One Child Policy in China- Past, Present and Future

“Even if China’s population multiplies many times, she is fully capable of finding a solution; the solution is production. Of all things in the world, people are the most precious.”

Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Communist Party of China, made this statement in 1949 soon after the People’s Republic of China was formed. During this time, China experienced a massive increase in population, which at the time was considered a positive direction for China to go in. The mentality of people during this time was that population growth meant economic growth. After centuries of generations suffering from political unrest and epidemics, high population rates were not considered damaging to the Chinese people. This generation wanted to create new lives in a positive time in Chinese history.

It wasn’t until 1955 that the government introduced a birth control campaign that supported abortion in an effort to control the population growth. After a series of natural disasters and poor government planning a reported 20-30 million people in China starved to death between 1958 and 1961. The need to regulate the population started to become a serious issue.

It was in 1978 that Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping established the one child policy that limited the number of children people could have to only one. If a family did not comply with this law and produced a second child, there would be substantial fines. At a 2007 press conferences with Chinese officials, Zhang Weiqing was eager to exemplify the success of the one child policy, “Because China has worked hard over the last 30 years, we have 400 million fewer people.” This policy has created an enormous debate on whether it is hindering the basic human rights of Chinese citizens. Zhang Hui, mother of one little girl, believes that one child is enough and she would want one no matter the government regulations and fines. “I’m too busy at work to have any more,” stated Beijing native Zhao Hui. She also went on to say she is not alone in thinking this way. Many of her friends feel the same. A 2008 Pew Research poll three-in-four Chinese people (76%) approve of the policy. Professor Wang Feng, of the University of California, Irvine, confessed that because of the one child policy the Chinese citizen’s attitudes have evolved since the policy was instated in 1978.  “A lot of people simply don’t want that many children. People have accepted the policy,” said Wang. Over the years, the Chinese people have adapted to the childbearing regulations. For past generations, when it was typical to have many children in family, this policy would have seemed unrealistic.

For many in China there has been an acceptance of the one child policy but in some cases people are against it. Mother of two, Liu Shuling, escaped the traumas of a forced abortion when she decided to pay fines, amounting to four times her annual income, in order to have a second child. Liu Shuling and her husband were pleased to have a second son even if it was at the risk of loosing all financial stability. Liu Shuling’s husband admitted in an interview that a son was really what they wanted in order to help them when they reached an older age. Liu Shuling added, “To have a girl doesn’t work.”

Liu Shuling

Because of the one child policy, sex discrimination has become a huge repercussion. Most people prefer sons to daughters and will go to drastic lengths to have their one and only child be a boy. Abortion, neglect, abandonment, and even infanticide have become consequence of the one child policy. Everyday in China, 20,000 babies are born, but for every 100 girls there are 120 boys. The future generation of China will have to deal with the vast number of single men unable to find brides. There is also a fear that with such a high number of single men in China’s future society, there will a drastic increase in crime and violence. Jo Ming, a school principal with a belief that there needs to be a cultural balance between men and women, states in reference to the one child policy, “Once born, we are all equal, and we are all human beings. We need to respect each other. I think, even though some older people don’t agree, it should be eliminated.” The mentality that females are not as preferable as males is not a new attitude in China but only one that has worsened with the one child policy.

The one child policy was created to regulate the population and avoid poverty; however, there are still 600 million people living in China who earn less then $2 a day. Multiple generations will feel the effects of the policy. Because of the one child regulations, generational dynamics within a family have altered. In past generations, the parents were able to rely on their children in old age. For the present and future, a single child must take care of his or her parents and four grandparents. The one child policy has effected generations differently but all people in China are interconnected. A solution made during one generation seems to inevitably make way for an entirely new problem for the next generation. The one child policy was meant be a temporary solution and only last a generation. In 2010, after 30 years of the policy being enacted, the government shows no sign of stopping the regulations.

From East to West

When I look around at the contents of my room, I’ve come to realize that I’ve never wondered where they were made.  I have not been conscious of the fact that most of what I own comes from a different country other then the one I’m residing in. My laptop, my phone, the sweater in my closet, all say they were made in the East. While living in Dundee, the two stores I frequent most are H&M, a Swedish owned company and Primark, a British company. I considered the fact that even though these companies are owned by Western brands it is likely that their products are manufactured in the East. Indeed, H&M and Primark’s goods are produced in Asia.

Primark Ad
H&M Ad

I asked other Dundee residents if they were aware of where most of what they own comes from. Some were very aware of where their products came from while others were hesitant in answering. Becca Clow was well aware that most of what she owns is exported from Asia. She stated how she has always had an interest in technology and a curiosity regarding where it originated. Catherine Sutherland said that she simply looks at the labels on her clothing; she generally likes to know where the things she owns come from.  However, like me, Katelyn Burns had never really put much thought in to the labels on her clothing and electronics. She’d had basic knowledge that the East played a role in product distribution. She went on to say, “I know many labels do say ‘Made in China’ but I thought a high-end American product such as Apple would be manufactured in the States. I assumed if I was buying these products in America they should be made in America. I had no idea so much is made in the East.” The “Made in China” label has become the most identifiable brands in the world today. “Made in Taiwan” and “Made in Indonesia” are close seconds. These labels signify a booming manufacturing industry in Asia where the exportation of goods has become their primary form of profit.

Products made in China have the reputation of being poor in quality. An explanation for the affordability of brands such as H&M and Primark is due to the fact that these products are produced at little cost at a rapid pace. When goods are produced at lows costs, low quality in what i is to be expected. Consumers can tell when a product is made strictly for profit with no consideration for those who will be buying the merchandise. Becca Clow went on to say, “things made in Scotland are of good quality because they are made for those who live in Scotland. There is no reason to expend money on products that are not for you. “ When products are made domestically with domestic materials the quality increases but so does the price. People are willing to sacrifice quality for lower prices yet we still blame China for producing goods not up to par.

Though China has this bad reputation, I do not think that the products coming out of China are exclusively poor in quality. I believe there is bad as well as good.  When we buy cheaply, we loose the right to comment on the poor quality. I think if we were willing to pay more, China could offer us improved merchandise. I think the companies employing these factories in China are to blame. They play a major role in the output of poor quality goods. There needs to be a level of responsibility on the part of the Western companies utilizing the Chinese factories.

We all seem to be generally aware of the fact that what we own does not originate where we have bought it. Most of what we own has been fabricated in Asia. Even though we claim to be aware, we ignore these facts because we live in a society in which affordability outweighs lack of quality.  Being aware doesn’t always mean being accountable for what we purchase.

Designed in China

A country so involved with ancient traditions and culture, China has had to learn to adapt in the 20th century.  Modern China looks at art very differently then those in the West. For Western artists and designers, styles and techniques are built upon artistic movements preceding them. Each generation passes on its findings to the next. However, when it comes to design, China is only beginning its journey. It was only in 1992 that the first Graphic Design exhibition took place in Shenzhen, China. Chinese designers cannot look to their past for reference because there is little to expand upon. Designers in China face the difficult challenge of creating a foundation that future generations can benefit from

For Graphic designers in China, being innovative and resisting western influence is imperative. In an interview with The New York Times, Liu Zhi Zhi, a graphic designer from Beijing elaborates on the distinctions between the East and West, “An important difference between China and the West is that we respond to things instinctively,” he said. “Westerners often want to understand things by rationalizing them, whereas we just feel and know. Our relationship to visual culture is intuitive and fluid.” Coming from the 798 zone of Beijing, a vast growing community of artists, Liu Zhi Zhi is an emerging designer who utilizes artistic techniques rooted in Chinese culture and then applies them in contemporary ways.  As part of the new artistic generation of China, Liu is paving the way for other young designers. Only in his mid 30’s, Liu has already made a name for himself in the art world. Liu agrees it is difficult for today’s designers to be recognized in the public eye. He aims to reach people on a broader level.





















Though Graphic Design is not in the forefront of mainstream China, its popularity is increasing daily. Many companies and organizations are beginning to promote the arts as well as Graphic Design. Endorsed by many Chinese government organizations, Beijing Design Week has become an assembly of new and emerging talents in China. The fact that the Chinese government encourages this event says a lot about the direction in which art is going. Years ago, Graphic Design was used for propaganda rather then fine art. Although many designers are still “underground,” events like Beijing Design Week showcase what modern China has to offer creatively. A space where designers can freely create art is paramount to modern China’s culture.

According to Javin Mo, founder of the Hong Kong based Design Company Milkxshake, Hong Kong is at a different speed then mainland China in terms of graphic design. He believes there is more freedom in for self-expression in Beijing and Shanghai. In Hong Kong, designers are limited and only have the means to produce commercial art. When Hong Kong experienced an economic recession in 1997, many designers were left with no choice but to work commercially in order assure financial stability. Today, It is on the Internet that new designers can begin to share their expressive art without restraint. As the creative director at Milkxhake, Javin Mo is set out to bring young designers to light. Javin Mo is affiliated with the new media art festival Microwave, where young artists can exhibit their non-commercial graphic design work.














Graphic Design’s presence in China is flourishing but is still very new. Both Mainland China and Hong Kong are pushing for self-expression to mass audiences. Aric Chen, a design critic and curator, mentions that because design has only recently been introduced to the Chinese culture, Chinese designers benefit from “working with a clean canvas.” Chinese graphic design has great potential for originality and complete innovation.

China’s Image Abroad

China is one of the world’s oldest civilizations with a history and culture that spans over several centuries. Today, China is considered one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Modern China’s economy is based significantly on the export of products. However, one of their biggest imports is tourism, which has become a monumental part of modern day China. With its historic landmarks and unique culture, China attracts people from all over the world. China is a country where the old meets the new.

Allison Weiner, a 20-year-old college student from New York, stated that her only real knowledge of China was based on the Disney movie, Mulan, a children’s film about a girl who joins the Chinese army in ancient China. “When I think of China and its culture, I honestly refer back to that movie,” said Weiner. Though the film, Mulan, is partly fictional, it does include animated scenes depicting the Great Wall of China and Beijing’s Forbidden City. At a young age, Weiner was introduced to the stereotypical imagery found in China. Weiner then states after reflecting back on the movie, ”Nothing in America is that old. I know that the Chinese architecture I saw in Mulan still stands in China today.” With America being such a young country, Weiner felt captivated by China’s vast history and ancient traditions. However interested she was in China’s history, Weiner was a bit skeptical about modern China. It was clear that her appreciation of China’s past was not the same when it came to her views of the Chinese government. Weiner was a bit intimidated by the harsh stories she’d heard about China’s oppressive government. Her current opinion of China appeared quite different from her childhood fantasy of China. She admitted that she was a bit reluctant to visit. Glasgow resident and Scottish University student, Rebecca Clow, age 19, finds herself fascinated by Chinese culture because of how different it is from her own. She understands that as a European, her exposure to Chinese culture has been altered by western influence. She is eager to experience the authentic China and learn more about their way of life. Clow is drawn to the natural landscape of China and the vast beauty it possess. In the eyes of westerners and people who have never been to China, it is represented as a country with an extensive past. Though certain political aspects are still ambiguous to most, people are enticed to travel there out of sheer curiosity.

From the perspective of two Chinese citizens, China is indeed an exotic destination. Fan Xu, age 22, from Shanghai, believes that tourists are drawn to China because it is so mysterious. The old oriental features and ancient sites attract people from all over the world. The architecture and even the people have very specific characteristics. People are inherently interested in the unknown and the different.  By coming to China, tourists are introduced to the old China and the new China. The collision of both worlds is exciting to many. Diamond Ng, age 22, from Hong Kong, agrees that the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, and the recently built Olympic stadium in Beijing are key contributors to tourism in China. When asked if China was accurately represented to tourists, Diamond stated that it was somewhat accurate but not entirely. She mentioned that there are beautiful places in China but there are other aspects that are hidden behind the beauty. The government, however, should not deter people from visiting China. Censorship has been an issue in China, limiting the freedom of speech for many, but this issue has lessened in recent years due to the Internet. Diamond went on to explain that those who are kept out of China are typically citizens who have spoken out frequently and negatively against the government, “Most tourist are not being monitored. Only those who are sensitive to political interest are monitored. Normal tourists are all welcome.”

Tourists have clear expectations as to what China has to offer. People who have never visited appear to know about all the featured places and famous attractions. There seems to be much more to China then what is represented in the media. Even though China is a rapidly developing modern country, the ancient aspects of China seem to be exploited over the contemporary.