I. Current Situation and Prospect


Since the 1970s, especially since its introduction of the reform and opening program, China has formulated a basic state policy to promote family planning in an all-round way so as to slow-down population growth and improve its quality in terms of health and education. The Government encourages late marriage and late childbearing, and advocates the practice of " one couple, one child" and of "having a second child with proper spacing in accordance with the law regulations". Family planning is also advocated among the ethnic minorities. Various provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government have formulated their own policies and regulations according to local conditions.

The Chinese Government pays great attention to the issue of population and development and has placed it on the agenda as an important part of the overall plan of its national economic and social development. The Government consistently emphasizes that population growth should be compatible with socio-economic development and be concerted with resource utilization and environmental protection. Since the 1990s, the Central Government has convened a National Summit Meeting on the issue of population and development once a year for the sake of adopting important decisions and measures based upon discussion and analysis of the major problems. The Government organizes and coordinates the relevant departments and mass organizations to implement the population and family planning program, striving to integrate the family planning program with economic development, poverty eradication, protection of ecological environment, rational resource utilization, universal education, advancement of public health and social security, and improvement of women's status. This is aimed at seeking a thorough solution to the problem of population and development.

After nearly 30 years of efforts, China has successfully found its own way to have an integrated approach to the population issue with its own national characteristics. A system of regulating and adjusting the population growth with a proper family planning program management has gradually come into being. This is a system in keeping with market economy. China's population and development program has achieved universally acknowledged success. The citizens' rights to subsistence and development and their rights in the socio-economic and cultural fields have been notably improved.

--The excessive population growth has been brought under effective control. The birth rate and natural growth rate decreased from 33.43бы and 25.83бы in 1970 to 15.23бы and 8.77бы in 1999 respectively. The total fertility rate of Chinese women went below the replacement level, making China one of the countries with a low fertility level in the world. When economically still underdeveloped, China has accomplished a historic transition in population reproduction pattern from one featuring high birth rate, low death rate and high growth rate to one featuring low birth rate, low death rate and low growth rate in a relatively short period of time, a change that took decades or even up to a hundred years for developed countries to realize in the past.

--China's national economy has developed at a high speed, with its overall national strength increased notably and the people's living standards greatly improved. Since the implementation of the family planning program, over 300 million births in total have been averted nationally, thus resulting in having saved a great amount of payment for the upbringing of children for the society. This has alleviated the pressure of the excessive population growth on the natural resources and environment, thus accelerating the economic development and the improvement of the people's living standards. With the gross national product (GNP) quadrupled over that of 1980 ahead of schedule, the Chinese people now live a relatively comfortable life. By the end of 1999, the population under the poverty line in the rural areas has decreased from over 250 million in the late 1970s to 34 million, accounting for a drop from 33% to around 3% of the total rural population. The impoverished people in rural areas have basically enough food and clothing now.

--Great achievements have been made in various social undertakings such as education and public health. By the end of 2000, a nine-year compulsory education has been made universal by and large, and illiteracy among young and middle-aged people has been basically eliminated. On the average, the number of college students for every 10,000 people increased from 8.9 in 1978 to 32.8 in 1999. On the whole everybody has access to primary health care service. The maternal mortality rate has plummeted from 94.7 per 100,000 in 1990 to 56.2 per 100,000 in 1998. The hospitalized delivery rate reached over 66.8% in 1999. The average life expectancy increased to 71 years, the same as in medium-level developed countries.

--Women's status has been raised distinctly, children's rights are protected, and the living standard of senior citizens has been improving. Currently women amount to over one-third of all government functionaries, managerial personnel in state-owned enterprises and institutions and professionals of all trades. In 1999, employed women amounted to 46.5% of the entire workforce in China, compared to the world level of 34.5%, and women's income accounted for 80.4% of men's. The mortality for children under five was 42бы in 1998, a decrease by 31.8% from that of 1991. In 1999, the school-age children enrollment rate reached 99.1% and the rate of primary school graduates entering middle schools reached 94.4%. Also in 1999, the percentage of the one-year-old children inoculated with the BCG vaccine was 97.8%, the polio vaccine 97.4%, the DPT vaccine 97.8%, and the measles vaccine 97.5%. In the same year, nearly 30 million retired people throughout the country were covered in the basic retirement insurance scheme, and there were some 1,000 social welfare institutions run by the Government and around 40,000 community-run old folk's homes.

--The whole society has gained a better understanding of the issue of population. It is agreed that the slow-down of population growth is beneficial to a coordinated and sustained development of population, economy, society, resources and environment; the practice of fertility regulation should be required in a way without laissez-faire; while slowing-down population growth, efforts should be made to improve the population quality, reproductive health, quality of life and well being in general so as to realize an all-round human development; the issue of population is essentially a problem of development and could only be solved through economic, social and cultural development. The same period saw impressive changes in the people's attitude towards marriage, childbearing and the elderly support. The traditional concepts of "early marriage, early childbirth", "the more sons, the more happiness" and "men are superior to women" has been gradually replaced by the scientific and advanced concepts of "late marriage, and later childbearing, fewer and healthier births" and "boys and girls are equal". More and more people have voluntarily practiced family planning. The first marriage age for women of childbearing age averaged 23.57 years in 1998, as against 20.8 years in 1970. The contraceptive prevalence rate of married women of childbearing age reached 83%, and the average family size has decreased from 4.84 members in 1971 to 3.63 members in 1998.

--International cooperation and exchanges in the area of population and development have been expanded. China is fully aware that the solution of her own population and development problem is of significance to stabilizing the global population and promoting world peace and development. In the light of its own specific conditions, China would follow the basic principles laid down at all previous international population conferences and actively carry out relevant resolutions. Since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the Chinese Government has adopted a series of measures to carry out the ICPD Program of Action. In recent years, China has worked in effective cooperation with the international institutions, and also governmental and non-governmental organizations of related countries in areas such as reproductive health, adolescents education, emergency contraception, male's participation in family planning and others. The successful implementation of China's population and family planning program has provided useful experience and lessons for many other countries and has gradually been acknowledged by the international community.

In the coming decades, China's population and development program will enter a new historical period. On the premise of stabilizing a low fertility level, China will achieve a gradual transition from a low population growth rate to zero growth, and the total population, after reaching its peak figure, will slowly decrease. In the advantageous historical period with a decreasing birth rate and a declining total social dependency ratio and rich labor resource, it is essential to develop education, science and technology in a big way, expand social input, and raise the accumulation level. Thus China will lay a solid foundation for speeding up economic development, strengthening its overall national power, and realizing the goal of a coordinated and sustained development of population, economy, society, resources and environment. Meanwhile, with the establishment and improvement of a socialist market economy and a sustained, fast and healthy development of national economy, there will be a fairly strong material base for solving the problem of population and development.

The Chinese Government soberly understands that the contradiction between population and development in China has remained sharp, and that there still exist many difficulties and challenges: the population growth will continue for a prolonged period of time, with an annual net increase of over 10 million in the next decade or so, which will exert great pressure on economy, society, resources, environment and the sustained development as a whole; it is difficult to change entirely the relatively low-level population quality in a short time, which is incompatible with the rapid development of science and technology; the sharp increase of labor force has placed great pressure upon the job market; the arrival of an aged society with still a quite undeveloped economy has made it more difficult to establish a comprehensive social security system; with the unbalanced economic and social development among different regions continuing to exist for a long period, it is a most arduous task to eradicate poverty; the increase of floating population, peasants entering towns and cities and population redistribution in different areas will exert impact on the traditional economic and social management system as well as the relevant population policies; in the process of improving the socialist market economic system, various contradictions and problems will emerge, and the complexity of the issue of population and development will remain the same.