Honors World Regional Blog Post #5


What would have happened over the last forty years if China HADN’T had a one child policy ? Speculate based on the 1971 population growth rate of 2.8% (Doubling time <25 years) and 1971 total population of 841 million


China population

12 thoughts on “Honors World Regional Blog Post #5

  1. Using the 1971 population of 841 million and assuming the 1971 growth rate of 2.8% held constant, we can estimate that the population of the People’s Republic of China without the One Child policy would have been around 1.9 billion people. As it stands today, the population of China is roughly 1.4 billion. With an additional 500 million people, China would experience some constraints on its resources that it is currently experiencing at 1.4 billion people. Perhaps one of the most significant differences (other than the sheer number of people who would have been born without the One Child policy) is that the makeup of the Chinese population would look considerably different. Rather than having an aging population, in which the elderly citizens far outnumber those in the workforce (and this will continue to be the case as those born before the policy change continue to grow). Also the country’s now increasingly male population faces considerable problems for future population growth, and attitudes have now changed regarding the number of children (if any) Chinese couples will have.

    While the growth of the population to 1.9 billion people is a good estimate, it doesn’t take into account the varying growth rates of countries, particularly developing countries. It stands to reason that the growth rate of China, especially after the economic reforms of Xiaoping, would have decreased as the standard of living of most Chinese increased. If this had been the case (as I argue it would have been), the One Child policy was not only a blatant disregard for basic human rights, it also negatively affected the demographics of China more than it could have possibly benefited. Assuming a natural decline in population growth, we can also assume that, while the 2016 population might have been slightly higher than what it actually is at 1.4 billion people, that number would include more women and would have eased some of the strain of an aging Chinese population, the two greatest demographic challenges facing China in 2016. While the One Child policy successfully decreased the Chinese growth rate, it is quite feasible that changes to the healthcare, education, and social services would have produced the same outcome with more beneficial results.

    • Good discussion but, without the radical population declines of the 1970s and 1980s China would probably look more like India today with slowly declining birthrates, massive rural poverty and very patchy economic development.

  2. Based on in class discussion and common sense, if China had not implemented their one child policy, the growth rate would have either remained the same or climbed, and the population density would be significantly higher than it is in this day and age. While the population is still growing the acceleration of this growth has slowed immensely because of the one child policy, and this has dropped the average child per family numbers. The Total Fertility Rate was around 6 before the one child policy was introduced in the seventies, and after this was introduced it dropped below 3 and before the two child policy was implemented, it was around 1.5 TFR. The doubling time has also increased to less than 25 years (wow that’s a terrifyingly large population), to around 60 years after the policy and It probably even lower now still. If the one child policy had not existed there would not be a huge imbalance of male to female children per family. This has caused many men to end up without a partner later in life, which leads them to prostitution. The trafficking issue has risen in China because men are lonely and there aren’t enough women for them to marry. The growth rate In China has greatly decreased from over 2% in 1971 to 0.46% in recent years. This means that the population of China is still rising, but at a way slower rate than it would have if the one child policy had not be put into action. China has also tried to educate people in sex so birth rates would go down as well. Maybe if the one child policy hadn’t been implemented this would have worked as well. I works for the United States, but China is not the United States. They have a different set of values, but as they become more urbanized their values will change. They don’t need to have six children to help with rural work, and their children don’t die as often as they used to so perhaps their values have changed. China DID enforce only having one child though, and I believe this has helped the population issue faster than education would have. Maybe now that they are allowed to have two children, education will help keep the population growth rate down. Some benefits coming out of the one child policy are, better living standards for urban china. If there were around 400 million more people in China than there are right now, it would be terribly hard to find jobs, harder to take care of EVERYONE medically, disease would spread easier, and education has become easier with the decrease in the amount of children who are school age. However the negative effects have also come from the one child policy. One being the detrimental gender imbalance of course. Another being thousands of babies being left out to die or be picked up by someone else and hopefully adopted from an adoption home. If this policy had never existed, the population growth rate would probably have decreased anyway, but this policy definitely did it faster. IF it had never been enforced, there would be less children with families, but the population may have been in deeper trouble if this policy had not been enforced.

  3. Imagining a theoretical China that has possibly 500,000,000 more citizens that it does to today is almost hard to fathom. After all, China is already the most heavily populated country on the planet. Yet, their size creates problems with simply trying to effectively manage and govern such a mammoth society. With a growth rate of 2.8% and a doubling time of less than 25 years during the 1970’s, those problems were set to increase exponentially. Thus, China made a logical, if somewhat morally disturbing, choice about its citizens’ ability to reproduce. The infamous One Child laws were always decried by many global institutions, and with varying degrees of legitimate arguments, but they were often villainized beyond their actual power.

    The truth is the laws were never exactly set in stone. After all, it would be difficult to enforce such a law over some 1,400,000,000 people. Segments of the population were declared exempt. Rural populations in China have always semi-effectively resisted the level of strict government control often seen in more urbanized areas. Plus, the law itself changed at times from two children to one child depending on the time you look at it. Despite difficulties in enforcement, the law had its desired effect. The total fertility rate dropped; China left it’s exponentially increasing population path. But the question remains… What would have happened if China didn’t act as they did? Or even simply took less effective measures?

    To theorize about this, I look to India. The second largest country by population, in some ways it mirrors 1970’s China. A massive population, high fertility rate, attempts at increasing urbanization— all issues China has faced. Yet India has not taken the steps that China did. Perhaps, due to a differing set of cultural values, it won’t ever be able to take such extreme steps. They are taking alternate steps, but the methods are slower and not as immediately effective. Indeed, they are currently set to overtake China in the coming decades as the largest country by populace.

    So where does that leave India, and our theoretical China? Well, India today faces huge issues: food scarcity, water scarcity, extremely overcrowded cities, occasional famines, poor education in rural areas, etc. While India’s population has grown, these factors have affected death rates. While fertility rate might be high, increased death rates work to lower the overall population increase percentages from what their full potential is. Furthermore, the standard of living for many survivors has been far from ideal. China would doubtless be facing the same issues today had they not acted in the manner they had. Millions would die from a lack of food or water. Hundreds of millions would be faced with poor living conditions, lack of economic opportunity, and dismal education prospects. Furthermore, let’s examine India’s global power today. To be blunt, it pales in comparison to China’s. Why is this? I believe it’s because China capitalized on staving off these population increase issues. By using the One Child laws, they were able to more effectively reach their domestic and international goals as a nation. Once they did this, they increased their power and influence. India, on the other hand, remains busy facing population related issues and lacks the ability to globally compete the way China does. Thus, if China had not acted they would likely remain a largely “third world” country, without the urbanization and improved standards of living they enjoy today, much less the global power and influence.

  4. When I see the data of China’s population in the 60’s and what it could have been now without the one child policy, it makes me want to secretly thank the Chinese government for their decision even though its hard to get behind such a policy that encroaches so much on the freedoms I think people should have. The reality is, though, that without the One Child Policy, China and even the world today would probably look very different. To start, where would all of those people have lived? While China theoretically does not have the problem of limited space, a strain on agriculture would have arisen as more land would have been allocated to urban space for the growing population. This agricultural strain, though, would have only been a small part of the food crisis that would have occurred. Eventually China would have been spending all of their money on importing food to provide for the population. This crisis would have been continually and exponentially exacerbated over the years. While China’s growth rate was dropping before implementing the One Child Policy, it would not have gotten as low as it needed to be without a measure such as this. The apartment photograph shows the already crowded urban areas where apartments house full families. This is probably what most of the darkest parts of the population map of China look like, and that dark area would have only grown and gotten even more densely populated. I think the day to day life of urbanites would have been greatly affected by the booming population. The photo of the lake or river with swimmers exemplifies that people would be in such proximity to each other that you would not be able to see the ground below. Because there would have been scarcity of food, prices on groceries would have risen, straining families’ budgets, and preventing them from making purchases on things of other than food, purchases that grow economies. With an increase in imports and a decrease in spending China’s economy would have likely gone through some serious struggles. In the world we live in today, any one economy crashing is bad for the entire global market, so it would have also affected our economy at this point. China’s implementing of the One Child Policy, however controversial, was a critical move to avoid to foreseeable crisis, and was incredibly effective as far as family planning policies go. Looking at these possibilities, their consequences, and the success of the policy makes it much easier to believe that it was a necessary adjustment.

  5. China’s one-child policy has had a massive effect on world population numbers. Since the policy has finally been phased out (as of 2015) it is interesting to look back on the estimations of what would have occurred if the policy had never been enacted. Given that the 1971 population of China was 841 million, the growth rate was 2.8%, and the doubling time of the population was under 25 years, China clearly had an enormous problem. At the rate it was doubling, the population today would be close to 2 billion, instead of the 1.4 billion (where it currently sits). This would mean around an extra 500 million Chinese. As the world population is only now around 7 billion, the one-child policy clearly had a huge impact on overall numbers.

    While the decision to adopt the one-child policy seems morally unjust, it is easy to contend that the policy helped save the country’s future. The increase in population would have caused population density that China could not feasibly feed and house. As seen in the picture in the top right, areas like water parks would be claustrophobic and impossible to enjoy. In a less lighthearted example, there would have been little way to school that many incoming children. This has led to arguments that removing the future of 500 million Chinese may have cost the world its next Einstein. This argument, however, seems unlikely simply because with that many citizens, many of the children would not have the ability to reach their potential because of a huge lack of resources.

    China already has the most heavily populated country by some 2 million over India. Increasing this number by 500 million would have been impossible to sustain. As seen in the picture in the middle left, housing in China has already had to be built straight up to shelter so many people. On top of this, as seen in the bottom left, the numbers of elderly (above 65) by 2030 would have been 360 million (more than the entire US). Would it have been feasibly possible to humanely look after 360 million elderlies? This leads to the question of whether it was morally righter for China to not have 500 million babies, or to be unable to look after 360 million elderlies? Either way, China was looking to have a moral judgement to make.

    The one-child policy has greatly kept down world population numbers. By making the tough decision to force couples to only have one child, China was able to stifle the enormous growth that would have otherwise occurred (as seen in the bottom left graph). This policy kept areas like Shanghai (already densely populated) from becoming too overrun to properly function. While it can be argued the law was morally unfair to the unborn, it would have been equally unfair to let the birthing rates continue and effect the world’s population and China’s elderly.

  6. What if China had not enacted its infamous “one child policy?” To explore this I am going to discuss a hypothetically situation. Using China’s population growth rate of 2.8% and total population of 841 million, when it reached one of its all-time highs in 1971, I calculated China’s projected total population for 2016. If there were no other restraints inflicted upon the population growth rate, calculations would reveal today’s Chinese population including roughly an additional 630,000,000 people.

    In reality, the population growth would be bound to fluctuate and decline due to a combination of many factors such as an increased death rate, food shortage, etc. Regardless of the exact predictions, without outside intervention China’s population would undoubtedly have caused an even greater constraint upon China’s already limited resources as well as heightened problems involving environmental factors such as pollution, urban overcrowding, and poverty.

    With so many possible outcomes, the best way to speculate on China’s probable conditions over the last forty years with unregulated population growth is to take a look at another country. This other country would need to have a high total population and a comparable population growth rate in 1971 and not enacted legislation similar to China’s “one-child policy.” After statistical research, India is the obvious choice for comparison. In 1971, India’s population growth rate was 2.2% and their total population was around 567 million.

    Currently India’s total population stands at 1.252 billion and its population growth rate at 1.2%. These current statistics are close to 1971 doubling time projections, and overpopulation in India remains a major issue. Due majorly to its “one-child policy,” China has decreased its current population growth rate to a mere 0.5%, and its population now stands at around 1.36 billion, and overpopulation has become a more minor concern.

    While China’s is still dealing with issues concerning lack of resources, infrastructure, and poverty, these are slight in comparison to India’s. India economy has had many problems sustaining its massive population growth which has led great amounts of poverty and unemployment. As poverty has growth, India’s slums have expanded leading to a decline in standard of living for many. The government has been unable to provide adequate health care and education for the population resulting in more unemployment and illiteracy. Problems with infrastructure have also been magnified in India due to overpopulation also leading to slum growth. Quick and cheap building initiatives have led to unsafe residences and inadequate amenities. All of these factors have also led to over exploitation of land and natural resources creating devastating environmental problems contributing to disease and a higher death rate. In conclusion, China’s proactive population regulations have put the country into a much better position to manage these kinds of challenges.

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