Birth or population planning in China did not begin with the one-child only policy, OCP, of 1979 that was formally instituted in 1980; instead, the OCP was the culmination of a series of policies that began in the 1950’s which aimed at lowering the rate of population growth. The policies had this goal in common but varied in the methods by which they proposed to meet this goal and the degree of severity with which they were enforced. In the 1950’s, policies focused on achieving economic development by improving maternal and child health. From 1962-1966 educational campaigns urged families to plan for later births, longer spacing between them, smaller families and increased women’s access to contraceptives and abortions. The third phase, from 1971-1979, emphasized education. Difficulties with implementing and enforcing the birth and planning policies are indicative of the ways in which the system of centralized planning has tended to break down at the local level and ways in which policies, and outcomes, are quite different in urban and rural locations in China. The local governments tried using incentives for compliance, such as preference in educational opportunities, health care, housing and job assignments, and discouragements for lack of compliance, such as fines and loss of access to education and other privileges. “Prior to 1984 the official goal was to keep the Chinese population under 1.2 billion and local cadres were supposed to enforce the policy in order to meet this goal. The primary methods for doing so were the promotion of contraception (primarily Intra Uterine Devices or IUDs) and enforced sterilizations”. It is hard to imagine that after working so hard to control population growth, China now has to relax the policy due to the unforeseen effects of the OCP. Certain consequences of this policy implementation are the emerging Shidu families and the significance of this event in their future, generational unbalanced sex ratios, and family dynamic before and after OCP.
In an article written by Tom Phillips for The New Zealand Gerald (NZG), “Flight MH370: Heartbreak for China's 'orphaned' parents,” he discusses one of the many impacts of China’s family planning rules, shidu families. Events like the recent tragedy of flight MH370 brings to light this issue that would have otherwise not made international news.
There are an estimated one million so-called "shidu" families in China, with state media reporting that around 76,000 new families are "orphaned" each year. "When you lose your only child, it feels like the sky has fallen in," said a mother in Shanghai, who lost her only daughter and husband in a 2012 car accident.
The NZG article provides insight into the struggle a shidu family experiences when their only child is lost. Not only have they lost their only descendant, but also their future Social Security. The fact of the matter is that Chinese families heavily rely on their extended family as a safety net, according to...