From Where I Sit: Hamilton’s International Perspectives

By Wenyu Jin '17

When I was a little girl, I always asked my mother for a sister or a brother. I wished I could have an older sister who would care for me. I wished I could have an older brother who would protect me. I wished I could have a younger sister or brother whom I could keep company with. But because of the one-child policy, I am the only child in my family. I know the loneliness of being an only child, but I also understand the reasons why this policy is enforced. Although people heatedly debate the pros and cons of this policy and all the issues involved, we need to think about this policy from both sides.

The one-child policy is the population control policy of the People’s Republic of China. This policy was introduced in 1979 to alleviate social, economic and environmental problems. Basically, every family can have only one child; otherwise, they will need to pay fines. However, there are many exceptions that are not talked about very much. For example, rural families can have a second child if the first child is disabled. Prior to November 2013, families where both parents were the only children were allowed to have two children. Also, residents of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong and Macau are exempt from the policy.

Many people argue that the one-child policy deprives human rights and makes a child’s childhood lonelier and less colorful. Due to such a policy, parents do not have the right or the freedom to decide the size of their family. Children most often grow up without having a sibling to keep company with. I am a lucky only child who was born in a small town, where kids played together after school. But for most of my high school friends, their companion was a ‘what’ instead of a ‘who.’ They lived in their own TV and computer worlds. Their friends were cold machines rather than real people. Their lives seemed much more dreary and boring than mine.

I believe that the way we think is greatly related to whether we are only children or not. It is much easier for the only child to be self-centered. Since the family only has one child, parents and grandparents always want to offer the best to the child. As a result, he or she tends to view him or herself as the center of everything. They may neglect others’ feelings in some cases. But people who have siblings learn how to communicate with people, starting with loving family members. They learn to consider others’ feelings, thoughtsand needs. Especially the older brothers and sisters, they become more considerate among their friends who are the same generation.

Although the one-child policy brings about many negative influences, it is necessary and effective to promote this policy. Without this policy, the rapidly expanding population would add a heavy burden on the available resources as well as the natural environment necessary to provide a healthy life for everyone. Land, food and water are essential to all human beings, not just those who can afford to pay for these basic necessities. The government must be better organized with more structure to afford to protect such a huge national population.

Yet without this policy, the girls in rural areas may receive even harsher and less humane treatment. There still remains one extremely conservative, old-timed view that girls are inferior to boys. As a result, some parents in the rural areas will give birth to more children until they have a son. Then the son becomes the center of the family, and all the girls have little or no importance in those families. The one-child policy somehow protects a girl’s rights in this situation. Without this policy,  girls may have fewer resources. A family’s capital is stable within a short period. If a family has more than one child, each child will have fewer resources, no matter how much parents give of their time, energy or money.

It is difficult to simply conclude whether the one-child policy is beneficial or harmful. As every coin has two sides this policy has two sides. Even though it does interfere in personal rights and changes the realities of childhood, it solves some social, economic and environmental issues. In November 2013, the Chinese government further relaxed the policy by allowing families to have two children if one of the parents is an only child. Will this policy work? Will there be more advantages or disadvantages? Only the future will tell us the answer.


“From Where I Sit” is a column dedicated to the international voices of Hamilton’s campus.  If you are an international student and are interested in contributing a column, contact Barbara Britt-Hysell (bbritthy@hamilton.edu).


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