China’s One-Child Policy’s Outcomes for Population Growth


In the early part of the 1980s, China implemented a draconian one-child policy that was intended to curb China’s massive population growth. Aside from legal impediments, the campaign that was created to drastically reduce the nation’s birth rate was aided by propaganda. The intended message reverberated in the hearts and minds of the average Chinese couples as they were inundated with taglines that say: “One hope; one joy; and one responsibility” (McKenzie). At the onset of the campaign, when results disappointed the Chinese Communist Party, tougher measures were implemented including heavy fines, forced sterilization, and abortions (McKenzie). Nevertheless, more than three decades after these laws were implemented, Chinese officials are racing against the clock in the bid to reverse the implications of policies that were enacted in the past.

At the turn of the 21st century, the negative backlash of the one-child policy was impossible to ignore. As early as 2014, China promulgated a new set of rules with regards to population growth. The government announced a new scheme that enabled couples to apply to have a second offspring if both mother and father came from a one-child family (McKenzie). However, the new policy failed to spark a baby boom. This failure will result in a greying population that wreaks havoc against China’s social service system.


McKenzie’s article did not provide a detailed description of the economic principles or theoretical models that were utilized to arrive at certain conclusions or in making certain assertions. One can make the argument that McKenzie made the assumption that his readers were familiar with the concepts or ideas related to population growth and the negative impact of a declining population rate. For example, he immediately discussed the economic burdens that are created by a greying population without explaining the reasons for the manifestation of the said negative consequences. However, the insights and assumptions that McKenzie made were byproducts of using appropriate epistemological frameworks. For example, in a book entitled Economics of Development, the authors discussed the importance of using a framework called the demographic transition. The discussion was enhanced by the use of terms like the crude birth rate and crude death rate (Perkins et al. 220). McKenzie’s article did not attempt to reach the same level of sophistication, but reading between the lines, it is possible to detect the application of economic principles, specifically population growth principles in underpinning the assumptions and conclusions that were made therein.

The author did not elaborate on the underlying principles that compelled Chinese officials to reverse the once feared law making it illegal to have more than one offspring per family. However, reading between the lines, one can make the argument that this idea emanated from concepts like birth rates and death rates. The positive difference between these two measuring mechanisms leads to a surge in population growth. On the other hand, the negative difference between these two values leads to a decline in population growth.

The author’s insights and analysis of China’s population trend are not without precedent. Economists and population experts already made similar inferences and deductions using data taken from other countries. In addition, these studies were made not only to track the nation’s population growth but also as an attempt to understand the impact of economic growth on birth rates and death rates or vice versa.

The author alludes to the demographic transition from zero growth rate to the doubling of the population growth due to technological advances and the steady supply of food sources (Perkins et al. 220). Technological breakthroughs in transportation capabilities provided food security in areas vulnerable to drought and famines. In addition, breakthroughs in medicine eradicated premature deaths from plagues and common diseases. The author hinted that the same type of demographic transitions also occurred in China. Thus, just like in other European countries that experienced population explosions in relation to economic developments, China was destined to experience the same fate when it comes to the demographic transition characterized by low birth rates and low death rates. The unintended effect was a greying population that exerts a great deal of burden on the country’s social services.

The author did not provide details as to how he was able to come up with insights concerning the dreaded impact of China’s low birth rate. However, one can make the argument that he was referring to the macro-economic effects of an aging population (Sonmezler et al. 2). For example, the typical economic impacts of a greying population are listed as follows: labor force issues; reduced savings; reduced investments, increase in social expenditure; and reduced taxation (Sonmezler 2). Based on these ideas, one can make the inference that these are the reasons for China’s paradigm shift when it came to overturning the draconian rules regarding birth control.

The author did not provide details as to the source of the information that was utilized to declare that China’s elderly population was the root cause of the problem. However, McKenzie pointed out that researchers provided critical information that compelled the Chinese government to seriously consider the impact of having 400 million people over the age of 60 (Tsang and Men 147). In addition, numerous studies had been made in Europe and the United States that shed light on the inevitable outcomes of a society impacted by low birth rates and low death rates.

McKenzie did not jump into conclusions without considering the validity of economic principles supporting the assertions he made. He made conclusions only after considering pertinent information and related views regarding the social phenomenon described as China’s greying population (Wander 41). As a result, it was not difficult for him to arrive at the same conclusions. Thus, the Chinese government was indeed compelled to change its view with regards to curbing the country’s population growth. In fact, the author was correct when he said that the continuous implementation of the one-child policy was detrimental to the economy’s long-term sustainability and growth. McKenzie was also correct in stating that the current changes in policies are a desperate race against the clock. Based on population trends in Europe, China’s decision to overturn a decades-old policy may have been for naught (Hospers and Reverda 8).


McKenzie’s assertions were based on sound economic principles. His pronouncements regarding the underlying reasons for China’s policy reversal was based on economic principles underpinning insights concerning the negative impact of an aging population. However, it has to be made clear that McKenzie did not exert extra effort in explaining the economic principles supporting his insights regarding China’s one-child policy. One can argue that McKenzie assumed his readers were familiar with key ideas and principles relating to population growth and the economic consequences of an aging population.

Works Cited

Hospers, Gert-Jan, and Nol Reverda. Managing Population Decline in Europe’s Urban and Rural Areas. Springer, 2015.

McKenzie, David. “For China, Three Decades of One-Child Policy Proves Hard to Undo.” CNN, 2015. Web.

Perkins, Dwight, et al. Economics of Development. W.W. Norton, 2012.

Sonmezler, Gokhan, et al. “Effects of Labor Mobilization on Aging Populations and the Regional Discrepancies of the EU.” Aging Populations and Changing Labor Markets, edited by Stella Vettori, Routledge, 2016, pp. 2-10.

Tsang, Steve, and Honghua Men. China in the Xi Jinping Era. Springer, 2016.

Wander, Hilda. “Zero Population Growth Now: The Lessons from Europe.” The Economic Consequences of Slowing Population Growth, edited by Thomas Espenshade and William Serow, The Academic Press, 2013, pp. 41-70.