The Chinese government is about to replace its one-child policy with a two-child policy. The NYTimes and other news outlets reports that the news came at the end of a four-day meeting of the Communist Party's Central Committee.
“Improve the demographic development strategy,” said the official communiqué, or summary, of the meeting issued through the Xinhua news agency. “Comprehensively implement a policy that couples can have two children, actively taking steps to counter the aging of the population.”To be sure, this change in policy has been long rumored, as I noted a few months ago, but it is still an important development. The reality is that it is unlikely to change the demographics of China, but it is a key human rights issue. I and many others have argued for years that fertility in China was already declining when, in 1979, the draconian one-child policy was put in place, and it almost certainly would have continued to decline even without the human rights abuses associated with, among other things, forced abortions. Indeed, we see these same dynamics of low fertility at work in Cuba, as I recently noted, where educated couples who have access to family planning--even if only abortion as the last resort--make responsible choices regarding how many children they can afford to have. And note that abortion is the principle means of family planning in China, Cuba, and in the republics of the former Soviet Union for one simple reason--it is far less expensive than any other other type of birth control method because you only need a trained midwife, not a whole manufacturing and distribution system. This is not a moral issue; it's an economic one in communist countries.
The decision to replace the one-child policy with a “two-child” one was among the few substantial changes announced by the party meeting. A fuller summary of the five-year development plan is likely to be released in several days, and the full document will be issued only next year.