To control the population of the country, China imposed the one-child policy since 1979, which means for each nuclear family (not the extended one), only one child was permitted, or that children born after 1979, especially those born in 1980s, were not supposed to have siblings. China lifted the ban only in 2016 due to the increasingly higher aging population, and that means children born since that time could have siblings.

But things did not look like that.

During my stay there for quite a long time till now, nearly all the young children (not less than 500 in total) I met with told me that they have siblings from the same biological parents. And the recent death for romantic love of a young computer gamer nicknamed Fat Cat who is a native of Hunan Province of China, which is a buzz topic of social media is a case in point. He was born in 2000, which fell in the time period that China still implemented the one-child policy, and supposed to be a single child, but it turns out that he has two sisters, one elder, the other younger than himself. These two sisters were involved in the social media hype-up, so they were not possibly born in the time when China began to promote the two-child policy since 2016.

So there seems no real effect of the one-child policy as far as I know. Why is it so?

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    May start by looking at statistics instead of personal anecdotes?
    – quarague
    Commented May 20 at 5:41
  • To start with, I know that couples who had a girl could ask for a permission to have another children - so they could have a boy. The policy was stricter if you already had a boy. Also, the policy was stricter in overpopulated provinces and less so in the rest.
    – Rekesoft
    Commented May 20 at 6:36
  • You can calculate the average number of children from the official statistics of people who were born, died, existed. Unless that statistics is wrong and there truly are many more Chinese than thought (but why would anyone want to conceal that), you may have been extraordinarily lucky to met so many kids with siblings. Commented May 20 at 13:46
  • "my stay there for quite a long time till now" For the question it would be good to specify where exactly you stayed and for how long exactly. Maybe the birthrate in the place where you stayed was higher than average. Such things surely happen and may not be surprising. Commented May 20 at 15:49
  • @quarague In some official documents made in English by the Chinese government, such as Work Reports of the Central Government (or the State Council), they give the population of the country as 1.2 billion, 1.3 billion or 1.4 billion as they think fit, any of which is much higher than the figure 1 billion that they thought they could control by means of the one-child policy. That is the hard evidence that the policy fails. Commented May 21 at 10:19

3 Answers 3


The one-child policy was not uniform across the country, and also had a lot of exceptions. Examples:

  • In some places (the exact policy varies by region), you could have another child if your first child is a girl.
  • Similarly if the child is physically or mentally disabled)
  • Or dies young.
  • There's always the possibility that you have twins.
  • And of course, the penalty for having more than one child is a fine, and you can always pay the fine if you're able to afford it.

In your case, you have the easiest of options: just ask the young children you've met why their parents were allowed to have multiple children, in spite of the one-child policy.

  • 1
    Or they could just pay the fine, if they had money. law.stackexchange.com/questions/99870/… Commented May 21 at 1:13
  • You are right, I could have asked the young people for the answer. But at that time I did not realize that I would have such a question in my mind. And they did not seem to have the answer, because many young people in China do not care about things other than the game they are playing, the reality show they are interested in or the goods they buy online. Commented May 22 at 13:58

Something happened ten years before the policy has been introduced. Looking into decline curve as seen here, the reproduction rate dropped from 6 children per woman to the fully reasonable 2.5 in about 1970. The one child policy, introduced ten years later, initially had almost no impact for ten years. However in 1990 something else happened that rapidly pushed the rate down to 1.5 child per woman. Hence one child policy was likely "leaky". Surprisingly, removal of the policy only resulted in further decline.


The problem is you're looking for tangible proof. As with many things related to demographics, the problem isn't possible to recognize on a local scale.

One person with siblings does not paint a picture.

There's a Wikipedia article about China's gender imbalance

China's official census report from 2000 shows that there were 117 boys for every 100 girls. The sex imbalance in some rural areas is even higher, at 130 boys to 100 girls, compared to a global average of 105 or 106 boys to 100 girls. In 2021, the male-to-female ratio of China is recorded at 104.61 to 100.


Since prenatal sex determination became available in the mid-1980s, China has witnessed large cohorts of surplus males who were born at that time and are now of marriageable age. The estimated excess number of males was 2.3, 2.7, and 2.1 million in the years 2011, 2012, and 2013 respectively.[39] Over the next 20 years, a predicted excess of 10–20% of young men will emerge in large parts of China. These marriageable-age husbands-to-be, known as guang gun (光棍), translated as "bare branches" or "bare sticks", live in societies where marriage is considered as part of an individual's social status. Prenatal sex determination along with China's traditional preference for sons over daughters has left millions of men to compete over a limited number of brides, a phenomenon known as the marriage squeeze.

This is largely attributed to two things

  1. The Asian region in general prefers boys to girls. There is a large number of "missing women" (as in demographically) that likely numbers over 100 million.
  2. China's one-child policy

The latter is misunderstood as making extra children illegal. While this included infanticide, contraception and abortion, it could also include fines (Wikipedia One-child link)

The policy was enforced at the provincial level through contraception, abortion, and fines that were imposed based on the income of the family and other factors.

It's probable that Fat Cat's family was able to pay the fine, or were able to avoid the fine by being quiet about it. (Wikipedia One-child link)

If the family was not able to pay the "social child-raising fee", then their child would not be able to obtain a hukou, a legal registration document that was required in order to marry, attend state-funded schools, or to receive health care. Many who were unable to pay the fee never attempted to obtain their hukou for fear that the government would force extra fees upon them. Although some provinces had declared that payment of the "social child-raising fee" was not required to obtain a hukou, most provinces still required families to pay retroactive fines after registration.

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