Associated Press

October 12, 1997

China Defends One-Child Policy

BEIJING (AP) -- China, the world's most populous country, would have 300 million more people if not for its policy limiting most families to one child, Premier Li Peng said Sunday.

China imposed the restriction in the 1970s to sustain economic development after revolutionary leader Mao Tse-tung had encouraged the Chinese to have large families.

Li said the birth rate dropped from 26 per 1,000 in 1970 to 10.42 per 1,000 last year, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

``This has not only eased pressures on China's economic and social development but also contributed to world population control,'' Xinhua quoted Li as saying at the 23rd International Union for the Scientific Study of Population.

But China's population is still growing faster than the government would like. It hit 1.2 billion people in 1995, five years ahead of target, and some project it will reach 1.3 billion by 2000.

The one-child policy has been unpopular and, in the countryside, often ignored. But Li insisted it was necessary for China to have the resources to end poverty for 50 million of its worst-off citizens.

The population restrictions have also been criticized for encouraging forced abortions and sterilizations, although the government insists the policy does not condone them.

The policy has produced other unintended consequences. In the coming decades, China's aging population will have to be supported by a vastly smaller workforce. At the same time, China is trying to set up a new social security system that relies more on worker contributions.