Watch CBS News

In China, "lonely" girl welcomes change to one-child policy

The move comes as China grapples with an aging workforce and a gender imbalance
Inside the battle to end China's one-child policy 03:21

China is preparing to implement one of its most sweeping social changes in the last 35 years. The government will allow married couples to have two kids.

Shares of companies making baby items - everything from strollers to infant formula - initially went up with the news. As China grapples with an aging workforce and a gender imbalance, many welcomed the elimination of the deeply unpopular one-child policy, like ten-year-old Wang Shubei, who always wished she had a sibling, reports CBS News correspondent Seth Doane.

China ends controversial one-child policy 01:29

"I feel lonely. Since I was little, there haven't been many kids that I can play with," Shubei said.

For years, her parents fought to have a second child, even publicly protesting for the right.

"When I heard the news, I couldn't believe it," Shubei's mother, Cao Juanhui, said in Chinese. "I read the official document over and over. It was always in our dreams, but also beyond our dreams."

The penalties of having a second child would have been significant for the family, as Shubei's father, Wang Guoping, works in a state-owned company.

"If we had a second baby, he would've been fired or forced to quit," said Juanhui.

"Yes, that's true," Guoping added. "The fine could've been nearly $50,000."

The controversial one-child policy was designed to combat a booming population and to lessen the financial burden on families and the state.

Health officials claim at least 400 million births were avoided. But enforcement could be draconian - sometimes including forced abortion and sterilization.

Some parents preferred male children and aborted female fetuses. Today, there are 33 million more men than women in China.

China's workforce is also shrinking, its population aging, and Juanhui worries about the stress on her daughter.

"When we get old, she'll be the only one taking care of us," Juanhui said.

They're ready to start trying to have another child, and their daughter has already given some thought to the brother-versus-daughter question.

Shubei says she prefers having a sister "because a little brother is very naughty."

China's rubber-stamp parliament still has to formally approve the change to this controversial policy. In recent years, China has been experimenting with allowing some couples to have a second child, but it hasn't been successful as the government had hoped.

Many demographers believe this change may be too little too late to combat China's declining fertility rate.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.