Why Did China Introduce the One-Child Policy?

China introduced the one-child policy to help control growth of its rapidly expanding population. The Chinese government formally implemented the policy during the late 1970s. The policy required child limitations for most families, except for some living in rural and remote areas, to just one offspring.

The pressures of population growth plagued China long before the one-child policy took effect. During the late 1940s, national leaders encouraged use of birth control. However, enforcement and oversight failed to affect change. Families continued bearing multiple children.

Strict reproduction laws only emerged following the death of leader Mao Zedong. Initially, the new Chinese government, headed by Deng Xiaoping, created a limitation of two children per family. Xiaoping initiated the program as a volunteer operation. However, most families never joined the program, and the population problem grew. On September 25, 1980, the Chinese Communist Party disseminated letters to Chinese citizens demanding adherence to the one-child policy. The government solicited compliance by offering incentives to families, such as providing contraception items and even extending employment opportunities to abiding citizens.

Contrarily, the Communist Party imposed sanctions, such as economic and financial measures, against families violating the policy. The party resorted to harsh measures like forcing abortions or sterilizing women violating the policy. The policy effectively slowed the rate of the Chinese population, but promoted female infanticide, tipped the country’s gender balance towards males and caused a higher elderly population.