China One Child Policy was established by Deng Xiao Ping to limit China's population growth in 1978 and applied nationwide in 1979. It's called "policy of birth planning" if translated literally, or "family planning policy".
It permits married urban couples in mainland China one child with some exemptions, such as ethnic minorities and parents who don't have siblings. The Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau are not affected by the policy.
Though the China One Child Policy was designed as a "temporary measure" when China had about 1/4 of the world's population, it has been enforced ever since. The huge population puts tremendous pressure on China's already-very-poor economy. To control its population growth with Draconian measure was one of the ways China used to save its economy from the civil turmoil of the Cultural Revolution.
More than 30 years later, China today is still the most populated country, but its population growth decreased unprecedently. You may find one Chinese person in every four people in the world before this policy. You can find one in every 5 nowadays.
It may appear not a lot. Actually the difference is hundreds of millions of people. Without this policy, there would be about 400 million more people on the surface of earth.
The China One Child Policy debate is now on the discussion table. There is no official decision yet. While it helped the rebirth of China's economy, it also produced some social problem, such as disdain for female infants, only child syndromes, imbalance between male and female, siblingless generations and "four-two-one" problems, etc.
China is a country with Confucian traditions that emphasize on filial piety. Adult children have moral responsibilities to care for their old financially.
As the generation of law-enforced only children came of age for becoming parents themselves, one adult child was left with the family duties to provide support for his or her two parents and four grandparents, called the "4-2-1 Problem".
The problem deepen while the employment chances is getting harder after the down turn of the world economy, and the social welfare system is on its way to reformation. The older generations' dependency on retirement funds, charity, personal savings, pensions, or state welfare increased. If any of these supports fail, most senior citizens would be left entirely dependent upon their very small family for assistance.
If, for any reason, the single child is unable to care for their old, the oldest generations would face a lack of necessities and resources.
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