When the planning bureaucrats re-took power in China in 1978, they highly valued
the role of scientists and engineers in China’s economic development.
Xiaoping called for respect of knowledge.
In contrast, in the Cultural Revolution
between 1966-1976, scientists and engineers were considered ideologically unreliable,
whom needed to be re-educated by the masses.
In fact, science and technology have been quite important to the Communist Party
Top Chinese leaders often came from science or engineering background.
Some mega-big projects, such as the Three Gorge Dam, or the ongoing project of
moving water from Southern China to Northern China, are implemented under the
name of “science”.
Today, the guiding principle of the Communist Party is a
“scientific view of development.”
The rising importance of scientists is the background to the making of one-child
policy in 1980.
As we discussed last class, after implementing this policy for more than twenty years,
there are some serious socio-economic consequences:
Tension between the government and millions peasants
This is a serious
social problem in the early 1980s, which forced the government to relax
implementation in rural area.
For example, they had to allow rural couples to
have the second child if the first is a girl.
imbalanced sex ratio
rapidly aging society
: in this aspect, the aspect of economic growth in China in
2025-2030 was significantly affected by the one-child policy made in 1980
Given these social and economic consequences of the one-child policy, we may ask
the following questions: Why did the Chinese government decide to implement a
strict one-child policy in the first place?
As top scientists, in particular the missile
scientists in China, was heavily involved in the policy making process, why did they
recommend a strict one-child policy to the Chinese leaders?
Were there different
views or alternative policy options?
If there were different policy proposals, were
there any debates within the government or within the academia?
Alternative population policy:
later-marriage, longer child spacing, and fewer
Economic planers in the early 1950s
had considered it was important to have planned
population growth in a truly planned economy.
Chen Yun, the designer of the system
of state monopoly in grain purchase and distribution, even suggested distribute free
contraceptive medicines to peasants.
But Mao disliked the idea of population control.
The major advocate of population control in China was labeled a “rightist” who was
against Marxism and Mao’s idea.
After the famine of GLF, no one took family
planning serious in the 1960s.
But in 1970, some senior leaders, particularly the
Premier Zhou Enlai, supported the idea of family planning for controlling the
Mao Zedong at that time did to oppose to this program.