Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

Creative ways to enforce China’s One Child Policy

Posted by Chris on September 17, 2007

When I was beginning the research on a paper on the conflicts present in human rights discussions about female feticide (see HERE), I read about both China and India. China is infamous for it’s “One Child Policy” (heretofore OCP). As a communist country, China exercises control over many aspects of its peoples’ lives, including the number of children, in an effort to limit population growth.

I don’t know when I first heard of the OCP, but at one point, I thought I read that it was abolished. That was not correct. Enforcement has changed, however. It would not have been uncommon for government agents to seize a couple’s second baby and kill it in the past, at least if you believed certain media reports. That practice, if it still exists at all, would now be limited to rural areas and not sanctioned by the national government. The only “penalty” for breaking the OCP that I know of now is a monetary fine. Since the decision to kill unwanted female children is already motivated by economic prejudices against women, it seems that a economic penalty would not serve as the best incentive to prevent additional children—no doubt it requires much more money to raise a child than the fine which is levied.

Therefore it is not surprising that China is discovering more and more families ignoring the OCP as the economy and middle class grows. An AP news article on Sept 14, 2007 addressed new government strategies to penalize “newly rich couples undeterred by fines from having extra children.” (I’ve discovered that posting links to news articles isn’t a long-term solution, so just search for “China cracks down on one-child violators” if you want to read the article)

These families will receive a “black mark on their credit” for having additional children. I know nothing about personal credit in China, but in the US, a negative item on a credit report can affect the interest rates one would receive, access to loans, insurance premiums and even prevent getting an apartment lease. China’s financial institutions would have to play by different rules for this to be an effective deterrent—whether a Chinese citizen has paid back loans on time is obviously a better indicator of credit risk than the presence of a second child.

While China is making its economy more capitalistic, the financial side of this decision would be a step in the opposite direction. That’s why I don’t see this having much of an impact. I don’t know if the national bank is the only lender, but as the market opens up, lenders would not refuse credit on these grounds without coercion from the government, which again, would be in contradiction to current government policy.

The short article mentions one other local government strategy to stem population growth

In February, the eastern province of Zhejiang announced it planned to name and shame rich families who ignored the one-child policy by paying to have their second or third baby.

The moral implications here are more disturbing, but again, I doubt this would be an effective strategy. Having that second or third child is probably not a big secret. Plus, children are a blessing! Is it really possible to shame a mother or father for wanting to have kids? Sadly, we know it is, even in America. But overall, I am not very concerned that these government efforts will result in anything that I would consider to be serious human rights violations.

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