Just not long ago, Shanghainese authorities did surprise the world in terms of innovation and progress — only this time almost exclusively in social terms.
Entities like Shanghai Population and Family Planning have recently reconsidered the country’s socio-political structure by launching programs that encourage Chinese couples to indulge in having a second child. The criteria by which couples are allowed this chance are actually not new. A second child is allowed, and has been allowed in instances when: both parents are only children themselves, they are re-married (even if they have had children with their first spouse), or have had a disabled child in the past. What is so remarkable about this movement is the proselytism with which it is brought forward. Under this movement, family counsellors will be invited to illustrate the advantages of a second child, as well as the benefits of having a large family.
These subsidies are present now in a way they hadn’t been throughout the thirty years since the policy has been implemented. The one-child policy had as its ultimate goal to transform Chinese society from one with numerous family members — and to a certain extent, patriarchal — to one based on an restricted only-child system.
Starting in 1979, this mindset gave way to a mild kind of revolution, where the neo-Malthusian theory of multitude as an obstacle to development prevailed as a socio-political model. Procreation thus had to either end or diminish. Additionally, the years following Mao’s rule held economic growth — and not population status — to be the key to development. In other words, in a (once) poor and agricultural country, feeding even just one mouth consumes more than a pair of arms can produce. Since then, the expression “Yi ge hao!” (literally, One is good!) has become rule as opposed to a mere social suggestion. Breaking this law could lead to civic fines, job-dismissals, tax payments, and obstacles to future careers. Non-governmental organizations claim that, at times, even harsher consequences took place, which strikes as no surprise when considering figures: 97% of Shanghainese families only have one child.
According to demographers, the absence of the one-child policy would have brought China to host more than 350 billion people today. As a result, the country witnessed great economic success by surfacing rapidly from underdevelopment. Today, for example, many Chinese can enjoy access to health care and educational services. There are also significantly scenes of less ragged looking children, begging on the streets. Instead, only-children are spoiled, and often dubbed “The Little Emperor”.
Still, the one-child policy has brought about significant social implications that have affected contemporary generations. Political interventions have given way to significant social changes, like the absence of siblings for the first batch of newborns, and cousins and grandparents for the second wave of children: all of whom are born only within thirty years ago. The government only made exceptions (and exemptions) towards peasants who live in the countryside, or towards ethnic and national minorities. These three decades have also aged the country as a whole, making it harder for the government to provide pensions for the elderly in the future. Shanghai has, therefore, reshaped its socio-political strategy to accommodate its twenty million inhabitants who ensure dynamism, progress, and a prospective future.