New rumors have surfaced that China could be changing its infamous one-child policy. According to an independent demographer, He Yafu, the government will start allowing 2 children per couple in five of its provinces next year but skimpy sources makes this sound like another Chinese parent’s pipe dream.
Couples, He says, will be allowed an extra child if one of the spouses is an only child in the five provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Jiangsu and Zhejiang, all of which have low birth rates. The plan, which is aimed to counter the aging population, allegedly will eventually expand to the nation as a whole. While we know the government has allowed exceptions for couples who both are only children, Hes claims now it will only take one parent.
This all conflicts with the official line from the the National Population and Family Planning Commission. In 2008, Zhang Weiqing, the minister of commission, said the policy would remain in place for roughly another decade. In February of this year, the planning commission’s deputy director also re-iterated that the policy would remain unaltered, at least through to 2015.
Does He Yafu know something everybody else doesn’t? It isn’t clear but while we’re on the subject, Yao Yuan, a Renmin University demographics professor points out in an interview with the Global Times, that “[a]ctually ‘two-children’ was never strictly banned. The family planning policy is flexible in order to accommodate people’s needs.”
Well, we wouldn’t call it “flexible”, but it does allow for more than one child in some situations. Rural ethnic minorities have always been allowed a second child and urbanites can cough up the money to pay the fines for each extra kid if they wish.
But the professor gives us an interesting reason for why he believes change can’t be coming soon to the policy. It’s not only a matter of numbers, but of distribution too. “China has still to face the growing population in the long run, most of which would flock to cities following the massive urbanization. It has to accommodate those people, provide them with public services, offer employment, and promote a more equal distribution of wealth.”
If He’s information is correct, it spells drastic changes for the population but for the time being, the two-child policy only extends to a few.