Still-Communist China announced a series of social, economic, and political reforms. Most notable is the change in China’s one-child policy, which has been enforced by forced abortion. Not that China has given its people freedom. Now if the husband and the wife can both claim the status of “only child,” they can have two babies without penalty. So now there is more of a two-child policy.
President Xi Jinping announced Friday the most sweeping package of economic, social and legal reforms in China in decades, including a relaxation of the country’s “one-child” policy and the scrapping of its much-criticized system of labor camps.
The changes rolled back harsh social policies that dated back to Communist China’s two most eminent leaders, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, while cementing Xi’s hold on the levers of power. It offered the promise of a country driven by market forces, with a stronger rule of law, but still firmly under the grip of the Communist Party.
“This is the most market-oriented and the most comprehensive package of reforms in two decades,” said Cheng Li of the Brookings Institution in Washington. He emphasized the “concrete efforts to promote judicial independence” and abolish a labor camp system which has long been a symbol of arbitrary and politically motivated punishment.
The measures, announced after a meeting of top party officials, promised to address some of the roots of China’s growing unrest by giving peasant farmers a greater share of the benefits of the nation’s economic boom, with more rights to sell land and settle permanently in the cities. But there is to be no relaxation of the Communist Party’s overarching control of China, and efforts to stamp out dissent and “manage” the Internet could even be intensified.
The new family-planning policy states that if either member of a couple is an only child, the couple may have two children. The change means that most young Chinese couples can now have second children, if they wish.
Human rights groups said the changes to the one-child policy were disappointingly limited, but they praised the decision to get rid of labor camps as a step in the right direction for Xi’s eight-month-old government. . . .
China enacted the controversial one-child policy in 1980 to rein in runaway population growth. Internal debate about relaxing the policy has intensified in the face of an aging population and a looming shortage of labor.
Human rights groups, which have repeatedly exposed forced abortions, infanticide and involuntary sterilizations being propagated under the policy, had wanted it abolished altogether.
“What they’re doing is just tinkering with it,” said Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong. “The whole system needs to be dismantled.”
The one-child policy reshaped Chinese society — with birthrates plunging from 4.77 children per woman in the early 1970s to 1.64 in 2011, according to estimates by the United Nations — and contributed to the world’s most unbalanced sex ratio at birth, with boys far outnumbering girls.