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Q: Many people in the international community accuse China's family planning policy of violating human rights. Why does China carry out this policy? Are there differences in its implementation when it comes to urban and rural areas, and ethnic minority areas?

A: Criticisms of China's family planning policy result from ignorance of China's national conditions. Anyone who has visited China shares the same feeling—there are too many people. The third census, conducted in 1982, showed that China's population had reached 1.03 billion, and now this number has increased to 1.3 billion. This massive population has imposed great pressure on China's social and economic life. A national condition characterized by a large population and weak infrastructure makes it inevitable that China must carry out this policy.

China began to promote the family planning in the early 1980s. This policy does not mean that a couple is only allowed to have one child. It is a diversified policy and cannot be understood in a simplified way.

China's current fertility rate is 1.8, which means that for quite a long time it has not been the case that every family, everywhere, has only one child. For example, in urban areas, if both husband and wife are only children in their families, they can have two children. In most rural areas, if a family only has one girl, the couple can have another child. In some remote and poor mountainous areas, farmers are allowed to have two children. In ethnic minority areas, more preferential policies permit some families to have three children, and in the farming and pastoral areas in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, families are allowed to have four children. In Tibet's farming and pastoral areas, there is no restriction on childbirth. Therefore, the family planning policy is worked out according to different economic and social situations in different regions.

In the past 20 years, family planning measures have helped to curb the rapid population growth. If we had not enacted this policy, there would have been 338 million more births, which would have cost the country a significant amount in resources, imposed heavy pressure on the environment and hindered development of the economy and improvement of people's living standards. If we had not taken this policy, China's population would have increased to 1.6 billion. The world would have greeted the 6 billionth human on Earth four years earlier.

In the 21st century, the large population will remain the major problem affecting China's development of the economy and society. Because of its large base and the inertia of growth, in the coming decades, China's population will witness a net growth of over 10 million people each year. Only if the population is kept within 1.4 billion by the year 2010 and approaches 1.6 billion by the middle of this century, could the population begin declining thereafter. In this sense, the family planning policy needs to be kept stable instead of being adjusted, and how long this policy should be continued must be decided according to China's future development.

China is the most populous country in the world. The picture shows a crowded scene at a park in the seaside city of Qingdao, Shandong Province.


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