04/24/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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Beijing "will not change family planning policy"

Zhang Weiqing, director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, defended the "one-child policy", saying: "The problem is not the law; this has led to the prevention of 400 million births".

Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) – The Chinese government "will only make minor changes" to its family planning policy that "must remain stable for the next five years", said the director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission. Zhang Weiqing was defending the notorious "one-child policy" in an interview with the Beijing-based Study Times.

"The current family planning policy must be kept basically stable, a fundamental measure to cope with China's demographic explosion," he said, adding: "China's rising gender imbalance is nothing to do with this policy; it is the fruit of an entrenched concept that boys are better than girls."

Chinese demography experts say there are 117 males for every 100 females born in China: a disproportion disconcertingly far from the global average of 104 males per 100 females. "Our family planning policy is not the reason for this situation, because the real problem is pre-natal ultrasounds that give parents the chance to know the sex of their soon-to-be-born baby."

He continued: "Beijing's priority is to improve the quality of life of the population and to do this, it is necessary to control births: since the early 70s [when the birth control policy was launched], we have been able to prevent around 400 million births. The main challenge lies in changing the perception that boys are better than girls."

China's population has risen by 3.2% over the past five years to reach 1.306 billion, with an annual growth rate of 0.63%, that is, 8.09 million people, according to a study by the National Bureau of Statistics in November 2005.The number of children aged up to 14 years fell by 2.62% and that of people over 60 rose by 0.76%. The data reveals the risk of increased ageing in coming years.

Meanwhile, males are on the increase, accounting for 51.53% of the population (+0.44% compared to five years ago), with a proportion of 106.3 men per 100 women. There is a noteworthy increase in migrants: +8.3% to reach a total of 147 million people who move from rural to urban areas to work. As a consequence, the number of urban residents is also on the rise (+6.77%).

Since 1978, urban residents have been allowed to have only one child while peasants may have two. The country went from a rate of 5.83 children per couple in the 70s, to 2.1 children in 1990, to 1.8 now. The government aim is to have a population of no more than 1.37 billion by 2010. This policy has led to a high number of abortions and killing of newborn female babies, to have a male who can bear the family name.

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