World Bulletin/News Desk
China is not considering a broad relaxation of its strict one-child policy despite an easing of existing rules since it would be too disruptive, the health ministry said on Saturday.
The government announced on Friday that it would allow millions of families to have two children in the country's most significant liberalization of its strict one-child policy in about three decades. China, the world's most populous nation, has nearly 1.4 billion people.
Couples in which one parent is an only child will now be able to have a second child, one of the highlights of a sweeping package of reforms announced after the ruling Communist Party held a key meeting that mapped out policy for the next decade.
The plan to ease the policy was envisioned by the government about five years ago as officials worried that the strict controls were undermining economic growth and contributing to a rapidly ageing population the country had no hope of supporting financially.
In a statement carried on the ministry's website, deputy director Wang Peian said if everyone were suddenly allowed to have two children it would cause too many problems.
"Adjusting and perfecting family planning policy is not the same as abandoning it," he said.
"There has been no fundamental change to the fact that we are a very populous country, and the pressures on the economy, society, resources and the environment will be around for a long time," Wang added.
"The basic policy of family planning will need to be upheld over the long term and we cannot rest up on this."
Wang did not give a timeframe for when the new relaxed policy would begin, only that it would not take long and it would be up to each province to decide.
In areas where people were more likely to be able to take advantage of the relaxation, the government would encourage couples not to quickly have a second child, he said, to "prevent a rush of births".
A growing number of scholars has long urged the government to reform the policy, introduced in the late 1970s to prevent population growth spiralling out of control, but now regarded by many experts as outdated and harmful to the economy.
Although it is known internationally as the one-child policy, China's rules governing family planning are more complicated. Under current rules, urban couples are permitted a second child if both parents do not have siblings and rural couples are allowed to have two children if their first-born is a girl.
There are numerous other exceptions as well, including looser rules for ethnic minorities.
But any couple violating the policy has to pay a large fine.
Wang said the system of punishments would also remain.
Many analysts say the one-child policy has shrunk China's labour pool, hurting economic growth. For the first time in decades the working age population fell in 2012, and China could be the first country in the world to get old before it gets rich.
Appeal for unity
Meanwhile, a senior Chinese leader has appealed to members of the ruling Communist Party to unite around a key reform plan and shoulder the "historic" responsibility of making sure it is followed through, state media said.
Zhang Dejiang, number three in the party's hierarchy and head of China's largely rubber-stamp parliament, told officials that the reform plan was an "important political task", Xinhua news agency said. The article was published in full on Saturday by the official party newspaper, the People's Daily.
"Fully understand the important meaning of the plenum," Zhang said, referring to the party's Nov 9-12 meeting which agreed on the reform roadmap.
"Work as one to put into effect and enact the policy decisions and plans," he said.
China unwrapped its boldest set of economic and social reforms in nearly three decades on Friday, relaxing its one-child policy and further freeing up markets in order to put the world's second-largest economy on a more stable footing.
The announcement of the sweeping changes helped dispel doubts about the leadership's zest for the reforms needed to give the economy fresh momentum as three decades of breakneck expansion show signs of faltering. However, the reforms may take years to implement.
A document released by the Communist Party following the conclave of its senior leaders promised land and residence registration reforms needed to boost China's urban population and allow its transition to a western-style services- and consumption-driven economy.
Still, Xi and his team gave themselves until 2020 to achieve "decisive" results - a tacit acknowledgement of the risks involved in Beijing's balancing act between letting market forces eventually take over and preserving financial and social stability and the Communist Party's political monopoly.
Zhang said the document had "deep historic meaning" and that party members must "dare to take on responsibility" to follow and enforce its directives.
State newspapers on Saturday largely confined themselves to reprinting the lengthy document in full without comment.
However, the Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the People's Daily, warned that reform would not be easy, especially for vested interest groups which had a lot to lose.
Analysts have said reducing the hold of often massive state-owned companies over the economy will be one of the trickiest tasks.
"Reading the document closely, many of the clauses touch upon the interests of certain people, even though they accord with the overall interests of society," the Global Times said in an editorial.
"For reform to proceed smoothly, those who are opposed to or not happy with certain projects ... should be let down softly. The more this happens, the stronger support will be for reform," it added.
"If forced breakthroughs become the commonly employed method, then reform will be bumpy."Last Mod: 16 Kasım 2013, 10:59