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Inside China's ruling party Leadership changes
Voices from modern China

Zhao Baige, 50, is director-general of the state Family Planning Commission in Beijing. She has a PhD from Cambridge University and once worked in the US for five years.

"In 1988, when I was in the US, my government contacted me saying that they wanted me to come back to join in the family planning work.

I thought: 'You came from China, you should do something for your own country, serve women of your country on your own land.'

It gave me a good platform to use my management skills learned from my previous career in different countries.

I really think it is an exciting experience to be part of the process of economic and social development. Population development has close relations with everyone's lives.

Family planning reform

In 1994 the Chinese government started thinking about the reform of the Chinese population – nowadays more people accept the new concept.

When I came back from the US I discovered the changes.

At the grassroots level, family planning was changing in four different ways: from demographically-driven to client-orienated; from family planning to reproductive health; from administration-orientated to client-orientated and from hospital-based to community-based.

I could not agree with the description 'one child policy' which was widely used in media coverage.

'Misconceptions'

From 1980 the Chinese Government started to encourage city dwellers to have one child. But in rural areas people can have two, ethnic minorities can have three, and Tibetans can have as many as they like.

Because of this misconception it is not easy to clearly describe the fertility problem – we should have a better and clearer description for the public.

We have to speak loudly to the international community – everybody talks about the 'one-child policy'.

Also you have to identify the real issue – the problem is we should set up a human-centred family planning policy. In the past we emphasised stabilising the population.

Changing emphasis

Today we should concentrate not only on stabilisation but on providing a service.

We have provided different kinds of citizens’ rights, but because the population size is so big, we need to keep a balance.

As I said, in 1994 China had some reforms, and one of them was the transformation of economic development from the planned economy to the market economy. This made people change their attitudes – to pay attention to their quality of life and their freedom.

For example, we visited one small village with a UK parliamentary team. One delegate kept asking a woman if he could see her land. The woman said 'yes' and took him to her limited land, and the man kept asking her 'Is this your land? This is not very big.'

She answered: 'I only have two children. If we had four children, maybe I would like more land.'

In another village, a parliamentary representative asked a lady: 'What is your dream for your two daughters?'. She answered: 'That they grow up to be strong and can go to university, and even could study at university in your country.'

So we can see through these two stories that as China is changing, people are starting to think about how they should take responsibility for the family.

Abortion

Abortion in China is legal, but if you compare with Western countries, the abortion rate in China is lower than in some other countries.

The majority of people in the countryside can get a free family planning service – sterilisation, or IUD (coil), condoms or pills.

I want to stress that we are not considering abortion in China as a family planning method. We promote contraceptives instead of abortion.

In the country the abortion rate is going down, but in the cities the rate is going up because of the changes in the sexual behaviour of adolescents and the increasingly young age at which they become sexually active.

At the moment, we are promoting a wider scope of services, including education and services for adolescents, aimed at HIV/Aids prevention.

Looking to the future

I have one son. Before I went to study in the UK I had my lovely son. I love him very much and I try my best to help him.

I think if we can shoulder our responsibilities our children can become very talented and contribute to society. I think my son will grow up to be like me.

Having accepted both oriental and Western education and gained career experiences in the East and the West, I am very proud of the civilisation and history of my country.

At the same time I also appreciate the civilisation and values of the West which emphasises the rights, dignity and motivation of individuals.

We should admit and tolerate different ideologies developed from different cultures and history.

I believe this difference also reflects on the issues of population and development. Therefore we should learn from others' strong points to offset one's own weaknesses."

"I could not agree with the description 'one child policy'"


A mother walks with her son in Shanghai

"We are not considering abortion as a family planning method"


"Today we should concentrate not only on stabilisation but on providing a service"

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