mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
The Perverse Consequences of China's One-Child Policy

Wealthy Chinese families appear to have found a way around China’s one-child policy: pay a huge pile of money to middlemen agencies that will help them find a surrogate mother to give birth to a “designer baby” in the United States. And there are other side-benefits to this arrangement: once the child reaches 21, she can apply for green cards for her parents.

At least one Chinese agent promotes surrogacy as a cheaper alternative to America’s EB-5 visa, which requires a minimum investment in a job creating business of $500,000.

While the basic surrogacy package Chinese agencies offer costs between $120,000 and $200,000, “if you add in plane tickets and other expenses, for only $300,000, you get two children and the entire family can emigrate to the U.S.,” said a Shanghai-based agent.

Meanwhile, the poor in China are much more likely to face fines, forced abortions and sterilizations for violating the law. How likely is the one-child policy to end any time soon? An opponent of the policy has been asking provincial government officials to disclose how much they had collected in fines over family planning over the past year. The numbers are eye-opening:

The Beijing News report said Mr. Wu, the lawyer, obtained data showing that Jiangxi Province had collected the most in fines of the 19 provinces that replied to him; it amassed $554 million in 2012. Sichuan was second with $400 million, and Fujian was third with $340 million. The provinces that collected the least were Qinghai, with $572,000, and Ningxia, with about $2 million. Both have low populations compared with most other provinces, and they are also home to many rural residents and ethnic minorities, who have more leeway in the number of children they can have without incurring fines.

We have been optimistic that China’s barbaric policy was headed for history’s dustbin. But with these kinds of vested interests having such large financial incentives to keep the status quo in place, we should have perhaps been a bit less sanguine.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Corlyss

    “the poor in China are much more likely to face fines, forced abortions and sterilizations for violating the law.”

    Wow! There’s a delicious irony. The Chinese produce more wealthy families, many of whose members will be technically American, while the US incentivizes the production of more native and immigrant fatherless poor dependents on the nanny state.

    Something’s wrong with this picture.

  • Pete

    ” …once the child reaches 21, she can apply for green cards for her parents.”


    Oh how politically correct Mead’s kiddies are.

    The odds of one of the designer babies being a ‘she’ is way south of 50%, given that the Chinese already abort females at a highly disproportionate rate.

  • lukelea

    Many primitive societies practiced female infanticide. The resulting surplus of males was usually gotten rid of through warfare and internecine fighting among young males. Marriage of nubile females was monopolized by the surviving class of middle-aged males. Not a happy prospect.

    • Andrew Allison

      Doesn’t sound bad to me LOL

  • Andrew Allison

    Yet another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences (

  • Kevin

    Senior members of the CCP have to be aware of the demographic implications of this policy, especially with an aging workforce. I would love to know why they want to continue it. How do they see the costs and benefits of it? Is it really just maintained due to policy inertia and bureaucratic self interest? There must be something else to their calculations than this. Is it that they think it’s easier to manage a declining aging population rather than a turbulent young one?

  • Jane the Actuary

    The “law of unintended consequences” starts a generation earlier, as Mao encouraged the Chinese to have lots of kids, prior to his successor discovering that growing the population wasn’t such a great idea.

    In any case, it’s another indication of how lousy our government is that we still adult children to sponsor their parents and siblings for immigration to the United States.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service