Friday, November 15, 2013

Blog 10: China Relaxes One-Child Policy; Abolishes Labor Camps

            Decades after enacting a one-child policy China is set to relax current restrictions on couples. The administration announced new reformations to the existing policy that would enable parents who themselves come from only-child families to have two children. In rural areas it is also permissible to have another child if the first was a girl. These new policy changes are in part an effort to combat China's grossly skewed gender ratio, where boys far outnumber girls. Human rights groups are disappointed by the changes saying that they in fact don't go far enough and instead would like to see the entire system abolished. Reports of forced abortions and female infanticide have been a key argument against the one-child policy, and analysts doubt that the reformations will greatly affect these numbers or even drastically improve China's birth rate. Faced with an aging population Chinese officials see the weakening of one-child legislation as a stepping stone to addressing the issue of family planning and child rearing. Many couples in the country only have one child due to the economic burden. Chinese officials also announced plans to abolish their use of labor camps. Started in the early 1950's by communist leader Mao the "reeducation through labor" programs have been widely criticized by the international community and human rights groups. The abolishment of these camps is seen a positive foot forward for the growing nation as it begins to have an ever more prominent position in the international community.
            The one-child policies of China were put into effect in an effort to curb their rampantly out of control growth during the 80s. However, the policies worked almost too well, with fertility rates dropping to below replacement rates. China's population continues to grow, slowly, but is faced with an even newer challenge: how to deal with their aging population. A latent manifestation of such one-child policies has seen a drastic rise in abortions as females are less valued culturally than men. When families can only have one child they prefer to have a boy. A boy can offer them more income and can carry on the family name. Boys are historically valued more in Chinese culture as the heads of households and the family leaders. Infanticide and forced abortions have been an issue with human rights groups for years and this relaxation of the current policies seems to do little to address that.

            The abolishment of forced labor camps is a solid progressive move for China as it continues to become a global player in the world. These labor camps were used to "reeducate" political dissidents or those that opposed the current power structure. However this "reeducation" amounted to little more than torture through strict labor with little access to healthcare of adequate food supplies. Unsanitary conditions and the demanding and fast paced work that the prisoners were exposed to has led to several deaths with current statistics still a mystery. These camps outraged the international community and were even a hot button issue during the 2008 Beijing Olympics when it was discovered that much of the Olympic facilities had in fact been constructed using forced labor of political prisoners. 

Aaron Fountain
4:02 PM

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