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China Abolishes Long-Standing One-Child Policy


China announced today that it is ending its one child policy. That policy has been blamed for many abuses over the years. All Chinese families will now be allowed to have two children. NPR's Anthony Kuhn is in Beijing and on the line with us. Good morning.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And why have Chinese authorities, who have been relaxing the one child policy for years now - what has prompted them to do away with it completely?

KUHN: Well, first of all, I think it has dawned on the government that their population is going to peak and stopped growing and then start declining. Estimates are that it will stop growing and peak at about 1.3 billion people within a decade and then start to decline. And if the trend continues, by, say, the middle of the next century, they could have as few as six or 700 million people, maybe about 60 percent. And also, for years we've had population experts warning the government that they have a demographic crisis and an aging crisis on their hands.

MONTAGNE: And remind us why the Chinese instituted this policy to begin with.

KUHN: Well, after the revolution in 1949, Chairman Mao wanted to have a lot of children. And so there was a baby boom. When the country turned to economic development in the late '70s, the idea was that if you have too many people, then it's going to slow down your development. And this idea was reinforced by the international community and the U.N. that were worried that all the development gains would be eaten up by new mouths in the Third World. So they instituted the one child policy in 1980. And it's been that way ever since, until about 2013, when they began to ease it a bit.

MONTAGNE: And what does this mean practically? Would it be expected that the Chinese would start having more children now? Is there a desire for that?

KUHN: About a hundred million couples will be eligible to have second children. But it's doubtful that there will be a population boom as a result. Since the policy was eased two years ago, not that many people have wanted children because it's just too expensive. So I think the interesting thing to see now will be how people count the costs of this policy. Because of a preference for male children, it has resulted in the selective abortion of many girls. It's caused a lot of old people who have no young people to take care of them and a lot of kids who have grown up without siblings. And so a lot of people are already pronouncing obituaries for this policy, saying that it was a massive experiment in human engineering that exacted a high cost and may never have been necessary in the first place.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Anthony Kuhn speaking to us from Beijing. Thank you very much.

KUHN: You're welcome, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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