According to the United Nations, India, with its 1.4 billion people, has become the world’s most populous nation, with its young population surpassing China in mid-2023. This is surprising to many who previously believed that China had the largest population in the world – because, at one point, it did.
Far from its booming population of the past, in recent years, China has been struggling with an aging population and stagnant population growth, primarily because of its former one-child policy. China’s one-child policy, implemented in 1979, was implemented to control its rapidly growing population, and it did so a little too well.
According to Zheng Binfwen an expert who works with the China Academy of Social Science: “To proactively tackle the ageing population, urgent measures are required to reform our country’s family planning policies and liberate fertility.”
This implies that China knows how detrimental this policy was and is actively seeking ways to address the issues it brought about.
The one-child policy had far-reaching consequences, both expected and unexpected. Many believe that this policy allowed India’s population to surge and has sparked expectations that India could become an economic and global heavyweight on par with the might of China.
This article will explore the connection between China’s one-child policy and India’s population surge and discusses the surprising dynamics of China’s domestic policy on a global scale.
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In China, the one-child policy was introduced to respond to the country’s burgeoning population, which posed severe challenges to economic development, resource availability, and social stability.
The media played a crucial role in propagating information about China’s one-child policy, both within China and globally. News reports and documentaries on China’s population control measures were widely disseminated, leading to a wider understanding of the consequences of overpopulation and the importance of family planning.
By limiting families to one child, the Chinese government aimed to control population growth and alleviate the strain on resources and infrastructure. However, this policy has significantly impacted the demographics of neighboring countries, including India.
While India’s population experienced a boom thanks to this policy, it has also, surprisingly, seen the country seeking to implement its own population controls. As India seeks to address its own population challenges, it looks to an extent to China’s example for inspiration. In fact, in 2016, some governmental officials even called for new legislation, such as a two-child policy, to be enacted, but this was shot down, and the bill did not even make it to a vote.
It’s evident that some in India believe that population growth needs to be curtailed. Still, the Indian government is not currently seeking to control its population through restrictive policies but instead looking for ways to use its growing population for economic growth.
Over the years, it is believed that India viewed China’s one-child policy as limiting and detrimental to its economy for several reasons, which led the country to decide against implementing a similar policy and allowing its population to grow.
Here are some of the key considerations India reportedly debated (and still debates with many still calling for a one or two-child policy) when considering its population growth surge and whether it needed to enforce similar policies to China:
- Economic growth potential: India recognized its demographic dividend, characterized by a large and youthful population, as a potential driver of economic growth. Unlike China, which faces the challenge of an aging population due to its one-child policy, India sees its youthful workforce as an advantage in terms of labor supply, innovation, and productivity. The country aims to capitalize on this demographic dividend to boost economic development.
- Democratic values and human rights: India is a democratic nation that upholds individual rights and human dignity. China’s one-child policy faced criticism from international organizations and human rights groups due to reports of forced sterilizations, abortions, and violation of reproductive rights. India’s commitment to democratic principles has made it cautious about adopting such a policy.
- Cultural and social considerations: India’s diverse cultural fabric and social norms have made enforcing a one-child policy similar to China’s challenging. In a country with various religious and regional beliefs, imposing strict limitations on family size could lead to resistance and social unrest. Since India continues to value individual freedom and reproductive rights, this way of thinking has contributed to its decision not to pursue a coercive population control policy.
- Family planning and reproductive health: India opted for promoting family planning and reproductive health awareness rather than enforcing strict population controls. The government invested in programs to educate citizens about contraception, family planning methods, and reproductive health services, empowering individuals to make informed choices about their family size.
Essentially, India saw China’s one-child policy as limiting and detrimental to its economic potential and democratic values. By taking a more balanced and inclusive approach, India aimed to manage its population growth while ensuring economic development and respecting individual rights and choices.
Surprising worldwide dynamics resulted from China’s one-child policy, which affected migratory patterns and demographic trends.
For example, millions of men in China struggled to find wives due to the policy’s contribution to the country’s gender imbalance and male overpopulation since parents began preferring male babies to female babies. Ultimately, cross-border unions increased as a result, with Chinese men seeking wives from nearby nations like Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines.
In addition, the one-child policy’s strict enforcement by the Chinese government resulted in many abhorrent actions, including, as mentioned before, abortions and forced sterilizations. For years this raised criticism and worries about possible human rights violations globally.
International organizations and advocacy groups spoke out against these practices, sparking a discussion about family planning and reproductive rights worldwide. This discussion is believed to be one of the driving forces behind China’s decision to end its one-child policy.
Although implemented with good intentions according to the Chinese government, China’s one-child policy profoundly impacted the country and the world. Its influence on India’s population surge demonstrates how domestic policies can have unexpected consequences beyond borders.
The gender imbalance, aging population, and demographic challenges that China now faces highlight the importance of carefully considering the long-term implications of population control measures. As China and India continue to grapple with their unique demographic challenges, a comprehensive and sustainable approach to population management remains crucial for their collective future development.
WORDS: Jason Collins.
IMAGE CREDIT: Yogendra Singh.