Two Kids for You

Chinese policy


In November, the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee announced that it was ending its longstanding policy of limiting Chinese families to one child. The regime did not, however, abandon demographic central planning: The new limit is two children per family.

One result of this 35-year interference with reproductive choices was to force millions of women to have unwanted abortions. Because of a cultural preference for sons, China has in recent years had a skewed sex ratio of 117 males for every 100 females. This imbalance of 30 million extra men has led one economist, Xie Zuoshi, to propose polyandry—that is, allowing a woman to marry more than one man—as a solution.

Despite the change in policy, it's not at all certain that most Chinese families will take advantage of the new reproductive limit. Fertility rates have been declining in East and Southeast Asia, and the trend in China has mirrored that of its neighbors.

Replacement fertility is generally considered to be 2.1 children per woman. China's total fertility rate currently stands at just 1.7 children per woman. In Hong Kong, it's 1.1; in Japan, it's 1.4. Perhaps most telling, the total fertility rate for China's biggest city, Shanghai, now stands at 0.7. The Chinese Communist Party doubtless shifted its policy after seeing the coming demographic implosion on the horizon.