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Camb Q Healthc Ethics. 2014 Jul;23(3):272-87. doi: 10.1017/S0963180113000881. Epub 2014 May 27.

China's one-child policy, a policy without a future. Pitfalls of the “common good” argument and the authoritarian model.


The Chinese Communist Party government has been forcefully promoting its jihua shengyu (planned fertility) program, known as the "one-child policy," for more than three decades. A distinctive authoritarian model of population governance has been developed. A pertinent question to be asked is whether China's one-child policy and the authoritarian model of population governance have a future. The answer must be no; they do not. Although there are many demographic, economic, and social rationales for terminating the one-child policy, the most fundamental reason for opposing its continuation is drawn from ethics. The key ethical rationale offered for the policy is that it promotes the common social good, not only for China and the Chinese people but for the whole human family. The major irony associated with this apparently convincing justification is that, although designed to improve living standards and help relieve poverty and underdevelopment, the one-child policy and the application of the authoritarian model have instead caused massive suffering to Chinese people, especially women, and made them victims of state violence. A lesson from China--one learned at the cost of individual and social suffering on an enormous scale--is that an essential prerequisite for the pursuit of the common good is the creation of adequate constraints on state power.

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