanese population will be over 60, and currently the average age is a staggering 44. This could simply be because Japan’s healthcare system is unrivalled, giving Japan one of the highest life expectancies in the world – there are 2010 doctors for every 100000 people. However, the birth rate in Japan continues with a steady decline. Older women are having children, and less of them. Japan has increased the cost of pensions, and even charges around £20 a month to all over 40s to care for the elderly.
Despite this, Japan’s population is not in any way too low. It is very densely populated, and more financially secure than other markets, yet a shrinking younger population could mean a jobs surplus in the near future, and is likely to cause much of a struggle in the near future. Could this be China in coming years?

I mentioned Singapore, as a wealthy state, with a dense population. I admit, it is a much smaller, entirely different country, yet it is what I think could be a valuable model for China in the future. In the mid-60s, Singapore – like China – wanted to reduce population growth, so introduced a “Stop at two” policy, yet in recent times, have entirely reversed it, to “Have three or more – if you can afford it”. Incentives for a third and subsequent children range from Tax rebates to spacious apartments. This way, the population of Singapore rose exponentially as it became as economically successful as it is. There must be a link, with China who can do the same.

By grasping the intelligent population in which China has, by developing land into new cities and provinces, it can grow, expand, and ultimately develop into a new China, a happier, wealthier China. I’ve seen the highs and lows of this fantastic country, I’ve been appalled by internet censorship and human rights issues, yet it’s culture and it’s way of life is mostly outstanding. My approach, to stop fretting about overpopulation, and thinking about how to move forward, and into the future may be a relatively new one, it may be one which you can find flaws in, but I want to look forward, and see how times change, and China can change, to eventually be classed as an MEDC. Common issues such as a lack of spaces in education may have to be faced, but never should families be forcefully restricted by how much they can expand.

I would love to hear from you in the comments below. Do you have any drastic measures, ideas or opinions which you want to share? Do you entirely disagree with me, or have some beliefs in common? Please do drop me a message if so.

[1] bbc.co.uk
[2] Wikipedia.org – Population density
[3] Wikipedia.org – One-child policy
[4] macstories.net
[5] wired.com