China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
In early 2016 China’s government officially ended one of the largest experiments in social engineering in human history: the (in)famous ‘one-child policy’. For more than a quarter of a century the largest national population in the world was subjected to strict birth limits and harsh penalties for disobedience. Internationally, China has often been criticized for human rights violations in connection with its birth control regime, and even domestically the debate about the merits or otherwise of the ‘one-child policy’ waxed and waned but never really stopped. As China underwent profound socioeconomic development during this period, the rationale for maintaining this strong state involvement became ever more tenuous. Mounting domestic criticism pointed at the negative side effects like rapid population aging, a skewed sex ratio etc. Yet, the government hesitated to change tack. The contributions to this panel scrutinize the political process behind the eventual decision to abandon the ‘one-child policy’ – a momentous change in the country’s approach to population issues. But they also analyze the new population policies and issues emerging in the wake of this about-face. They argue that population planning continues in new forms even after the end of the ‘one-child policy’, invoking the specter of a ‘grey tsunami’. They also show that the contemporary Chinese society is not very receptive to the government’s new emphasis on pro-natal policies. In fact, and ironically, the low-fertility norm may have become so entrenched that couples will be reluctant to opt for higher-parity births—or even decide against a single child.