|It doesn't stop at the water's edge:|
|Random strands and actors|
The one-child policy is an initiative to reduce overpopulation via economic pressures in the People's Republic of China. Adopted in 1979, and partially funded by the United Nations Population Fund, the policy strictly limits families to one child per couple in the areas where it is enforced.
The policy has successfully reduced population growth, and improved economic conditions to some extent, since families and communities are expending less money and fewer resources on children. However, critics have claimed that these benefits could have occurred anyway as part of economic trends or under less oppressive policies.
The policy is applied at a provincial level, and enforcement naturally varies. One-child restrictions apply most rigidly within urban areas. Couples in rural areas are often allowed a second child if their first child was a daughter. Ethnic minorities are allowed to have two, three or four children, depending on the regional policy. In some rural areas, the policy is largely relaxed.
Affirmative action policies exempt ethnic minorities from the one-child policy, although they are usually restricted to two children in urban areas. In Tibet, family restrictions are not enforced, at least among the native Tibetans. The policy has not been extended to the Special Administrative Regions of Macao and Hong Kong, which were reunited with China in recent years.
Couples must be married before they have their child, must apply for permission, and undergo a rigorous screening process. Families in rural areas can apply to have a second child, and so can urban families under some special circumstances, such as if the first child is physically or mentally disabled, or if both parents are from one-child families. Where second and subsequently children are allowed, "birth spacing" is expected, meaning that the first child must be at least three or four years old first.
Contraception is freely available and its use is mandatory to avoid illegal births. Abortion is also widely used, sometimes against the couple's wishes, although forced abortions are now officially illegal. Couples who are found to have had multiple children without permission are fined heavily, and made to pay schooling and health care costs which would otherwise be state-funded. Unofficial practices reported in some jurisdictions include forced abortions, forced sterilizations, and infanticide.
 Human rights issues
The policy's human rights implications are highly controversial, leading to criticisms within and outside China, some tensions in international relations, and rocky relations between the United States and the United Nations Population Fund, who back the measure.
In itself, the principal of restricting a couple's right to reproduce is regarded by many as an infringement of civil liberties, regardless of the economic reasons behind such a restriction. Enforcement methods can violate human rights, including some of the official and unofficial practices mentioned above, such as involuntary abortions or sterilisations.
The screening process, undertaken before marriage is highly controversial, essentially amounting to eugenics. Physically or mentally disabled individuals, including those with common conditions such as dyslexia, are banned from marrying and procreating. The intent is to promote a "healthy population", and this attitude is reflected within society, with disabled people being stigmatised, and couples wanting a healthy child. Disabled children are often given away for adoption, officially or unofficially, and may even be abandoned or killed.
There is also a strong preference for sons, for economic and cultural reasons. This means that female foetuses are often aborted, and female infanticide is widespread in some areas. Although these practices are illegal, they have had a notable effect on birth ratios, with female to male births now up to almost 12:10.
 Pressures on children
Chinese couples invest a heavy burden of expectations in their child. The child is expected to excel at school, attain a successful career, find a respectable marriage partner, and ultimately support a family as well as aging parents. Although these pressures are common in many countries, they are intensified by placing the onus on a single child.
From a young age, children are under pressure for academic achievement, with much of their time spent cramming in schooling and extra-curricular activities chosen by their parents, such as music or competitive sport, and little time given over to conventional childhood activities such as play. Simultaneously, these children are often overindulged by their parents and made to feel overly important, while rarely interacting socially with other children during their early years.
The social and psychological effect of this is a competitive society of somewhat selfish only children, potentially leading to personality disorders and poor social interaction in later life. The expectation to excel continues throughout life, with those who are unsuccessful in their work or personal life suffering shame and disrespect.
Since the policy is now into its second generation, one-child couples are often caring for or supporting their retired parents and grandparents, as well as their children, to a much greater extent than in countries where care for the elderly is shared among larger families.
 See also
- Birth control
- Reproductive rights
- Voluntary Human Extinction Movement: For those who'd prefer a zero-child policy.
- ↑ Golden Venture:Human Right in China
- ↑ The Atlantic: In a Chinese Orphanage
- ↑ Causes and Implications of the Recent Increase in the Reported Sex Ratio at Birth in China Zeng Yi, Tu Ping, Gu Baochang, Xu Yi, Li Bohua and Li Yongpiing Population and Development Review Vol. 19, No. 2 (Jun., 1993), pp. 283-302 http://www.jstor.org/pss/2938438]