Could China’s one-child Policy change?

Pinyin or “policy of birth planning” is the policy that was created by the Chinese Government and introduced in 1978 which stated that Chinese couples would be restricted to only having one child. (People’s Daily, 2011). This policy was created to alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems in China (Coale, 1981) Chinese authorities have claimed that since this act had been put in place that the birth rate started to decline. Especially since there has been an imbalance in the Chinese population due to an increase in boys born. In China, having boys is preferred for the reason that they hold the family name, enjoy social prestige and can take care of their parents once they are older (Wesemann,2012) It is now more of an epidemic where Chinese girls are being aborted since there is a one child policy per family ( Wesemann et. Al.) Several months ago a Chinese woman named Feng Jianmel was illegally detained and forced to have an abortion at 7 months into her pregnancy. The couple already had one child and according to the Chinese government had broken the law by deciding to have another child ( CNN, 2012). Stories much the Jianmel family cases happen at a rapid rate in China however, Fengs family posted pictures of the 7 month old child on social media sites which prompted a national debate on the “one child law” ( CNN, 2012). There are constant debates on whether this law is immoral and unjust. Especially going the extreme as to abort a child that is already developed at 7months old. Is killing children a way to help us as humans flourish and fulfil our life? John Finnis a scholar and philosopher states that “ morality can’t be inferred from human nature, but can only be understood through a particular type of practical reasoning that is unique to human beings” (Pavlich, 2011). Finnis further offers his seven forms of human flourishing that are essential to life. Having the one child policy in China already interferes with the first point Finnis makes by saying that the value and procreation of human life is essential for humans to flourish (Pavlich, 2011). By stopping the Chinese population from procreating, they are stopping life. This by no means is following Finnis ‘ work in that aborting that 7 month old child put a strain not only on the population of China, but caused an outcry from the public all around the world. This interferes with respecting the basic value of individuals and society. Another point in Finnis’ work is his point about religion or the value of spiritual experience. Although not many Chinese are catholic, Catholics are raised to pro create and do not believe in contraceptives. Thus, there are an abundance of Catholics with more than 2 children. Another point would be sociability and friendship. Since the law is one child per family, many children grow up alone and end up being spoiled and labelled “the little emperor syndrome”. Andrew Marshall, a journalist based in south East Asia discusses this saying that many children get spoiled by their family especially boys. They grow stronger with age and soon become the head of the family. This Marshall says will soon lead to a “behavioural time bomb: (Marshall, 2012) this stops the social factor within communities and even friendships. This creates further a separation in communities and society. However, Lon Fuller another philosopher offered a natural law theory that focused explicitly on the rational dimensions of law making as a craft (Pavlich, 2011). In his book “The Morality of Law”, he identified eight elements of law which have been recognized as necessary for a society aspiring to institute the rule of law. Firstly Fuller says that “laws must exist and those laws should be obeyed by all”. However, although this rule is in place not all people in China follow this rule as noted above in the case of the young woman Feng who was on her 7 month of pregnancy. Another element would be that “law must not command the impossible”.  It is impossible for the Chinese government to regulate the amount f children being born. Creation of a child is the way of life and stopping people from having children is stopping the impossible. Finally, “law must stay constant through time […] also must allow for timely revision […] circumstances have changed” (Pavlich, 2011). China has now brought out the debate once again for the rule of two children per family since times have changed.  However, the question now is will this stop the killings of unborn children once the 2 children per family policy is changed?


Ansley J. Coale, Population Trends, Population Policy, and Population Studies in China. Population Development Review. March ( 1981). Vol. 7. No. 1. pp-85-97. ( Retrieved Sept.21.2012 )  ( Retrieved Sept.21.2012 ) ( Retrieved Sept. 21.2012 ) Author: Dorette Wesemann, Edited by: Ragnar Müller ( Retrieved Sept.21.2012 ) ( Retrieved Sept.21.2012 )

Law and Society written by George Pavlich 2011




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One response to “Could China’s one-child Policy change?

  1. This is an extensive post. Good work.

    You have effectively applied Finnis’ ideas to the case study (and some of Fuller’s, too).

    Food for thought – could another scholar use Finnis’ framework to justify the one child policy? What if he or she argued that the policy was meant to inhibit overpopulation, which would have negative consequences for human flourishing? Could Finnis’ approach be used in such a manner?