From 1980 to 2015, China had vigorously implemented the one child policy. While successful in decelerating the rapid growth of China’s population, it created a number of problems along the way from abandoned infants to a colossal gender gap.
Take a trip down memory lane with this Sina photoseries.
Before the PRC was formally established, the Chinese, taking cues from the Soviet Union, encouraged people to have more children. After 1955, some scientists called for the spread of birth control and family planning, however the Great Leap Forward instead actively encouraged that parents have more children, reasoning that there was force in numbers. After three disastrous years of food shortages, the Chinese government issued an order to cut birth rates. In 1973, so-called “barefoot doctors” began distributing family planning propaganda.
In the 1970s, the popular saying was “One is not too few, two is just right, and three is too many.” In 1978, the one child policy was entered into China’s constitution. In 1980, an open letter issued by the Party’s Central Committee formally marked the policy’s country-wide implementation. A couple of years later in 1982, women in Hebei and other provinces received honors for their efforts as part of an efforts to incentivize households to continue their work.
March 6, 1981: the National Committee for Family Planning is established as an agency within the State Council. Following the establishment of the Committee, work was extended to every corner of Chinese society. Family planning committees, family planning offices, family planning institutions, etc, all became widespread. In 1982, family planning became a basic national policy. The implementation of this policy depended on the family planning of every single person. In 1983, family planning training courses became standard in Jilin and in other provinces.
Every party committee and government had to deal with annual population and family planning goal assessments. In implementing this process, communities operated under a “one-veto system” that left leaders with little room for error, lest they miss their chance for promotions and gain good standing for their responsible groups. In Fuyang county in Anhui, a “family planning account” is posted to a public bulletin board.
For those tasked with carrying out the family planning policy, visiting each and every household at the village level was critical. They would get up at the break of dawn to visit individual houses to disseminate propaganda, register families and inspect marriage certificates. In this picture taken in 1986, one of the health workers instructs villagers about family planning.
Every region’s family planning office had to think up of ways to get the word out. In this photo taken in 1983, citizens watch a performance in Urumqi being used to advertise the one-child policy.
The Chengdu Family Planning Education Center produces many promotional TV shows and films. This photo in 1984 depicts villagers participating in a screening of one of these films.
In every locale, the area’s family planning party and government association took part in and was responsible for carrying out policy, as well as for check ups to determine the status of the project. In 1989, Zhangqiu county in Shangdong province, the vice county head conducts an on the spot meeting.
While employees of China’s family planning agencies comprised the bulk of workers carrying out the one child policy, other agencies and departments were involved as well. In the village, it did not matter if you were a secretary or an accountant; everyone was drafted into the effort. This photo from 1989 depicts soldiers disseminating propaganda to a fisherman and his family in Jiangxi province.
People involved in industry and commerce were also drawn upon. This photo from 1987 depicts young workers distributing propaganda materials.
In the wake of the Reform and Opening Up, a massive floating population of migrants developed. Even then, the work of carrying out the one child policy would not be easily ignored. People in many places established special centers devoted to providing this population of migrants with birth control materials. This photo taken in 1991 shows a worker distributing birth control drugs to women in Fuxin city, Liaoning province.
Efforts to educate the youth about birth control began before marriage. The marriage registration office in Shanghai’s Jing’an District provided a family planning consultation desk. This couple can be seen receiving a consultation at one of these desks in this photo from 1983.
In 1987, a young Muslim and Manchu men sign agreements to abide by the one child policy while receiving marriage licenses from local officials.
Newlyweds attend a “Newlywed School” in Shanghai in 1989.
Those charged with promoting the policy faced certain difficulties encouraging people, especially villagers, to go along with the new policy. Owing to old traditional habits and manpower needs in the countryside, some villagers were reluctant to go along with the new laws. This photo depicts a group of workers in Zhejiang heading out into the countryside to conduct family planning work.
This woman is getting a pregnancy check-up in Hebei province, 1997.
In the past 35 years, concepts such as IUDs and abortions have become all too familiar with Chinese people. This picture taken in 1992 depicts doctors in Ningxia preparing to sterilize this patient.
In China, 85% of patients who undergo contraception or sterilization procedures are women; men seldom participate. Most of these facilities are too focused with processing patients to consider women’s health issues. In these sorts of facilities, success can’t always be guaranteed, and methods could be relatively crude at times. The women in this photo have just undergone tubal ligation.
This photo taken in Guizhou in 1996 depicts a slogan painted on the wall that roughly translate to “After the first child get an IUD, after the second get your tubes tied, exceeding the limit will result in an abortion and a penalty.”
Under the one child policy, even if a baby delivered through induced labor was still alive, medical personnel and family planning workers were obligated to smother the child to death. Official statistics show that between 1980 and 2009, about 286 million women received IUDs, 99 million underwent tubal litigation, and that around 275 million artificially induced miscarriages took place. The photo above depicts a promotional slogan in Northeast China.
In order to avoid the authorities and have more children, some people, such as this woman in Hunan, elected to move away from their homes, sometimes to remote mountains and forests. Authorities had to devise numerous methods to find and punish violators. Any children found would be taken from their families and be put up for adoption.
It is now 2015, and with it comes the end of the one child policy. Although birth controls have been relaxed, it is clear that the policy’s effects will linger on for generations to come.
If you are somehow still feeling nostalgic, check out this photoseries of old one child policy propaganda and slogans.
By Stanley Yu
[Images via Sina]