Yao Dawei/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Yao Dawei/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Chinese Communist party leaders recently declared in an official communiqué that the government could begin to slightly relax its infamous one-child policy. Though vague, the new plan will apparently allow certain couples to have more than one child, assuming one of the parents is an only child.

But the U.S. shouldn’t be lulled into thinking that China has had a dramatic change of heart about human rights issues. In fact, just a few days after the announcement, one Chinese official admitted that “the number of couples covered by the new policy is not very large across the country,” and that “the basic state policy of family planning will be adhered to over a long period of time.”

Since the policy was instituted in the 1970s, the birth rate in China has declined so severely that it is far below replacement rate. Such extreme population reduction will make it virtually impossible for the current generation to replace the aging workforce, which will have dire consequences for China’s economy.

The policy has also had a disastrous impact on Chinese families. Barring a few exceptions, Chinese parents currently face steep fines for having a second child, expenses that often stack up to more than some citizens’ average annual salaries. In rural areas, parents of a second child may pay 40,000 yuan ($6,500), while in Shanghai, many of them will pay over 110,000 yuan ($17,300).

In a culture where many parents prefer sons to daughters, but are allowed only one child, sex-selective abortions have become common. The coercive one-child policy has helped lead to over 40 million “missing women” in China as baby girls are disproportionately aborted or killed after birth. The shortage of women in China has led to a demand for mail-order brides and helps drive the trafficking of women and girls from neighboring countries in sexual slavery.

Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng in his recent address at the Witherspoon Institute said that the United States should:

apply all resources and means to help terminate China’s evil one-child policy and forced abortions. Forcing women to abort their babies is a violation of universal human rights. It tramples on women’s rights, the right of free choice, and also the sacred right of life. This wicked policy results in a severe imbalance in gender ratio and a rapidly aging population.

As its impact puts a chokehold on the Chinese economy, the U.S. and the international community should encourage China to eliminate its oppressive one-child policy.

Mary Moody is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.