A Journey of Eight Years: A Study of China's Fertility Policy

Baochang Gu, Renmin University of China

At the turn of the century, a number of Chinese scholars and former government officials in charge of birth control came to the recognition that it was time to put phasing out China’s then two-decade long one-child policy on the research agenda. The research group began its work by arguing the necessity and feasibility of revising the current fertility policy in China. Between 2001 and 2004 they formulated a proposal on policy change and submitted it to the Chinese government in early 2004. That proposal faced many challenges, mainly questions about the relationships between fertility policy and fertility level, between fertility policy and sex ratio at birth, and between fertility policy and the family planning program. To respond to these challenges, the research group carried out field investigations in some areas with a two-child policy since the mid-1980s, as well as the field surveys in selected locales in Jiangsu and Hubei provinces. With these studies, the group drafted and submitted another policy change proposal to the government in early 2009 to argue for the urgency and possibility of policy change. This paper introduces the work by the research group in the eight years. The research group’s call for policy change has encountered much resistance not only from the governmental agencies but also the society at large. Such a resistance reveals that the debate on the policy reflects a lack of understanding of the newly arrived low fertility in China, and requires work to engage the public in recognizing the new demographics of China, and of the world.

Presented in Session 37: China’s One Child Policy after 30 years – Time for a Change?