The nation's top population official has ruled out any drastic change to the family planning policy, including the one-child rule, for at least the next decade.
Zhang Weiqing, minister of the State Population and Family Planning Commission, said a policy change, if needed, would come only after the end of a new birth peak that will last for the next 10 years.
"The current family planning policy, formed as a result of gradual changes in the past two decades, has proved compatible with national conditions," he said in an interview with China Daily.
"So it has to be kept unchanged at this time to ensure stable and balanced population growth."
He said the one-child rule, as an indispensable part of the family planning policy, should be maintained for now.
The country faces a new birth peak in the next 10 years, when nearly 200 million people enter childbearing age.
"Given such a large population base, there would be major fluctuations in population growth if we abandoned the one-child rule now," he warned.
"It would cause serious problems and add extra pressure on social and economic development."
The minister made the remarks on the sidelines of the annual session of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in response to widespread rumors that the government is considering the possibility of scrapping the one-child rule.
The two-decade rule, which applies to only less than 40 percent of the country's population, has averted about 400 million births.
But there have been growing calls for it to be overhauled to help address problems such as a widening gender imbalance and the acceleration of an aging society.
Zhang, however, stressed that the emerging problems should not be blamed solely on the one-child rule and "it will be simplistic" to try to find a solution with a one-cut approach.
He said that the immediate scrapping of the one-child rule at this time would cause more problems than it would solve.
"After the new birth peak ends, we may adjust the policy if there is a need," the minister said.
The country's population, which stands at more than 1.3 billion and is growing annually by 16-17 million, is expected to peak at 1.5 billion in the mid-2030s. The current birth rate is 1.8 per female.
Zhang called for better understanding of the family planning policy, which he said is holistic.
"It is inappropriate to consider the one-child rule as synonymous with the family planning policy," he said.
The rule restricts only 35.9 percent of the population, mostly in large- and medium-sized cities, to one child. But urban couples who are both only children can have two children, he said.
In rural areas of 19 provinces, couples are allowed to have a second child if their first is a girl. This applies to 52.9 percent of the population.
In addition, more than 11 percent of the population, mostly minority groups, is free to have two or more children.
(China Daily March 10, 2008)