Old Age Security and the One-child Campaign

  • Deborah Davis-Friedmann


In each of the four post-1949 birth control campaigns, official and unofficial sources have claimed that elderly grandparents undermined government efforts to restrict family size by their persistent desire for many grandchildren.1 Evidence supporting the elderly’s preference for large families, particularly for large numbers of male descendants to carry on the family surname, is widely available. Conclusive proof that elderly parents actively block acceptance of the one-child ideal, however, is more difficult to find. In fact, Chinese government sources generally identify young people as the main sources of opposition and focus propaganda efforts on the young, involving the elderly only as a secondary audience.2 The pattern of rewards and punishments used to achieve the goals of the one-child family also confirm the importance of resistance by the young rather than the old.3 It is the salaries of the young parents that are reduced if they violate their birth-quota and it is the young couples not the grandparents who receive all bonuses and preferential treatment for compliance. Why then should there be any concern with the role of the elderly in the one-child campaign?


Adult Child State Sector Elderly Parent Young Couple Ideal Family Size 
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Notes and References

  1. 2.
    Li Caiying, ‘Benefits of Having Only One Child’, Zhongguo nongminbao, 2 May 1982. ‘We Must Do Birth Planning Work Well’, ibid, 4 January 1983 and ‘Enjoy Young Girls’, ibid, 11 February 1983. Liu Xing, ‘Protecting Infant Girls’, Beijing Review (BR), 31 January 1983. ‘Eliminate the Thought of Preferring Boys Over Girls’, RMRB, 7 April 1983 and Mei Hongjuan, ‘The Case of Killing One’s Own Baby Daughter’, Shehui, Febrauary 1983.Google Scholar
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    Yan Keqing, ‘Problems and Prospects in Population Planning’, China Reconstructs, June 1983. Deborah Davis-Friedmann, Long Lives: Chinese Elderly and the Communist Revolution (Harvard: Harvard University Press 1983).Google Scholar
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    Lillian Liu, ‘Mandatory Retirement’.Google Scholar
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    Davis-Friedmann, Long Lives. Google Scholar
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    Zhao Ziyang, ‘Report on Sixth Five-year Plan’, BR, 20 December 1982. Liu Xing, ‘Protecting Infant Girls’, BR, 31 January 1983. ‘Peasants Enjoy Pensions’, BR, 4 October 1984. ‘Rural Elderly’, BR, 29 November 1982. Chen Si-ya, ‘Five-Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Elisabeth Croll, Delia Davin and Penny Kane 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah Davis-Friedmann

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