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.

China’s One Child Policy

The Chinese government introduced the one child policy in 1979 in order to slow down China’s population growth. Every year China’s population grows by ten million, putting a strain on the country which leads to social, economic, and environmental problems. However, it is only married/ urban couples that have to follow this law. Families that live in the countryside or families who have a daughter as a first child get permission to have another child.  I’m going to look at the different attitudes towards the one child policy between generations in China. Looking at numbers alone there has been a significant decline in births and it has proven successful in population control, however this policy is very controversial and has led to many unhappy and suffering families.


  • It’s estimated that the single child policy has prevented over 400 million births.
  • It has been proven successful in cities and has provided a better education for many children
  • It allows parents to spend much more time and energy on their child.
  • Families that have supported the family planning policy will receive benefits from the Chinese Government such as health care and education.


  • Since the single child policy was introduced there has been many reported stolen children and it was estimated that over 70, 000 children are kidnapped every year.
  • Parents find that single children can find it difficult to make friends and they can feel lonely because they have no brother or sisters.
  • Government Officials lose their job if they have more than one child.
  • Chinese culture traditionally prefer boys which results in a significantly larger amount of men than women in China.
  • People believe the policy has led to baby girls being killed, sold, or put up for adoption.
  • China’s population is living longer. The first children born under the single-child policy face the prospect of caring for an increasing number of pensioners.
  • The country also faces problems of men who can’t find wives due to female foetuses being aborted, resulting in a large gender imbalance.

An article featured on the BBC website by a man called Weiliang Nie looks at whether or not he thinks the single child policy is a fail or success. He grew up in China in the 1960s and 70s before the one child policy had been introduced and families were allowed to have as many children as they liked. Weiliangs’ parents had four children which was common for families living in this time period. However his generation now have to follow the one child policy which has come at a painful cost. He refers to one of his childhood friends’ who has had a second child, a daughter, yet she is registered as someone else’s child. When he does see his daughter she has to call him uncle in order for him to keep his secret and prevent the large fine he would receive. Some families however, don’t mind paying the money to have a second child as they believe it is worth it and benefits the other sibling as they are less lonely.

Another growing problem that has resulted from the single child policy is the gender imbalance. This is a very serious issue in China as more than 24 million men could find themselves without spouses as there are just not enough women. One of the main reasons that has lead to this problem is the large numbers of women who have abortions if they are pregnant with a female baby. As I mentioned earlier in the disadvantages, China’s traditional culture favours boys over girls and many families still carry this tradition.  The latest figures show that for every 100 girls born in China, 119 boys are born. This gender ratio will not only lead to men having no spouses but also inter-generational marriages, where the wife is older than the husband.


Last summer I worked with a girl called Chenchen, aged 23, who was an only child due to the one child policy and was lucky enough to send her some questions to answer.

1)      Do you think the one child policy was a good idea?

Answer: I’m not sure. It was a good idea in that it reduced population growth however I know lots of friends and families who would have liked to have more children.

2)      Would you have liked to have had a brother or sister?

Answer: Yes I would have, but I was never lonely. I had lots of friends at school who also had no siblings, so we had a lot in common. But it would have been nicer at home to have another sibling.

3)      You now live in Scotland. Has this changed the way you feel about the policy?

Answer:  Well I work with people who have lots of brothers and sisters and it does seem very different. They talk about how they argue and fight which I obviously never had.

4)      When you start your family, how many children would you like?

Answer: I wouldn’t want a big family. It depends if I stay in Scotland or move back to China. But ideally I think I would like 2.

5)      Did your parents have a lot of brothers and sisters? And did they want more than one child?

Answer: Yes they both grew up in large families. Yes, especially my mother, as she grew up with 2 sisters and 1 brother, whom she is very close with.  However they couldn’t afford to have another child.

 Overall it seems like there are different opinions on the single child policy depending on the generations. My friend from work seemed quite comfortable being a single child but she does mention how her parents feel completely different. I suppose if they were brought up in big families it must have been really strange to then only be allowed one child. This is a very controversial topic but it’s very interesting to read about as it seems so different to how things are in Britain.

Where do our products come from?


For this assignment I was looking into the level of awareness about where our products are manufactured and if it influences our choices in buying that product. Last week we watched a video in our lecture about EUPA, a major company in the southeast of China that employs 1700 employees and manufactures products we use every day. EUPA, also known as the ‘Factory City’ produce coffee makers, irons and grills in very large quantities and it definitely made me more aware of where my stuff actually gets made. The working conditions and lifestyles of these employees of EUPA were very different to the conditions we have in factories in Britain. EUPA employees live at their work and most of them get married there, which seems completely different to how we work but most of them seemed very content with this way of living. The accommodation and food seemed like it was high quality and they make friends and even send their kids to school there.I wanted to find out more information about production in China and decided to look into Apple products as they are very commonly used among people today. Most of Apple products are manufactured in China but after learning about the EUPA factories I wanted to see the difference between factories and the people who work there. Foxconn is based in China and is the company that makes most of Apples products, and just like EUPA, the workers sleep, eat and work here. Most of the employees that work at Foxconn are working there so that they can provide for their distant families. Factory worker at Foxconn, Apple Products

The conditions at Foxconn are similar to EUPA in that they produce large quantities everyday and the workers accommodation is based on the factory premises. EUPA,  however are very focused on satisfying their workers and keeping them happy but at Foxconn, the pay is very low and they have to share very small rooms with other people that they don’t know. What was interesting about EUPA was how the workers received lessons on how the products worked and learned information inside out about that product. At Foxconn most of the workers are from the countryside and have never even seen how an Ipad/ Iphone works, yet they spend six days a week making them. The girl featured in the photograph above was asked in an interview on the BBC what she wanted the people who end up buying these Apple products to know about her, she replied ‘ I want them to know me, I want them to know we put a lot of effort into that product and when they use it, use it with care’.


After getting an insight about factories in China and where our stuff comes from I feel a lot more aware but I wanted to ask other people their opinions. I asked the following questions to different age groups in Dundee.

1)      When you buy something, do you check where it was made?

2)      Does this influence your choice in buying that product? why?

3)      Do you think about the people who made that product that you use?


I interviewed different age groups – Students , Middle aged , and elderly.

Student Group

1)      No

2)      Not really

3)      I’m aware it was probably made in a factory but I tend not to think about the person that made it.


Middle Aged Group

1)      Only sometimes, it depends what it is i’m buying.

2)      If i knew it was made in an area that had harsh working conditions I would be less likely to buy it. But most companies are private about their working conditions on factories so most people are unaware.

3)      Yes


Eldery Group

1)      Yes. I like to know where my stuff comes from

2)      No,

3)      Yes, especially if it is a product that has been handmade. Whereas electrical products, i would assume are made by different machinery.

From the interview results I received, it seems like most people are fairly unaware of where their products are made and they don’t really think about the person in the factory who has made that product. After reading and learning about the companies Foxconn and EUPA,  I think people dont take into consideration the long hours and hard effort that goes in to making these products for us.




Chinese Embroidery

Embroidery is one of China’s traditional styles of decorating fabrics, especially silk. China was the first country to develop and make use of silk fabric which eventually lead to embroidery. I’ve chosen to look at Chinese embroidery as i feel it’s quite a distinct feature in Chinese textiles and artwork. Some of the oldest pieces of Chinese textiles were created using embroidery techniques. Chinese embroidery has a long history dating back thousands of years to Neolithic times and they always used silk because of its strength and durability. There is not a precise date when embroidery was first practiced in China but many pieces have been discovered at archaeological sites. Some pieces have been discovered in tombs which date back to as early as the second century B.C.  One of the oldest and largest pieces of Chinese embroidery was the image of Shakyamuni preaching on the Vulture Peak ( see below).  This was discovered in Mogao, Gansu Province, 8th century AD. This piece of work was made from hemp cloth which was then embroidered with very fine woven silk.

The images used in Chinese embroidery can symbolise and represent lots of different meanings. Images such as animals, dragons, birds, florals were embroidered onto various items including robes, theatrical costumes, purses, shoes, wall pieces and interiors etc. Embroidery is a very skilled and intricate style of artwork and some pieces could take up to several years before they were completed. Finest pieces of embroidery were very expensive and only wealthy men and women could afford to buy them.

There are different styles of embroidery used in china. These are the 4 major regional and historical styles of Chinese embroidery.

Suzhou Embroidery ( Su Xiu )

This style dates back 2000 years and originates from Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. Suzhou embroidery was one of the first embroidery styles to be developed in China, but its detailed needlework and intricate images are still produced today. Some of the distinct features of Suzhou embroidery is that it was often two-sided, where the image was embroidered on both sides of the silk. Its beautiful patterns and images, subtle colours, variety of stitches were very skillful and time consuming (in some cases taking years to finish). The images used on this style of Chinese embroidery were quite typical using nature and environmental themes-flowers, birds and gardens with pastel colours. I’ve noticed that the main animals used in chinese embroidery are tigers, pandas and dragons.

Hunan Embroidery ( Xiang Xiu)

Xiang embroidery was created in Changsa, Hunan Province and has been used for hundreds of years. This style has been influenced by other embroidery styles however it has many characteristics which make it unique. The embroidery uses a lot more loose threads compared to the Suzhou style. There are several distinct needling techniques used in embroidery but the Xiang style uses a more ‘random’ way of needling, where the randomness results in colours and textures being mixed togther. Its distinct features include black, white and grey colour palettes with strong focus on the contrasts between light and dark. There is also a strong use of tigers and landscape scenes used on Xiang textiles. Xiang embroidery is still practiced today and has become very popular around the world being used on clothing, interiors and art pieces.

Guangdong Embroidery ( Yue Xiu/ Guang Xiu)

This originates from Chaozhon, Guangdong Province and dates back 1,000 years. This style of embroidery contains intricate and symmetrical patterns, using strong contrasting colours and varied stitches.  The main influence of this style was national folk art and the images most commonly used were of flowers and plants.

Sichuan Embroidery ( Shu Xiu)

This style originates from western areas around Chengdu, Sichuan Province. This is the oldest known embroidery style in chinese history and has been used for thousands of years.  As with most embroidery they always used silk and satin, as they were very strong and would last a lot longer than other materials. The distinct features of a Sichuan style piece were- emphasis on even stitching, pastel colours using, images of young women and the environment. Sichuan embroidery is used to decorate interiors such as quilt covers, pillowcases, curtains, fashion garments, shoes and painted screens. All of these embroidery styles are extremely beautiful and have characterisitics which make them very unique and interesting to look at.

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.