Official: Family planning policy to stay

By Guan Xiaofeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-07-04 06:40

The government will stick to its family planning policy for the foreseeable future despite some negative influences, a senior official said yesterday.

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Zhang Weiqing, head of the national population and family planning commission, said the government will remain committed to controlling population growth and improving its quality.

"The huge population has always been a major problem that restricts the nation's economic and social development," Zhang said yesterday at a symposium in Beijing to mark the 50th anniversary of the New Population Theory put forward by Ma Yinchu, a demographer and former president of Peking University.

"We must bear in mind that it is not easy for China to achieve the present low birth rate," Zhang said.

"A smaller population is always more beneficial to the nation's prosperity, environmental protection and construction of a harmonious society."

He said many of the world's problems, such as deforestation, global warming, acid rain and the disappearance of glaciers, are all related to fast population growth.

"As a responsible country, China will adhere to the family planning policy," Zhang said.

Zhai Zhenwu, a professor at Renmin University of China, said family planning had also resulted in some bad consequences.

"It leads to fertility decline and accelerates population aging," he said. "It is also partly responsible for the sex ratio imbalance ."

However, he said every policy has its negative sides, and the government is unlikely to make big changes to the present policy in the near future.

The nation's total birth rate will be controlled at 1.8, according to a national plan released in February.

Zhai said the nation had gradually eased control over the birth rate.

While the family planning policy is popularly referred to as the "one child policy," it in fact limits only 35.9 percent of the population to having one child, he said.

Zhang Juwei, a population expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China's economic progress is to a large extent responsible for the nation's commitment to improving population quality.

In 1949, 80 percent of China's population was illiterate. The infant mortality rate surpassed 200 per thousand, and average life expectancy was 35.

Today, China has almost eliminated illiteracy among young and middle-aged people. Infant mortality rate stands at 25 per thousand, and average life expectancy is 71.8.

However, Zhang Juwei said China still lags behind developed countries.

For example, average schooling for work-age people is four years less than in developed countries. 

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