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The Aftermath of the One Child Policy

As a young child I never fully understood my adoption. The weird stares I received when I walked with my parents, the odd medical conditions I've grown to cope with, and the emptiness I felt not being around my culture. Recently, I began to investigate the true meaning and factors that contributed to my adoption. The one-child policy gave and took opportunities from millions of small children. Children put up for adoption were never able to truly understand their culture while children left in the orphanages were never able to taste the sweet scent of freedom. The events and aftermath of the one-child policy not only caused millions of children to be orphaned, but left a long lasting impression on the people of China.


The one-child policy was introduced in 1980 to address the alarming growth rate in China. During that time, the people of China were experiencing a 7.8% annual growth rate, and the government didn’t have enough resources to provide for them. To combat this problem, the government implemented the one child policy. Families were allowed to conceive one child only. If a household were to conceive more than one, they would have to surrender or abandon them to avoid the harsh consequences. One family recalled a time where family services ambushed them in the streets after they heard word of the family’s second child. In most cases, families with more than one child were forced to pay a fine between $370-$12,800. This fine, plus fear from the government and others, left families terrified of having multiple children.


The Chinese government did not provide any information on where to give the unwanted children. Because of that, streets were riddled with abandoned babies. Of the 2 million children abandoned, only 120,000 were brought to orphanages and adopted. With that, the conditions in the orphanages were less than ideal. Places were crowded and full of children, workers were understaffed and overworked, and diseases were being spread among the children. Tuberculosis, Malaria and other deadly diseases were common among both the children and the caretakers. To this day, many adopted children still suffer the consequences from the diseases spread in the orphanage.


China has always carried traditional beliefs in daily and formal situations. Typically, men are required to work to provide for their family and eventually take over the household when their parents reach old age. Due to this, male babies are considered to have a higher status and priority in families. When the one child policy was implemented, most families wanted to conceive a male to carry on the household. Due to the social standards for young Chinese children, the majority of babies abandoned were female. Due to the lack of the female population, China is now seeing 30 million more men than women.


Due to the sheer amount of children abandoned or adopted, China is being forced to introduce a three-child policy in order to combat the drop in population. The three-child policy was introduced in early May of 2021. In the earlier year, Chinese mothers only gave birth to 12 million children, a stark contrast to the years before the one-child policy was implemented. The Chinese government is facing backlash for the policy due to China’s history with family-regulating policies. The government has future plans of encouraging parental leave as well as increasing women's financial rights.


The one child policy is an incredibly taboo subject in China. Like many other countries, China wishes to focus on positive outcomes of some of their policies. That being said, the effect that the one child policy has had on China’s economy and family relationships will never be forgotten. The one child policy will forever haunt the parents of China and will never be forgotten for decades to come.


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