2005: PRC Birth Enforcement Planning Regulations Dial Back Overly Aggressive Enforcement

The word 计划生育 jihua shengyu “planned fertility” is usually translated as ‘family planning’ in English.  The Chinese practice makes personal reproduction as another element to control in the planned economy so calling it birth planning could be more appropriate.   Brutal enforcement of family planning regulations including destroying houses and punishing neighbors and co-workers to bring pressure to bear on a defiant couples has been a major source of discontent in China since fertility restrictions were introduced and then enforced strictly in the late 1970s.  

I remember spending an afternoon reading through official 计划生育年鉴 PRC Family Planning Yearbooks published in the 1980s and 1980s reading about violent opposition to family planning policies and noticing three or four year cycles of tightening and loosening of official policy.  

The Chinese demographer Zeng Yi, chief advisor to the PRC Family Planning Commission and head of the Demography Research Institute at Peking University in the mid 1990s told the World Demography Congress held in Beijing that Chinese family planning had been ineffective as a means of controlling China’s population.  Zeng attributed declining PRC birth rates through the 1980s and 1990s to China’s rapid transition from a socialist economy in which the state shouldered the expense of raising children to a market economy in which parents themselves shouldered much of the rapidly increasing cost of  food, clothing, education, and medical care for their children. For more on Zeng Yi’s presentation, see the June 1998 U.S. Embassy Beijing website report “PRC Family Planning: The Market Weakens Controls But Encourages Voluntary Limits”.

See Susan Greenhalgh’s  article “Controlling Births and Bodies in Village China” for more on Chinese family planning policy.

See also Formulation of the One-Child Policy in China  from the Law Library of the U.S. Library of Congress.

Chinese family planning was designed to be a policy to last only one generation. Formal policy for some years has been that parents who are themselves only children may have two children.  In Chengdu I saw notices including the Chengdu notice below that a certain couple had been approved to have  a second child for this reason.

Chinese demographers now worry about the rapid increase in the average age of China’s population and its economic consequences so it seems that the policy may gradually fade away. But then again, they would have changed the policy much earlier if the government had listened to Chinese demographers.  All governments find admitting mistakes hard and a one party system makes it that much harder.

Chengdu Second Child Approved (2)

I saw these family planning enforcement regulations translated below in a neighborhood of Chengdu, Sichuan when I visited in 2005.

Family Planning enforcement regulations

The Seven “Not Permitteds” in Enforcing Birth Planning Policy

1. It is not permitted to illegally detain, hit, harm or
insult people who violate birth planning regulations or their
relatives.
2. It is not permitted to damage the possessions, farmland or
homes of people who violate birth planning regulations.
3. It is not permitted to seize the possessions of people
violating birth planning regulations in payment of the social
fostering fee without first going through the process specified
by law.
4. It is not permitted to arbitrarily establish fee
collecting programs or to arbitrarily assess fines.
5. It is not permitted to forbid legally permissible births
in order to ensure that the birth plan is fulfilled.
6. It is not permitted to organize pregnancy inspections of
young unmarried women.

The “Ten Forbiddens” Regulation on Birth Planning
Enforcement

1. It is forbidden to relax any kind of birth planning
enforcement for the purpose of collecting the social fostering
fee and to fail to approve legal births.
2. It is forbidden to illegally detain, hit, harm or insult
people who violate birth planning regulations or their relatives.
3. It is forbidden to damage the possessions, farmland or
homes of people who violate birth planning regulations.
4. It is forbidden, because a person violated birth planning
regulations, to involve their friends, relatives, neighbors or
other people in the matter.
5. It is forbidden to take revenge against people who expose
wrongdoing or make reports to higher authorities.
6. It is forbidden to seize the possessions of people
violating birth planning regulations in payment of the social
fostering fee without first going through the process specified
by law.
7. It is forbidden to collect administrative fees or to
assess fines that are not provided for by law or regulation.
8. It is forbidden to arbitrarily increase, reduce or waive
the social fostering fee and to not provide a standard receipt
when collecting the social fostering fee.
9. It is forbidden in the course of public business such as
an audit, examination, or collection of the social fostering fee
to accept money or gifts as well as to accept an invitation to
dine that might affect the enforcement of the law.
10. It is forbidden to organize pregnancy inspections of young
unmarried women.

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About 高大伟 David Cowhig

Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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