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If Chinese culture valued girls and boys equally, would the one-child policy have caused as much grief as it did?

One could argue that if Chinese culture valued girls and boys equally, then the one-child policy would not have caused as much grief as it did. Because Chinese culture has traditionally valued boys more than girls, many mothers aborted or abandoned their female children. If girls had the same value as boys in China, these mothers would likely not have been compelled to do such things.

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This is an interesting question, and there is no exact answer to it. However, one could argue that yes, if Chinese culture valued girls as much as boys, then the one-child policy would not have caused such grief.

The one-child policy was implemented in China in the late 1970s to slow the country’s rapid population growth. This policy was problematic, though, because Chinese culture has valued having sons over daughters for thousands of years. This cultural value can be traced back to agrarian times, during which physical strength was of great importance. Over time, a patriarchal culture emerged in which men could earn more money. Having a son is thus preferable to many Chinese parents because a son will be more likely to provide them with financial support than a daughter.

The one-child policy suddenly meant that there was only one chance for a couple to have a son. Many women who became pregnant with daughters began to abort the fetuses in order to have another chance at having a son. Parents also put their daughters up for adoption, abandoned them, or killed them. If Chinese culture valued girls to the same extent as boys, parents in theory would not have been compelled to do these things. Similarly, many people who did have more than one child would have to raise the second child in secret without legal documents that ensured that the child was a citizen.

The one-child policy also had a long-term impact on the Chinese population’s sex ratio. In 2016, there were 33.59 million more men than women. This was also the year that the government decided to relax the policy and permit up to three children. Hopefully, over time, there will be more of a balance between the sexes and women will start to have more value in society.

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