Repercussions of the Chinese Government’s One-Child Policy

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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For more than 35 years, starting in 1979, the government of China instituted the One-Child Policy, which allowed a family only a single offspring. The One-Child Policy pushed parents of millions of “illegal” children to utilize adoption, abortion, or to immediately kill the baby right after it was born. Although the government of China sought the best interest of China’s population, in reality, the hurt to the families, society and abandoned children did just the opposite. For many families, this policy meant hardship and pain; although the government was trying to help the economy, it just decreased and crushed the mental health of families all around China.

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The One-Child Policy helped the government utilize the people of China by forcing them to only have one child, to endure all the hardships resulting from the policy. When only sons are valued by the country, daughters lose their cultural identity. The government of China created “China’s son-loving and the one-child policy” (Fong 5) and the people were forced to adapt. The government purposely forced the people of China to believe that boys were better. If the people were to have one child, it was to be a boy. Years after the fact, the adoptees, mostly daughters, were disturbed by their lack of cultural identity, and the “adoptees reported strong feelings of anger at being raised with little to no cultural knowledge of their land of origin” (Fong 180). Making this decision is a significant hardship, being forced into that decision knowing the child will not know any of their country’s customs or ways of life makes that hardship cut deeper. Many of the adoptees lost their cultural identity because of the one-child policy and the emphasis and importance the Chinese culture put on boys. The adoptees were basically deprived of their first culture and “these children are destined to lose their first families, countries, cultures, and everything they know” (Fong 189). These children are bound for a cultural loss because they have been banished from their country before they really even got to know their first families. Girls who were abandoned and/or adopted were deprived of their mother’s embrace. These girls were not given up because their mothers did not love them, or want to pass on their customs/lifestyles, they were given up because it was the best option the families had. While daughters lost their cultural identity, sons in the country got an overabundance of love, culture, and protection from both family and government.

Women and mothers express the difficulties the Chinese government put them through after giving up/killing their baby. The mothers of Chinese daughters endured the hardship of abandoning their child and “she would find herself knocking and asking for her daughter back” (Xinran 18). This mother who had to give her child up endured the hardship of watching her child leave her arms and go into another’s. Many of these mothers did not want to give up their children, nor were they able to keep these children, because their family was not fit too. Like many other families, they had to watch their child as they were left or given to another stranger and they just had to turn around as if nothing had happened, leaving without their child in their arms. Children were not killed because “Its mother must have wanted it to live, otherwise, she would have dumped it down the toilet” (Xinran 39). Many mothers in America and other first world countries do not know what it is like to have to figure out what to do with their illegal baby.

During this time, many mothers in China had to plan where they were going to abandon their child. They had to know where the public places were and hope that when they put their child there, the child would be taken care of and brought to an orphanage, or taken in by another family (which was highly unlikely). Although many men and women in China think that killing the unwanted baby is the way to go, there are some people who say that “My parents had said it was better to have them adopted by foreigners than to kill them” (Xinran 32). The mothers and fathers of China had to evaluate what their child’s life would be like living with foreigners who probably lived halfway around the world in a completely different culture. The family would live with despair, pain, and guilt if they killed their child, but if they gave them up, they would live their life wondering, weighed down by the void left in their life. The parents of “illegal children” are faced with choices of killing or abandoning, for fear of punishment if no action is taken.

With the One-Child Policy, the government tried to help the economy in the long run, however, the economy was only helped briefly and the consequences impacted society. Both the Chinese government and the small number of young people in China “shoulder the burden of an aging society” (Fong China’s Lost Little Emperors…). The people of China were an aging population because of the small number of people that were born and the small amount of diversity in their population, due to the One-Child Policy. When this generation grew older, there were not many younger people in China’s population. China saw some of its goals accomplished with this policy because “China’s market-oriented reforms…triggered several decades of growth” (Zhang The Evolution of China’s One-Child Policy…). The Chinese government wanted to create a better economy and purposely created the One-Child Policy as a catalyst for its economic reforms and desires. Thus, it prompted a change in the country’s economy. The policy sparked the need to work in the younger population. Additionally, the parents had more time to work and help the economy if they only had one child. Even though some things helped, China created “a hugely imbalanced population that has too many single men and too many retirees” (Fong China’s Lost Little Emperors…). The people in China did not help the economy because the boys and only children have grown older. Without their single women counterparts, single men cannot create a younger workforce. All of the children and families affected by the One-Child Policy are growing old and retiring, which means the economy cannot do much else but decline. Even though there were a few decades of economic success, the Chinese population, and the economy are decreasing and getting less useful as society is aging.

The Chinese government first created the One-Child Policy to stimulate economic growth in China, but the Chinese government used the number of women to help the economy as well. The government of China wanted money and “the real culprit is the Communist Party’s economic-growth-at-any-cost model” (Fong xiv). The One-Child Policy was created by the desire of China’s government to have a strong economy and stable economic growth. Since there are so many men and so few women, “Prostitution and sex trafficking in China have been on the rise for the past decade” (Fong 129). The minority in China, the women, are taken advantage of to help the economy out. The lonely men of China have sexual desires and these desires are utilized in an attempt to help the needy economy, scrounging so low as to even sell and produce “sex dolls…retailing for $5,000 upward” (Fong 130). Businesses have taken advantage of the shortage of women and have created products that fit the needs of the aging, single, predominantly male society. Business owners know what the country needs, both economically and physically, so they create products that will fulfill these while padding their own wallets.

The One-Child Policy affected different mothers and families in different ways, often destroying mental health. Girls were not wanted in China, but “the mothers of girls are all heartsick” (Xinran 29). The mothers who had to kill, abandon, or put their child up for adoption became inconsolable as they dealt with heartbreak. They had to leave their children before even getting to know them, after only loving them for what must have felt like less than a second. The society pushed so hard on not having either a second child or a daughter that “that was my first child, and I didn’t even set eyes on her. I just heard two little grunts, and then she was thrown away” (Xinran 31). The mothers during the One-Child Policy had to endure an excruciating amount of pain. Even if the daughter was the family’s first child, the daughter was thrown away, literally, because boys were more important and valued than girls. Many fathers, and sons who were becoming fathers, had a vision that only sons were important and that “if the family doesn’t have a son, it has no roots. You can’t hold your head up, you’re good for nothing” (Xinran 30). The families believed that if their children did not have a son to carry on the family name, their children were without purpose. The parents of a daughter, who was called useless, were mentally beaten and emotionally broken after having to consider their daughter, the pregnancy, their love, and themselves worthless.

The mothers who had to give up their baby and/or had a baby girl were destroyed mentally at the loss of their child. Many women had been forced to believe that if their child was not a son, then they were a failure. The daughter was good for nothing, so many women believed that they needed to “Get an abortion…set an example for other women” (Fong 69). These women who were forced to get an abortion were traumatized because they did not get to meet their child. The men also believed that their wife was a failure if she did not give the family a baby boy, so many men spent time “longing for the day my wife gets it right” (Xinran 94). The people of China have been told that sons are superior. The fathers believed that only sons are allowed in families because the sons can carry on the family legacy. Conversely, the mothers thought that all children are special and worthy of value. The government drilled the belief into people’s minds that sons were more important and that destroyed the perception and consciences of the people of China. Many parents realize that “the midwife must have dropped that tiny baby alive into the slop pail” (Xinran 27) immediately after birth. The mother had just given birth to a baby girl, the grandfather just called the girl a useless thing, and the midwife just drowned and disposed of the baby into a slop pail. Undeniably, the mother, father, and midwife all must have been scarred for life. The parents were probably mentally burdened by watching their first child’s life be snuffed out right after they were born, their child never knowing their voices, their touch, or their love.

The One-Child Policy transformed life in China. The people of China were met with hardships, the government tried to fortify their economy and use the One-Child Policy as a stimulus, but in the end, the people of China were mentally destroyed. Mental destruction is one thing, but loss of a love that never was is entirely another.

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Repercussions of the Chinese Government’s One-Child Policy. (2021, Jun 17). Retrieved from