The End of China’s One Child Policy: What are the Implications?


Established in 1979 as a means of reducing the population growth rate, China’s one child policy finally comes to an end.

Couples in the world’s most populous country will now be allowed to have two children, as a response to its problem of a rapidly ageing population. The Communist Party of China said, “The change of policy is intended to balance population development and address the challenge of an ageing population,” in a statement published by Xinhua, the official news agency.

The scrapping of the policy which is estimated to have prevented the birth of 400 million people is sure to have several long term consequences for the Chinese population. The policy reform is expected to mean an addition of 30 million people to the labour force by 2050 and a decrease of two percentage points in the share of elderly of the Chinese population, Wang Peian, the deputy head of the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) is reported to have said recently. Given China’s present demographic crisis, an increase in babies would not only help compensate for the large ageing population, but when these babies grow up, also increase the number of people who can support that population.

The one-child policy along with China’s gender preference for boys caused sterilizations, abortions and female infanticide to plague Chinese society. This means that not only is there a significantly wide gender gap today but also that gross human rights violations were committed as long as the policy was in place. Adam Pasick writes in The Atlantic ( that although the two child policy can’t change China’s cultural preference for boys, it might lower the pressure on couples if their first child is a girl. Additionally, it could also help reduce, and hopefully, stall, human rights violations such as female infanticide.

The ‘baby boom’ – when it happens- should increase the consumption of baby related goods such as infant formula, clothing and educational services. Pasick believes that one of the Chinese government’s key economic goals is to achieve a more consumption led growth as opposed to the highly export dependent economy it presently is.

The two child policy has not necessarily evoked happiness for all Chinese parents. Lei Lei, a Beijing resident tells The Indian Express that the cost of raising a child in China is high, and having another child will add to their already heavy financial burden. However, finally being given the option of having two children, after decades of severe policy enforcement, should surely be a refreshing change for Chinese parents.

While the two-child policy could have the mentioned positive consequences, The Guardian’s Mei Fong argues that it would take very long before these results start showing. She believes that not only did the one-child policy change the number of kids that a couple had, but has overall changed the way that Chinese people live their lives. Major life decisions such as marriage, employment, and retirement have all been shaped by the policy. Consequently, it is questionable whether the end of the policy will result in any sort of ‘baby boom’ that will undo its negative effects. Like everything in politics, this measure too has its fare share of supporters and critics. Time is the best judge and only time will tell whether the two-child policy will, in fact, prove to be the solution to China’s myriad problems.

By Easha Moitra 



The current situation in Gaza: Is there hope? Event Review

On the 12th of November, Professor Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Representative to Britain addressed Durham University students about the current situation in the conflict between Israel and Palestine that is causing massive violence and bloodshed in the Middle-East.

Professor Hassassain is a professor, politician and diplomat who has represented Palestine in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. His time is dedicated to raising awareness of the plight of Palestine in order to help change its future. In addition to diplomatic work, he has spoken at every university in the UK and is a self-proclaimed ‘unconventional diplomat’ with an academic background.

The professor began his lecture by outlining the poignant issues surrounding the Israel-Palestine war, strongly advocating a peaceful, political negotiation tactic over the deployment of arms. His strong, and of course inevitable, bias towards the Palestinian side was apparent throughout. He passionately outlined the human rights violations Israel has committed as a result of military deployment in the West Bank and criticised the leadership strategies used to tackle the issues in the conflict.

In addition to providing thought-provoking critique of past decisions and current policy, Professor Hassassain discussed the outlook for the future of the war-torn arears, warning that Israeli occupation of Palestine cannot last forever and that the geopolitical climate is a constantly changing field that should not be taken for granted.

The audience was then invited to ask the professor questions which often called into question the professor’s anti-Israeli stance on the debate. These included the subject of rockets launched against Israel, the question of diminishing Judaism’s rights in Jerusalem and the role of Netanyahu in the conflict. Professor Hassassain was able to answer every question in a confidently educate manner and certainly opened everyone’s mind to the Palestinian side of the debate, but hopefully not swaying them to neglect the opposing side of the conflict.

By Kate Dean

Yemen: A War, a Humanitarian Disaster and an International Failure

Image: Wall Street Journal

Image: Wall Street Journal

What started out as a civil war between a Westernised democracy and Islamic separatists in Yemen has become a proxy war between regional heavy weights Iran and Saudi Arabia. The story has been over-shadowed by greater instability in the Middle-East, but nonetheless it is shaping the regional dynamics. This conflict has a myriad of foundations such as religious rivalries, anti-Westernisation sentiments and the spread of radical Islam.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East. Sixty-five percent unemployment rate and an over-dependence on oil and gas reserves have opened a poverty trap where political, religious and social divides have flourished.  The government is weak and the tribal nature of Yemen has meant that the government has never controlled land outside of large cities leaving governing to tribal chiefs or worse terrorist groups and militias. This fragmented society has a history of being plagued by civil war with Yemen only being declared a country in 1990.

Let’s begin with the domestic uprising faced by the Yemeni government. The civil war in this failed state arose between the Shia Houthi and the Sunni population. The Houthis accuse the government of being propped up by America and Israel.  They have strong links to Hezbollah in Lebanon and are strong supporters of the Assad regime in Syria.  Hence, they reject the idea of a westernised and American funded Yemeni government.  Drone strikes targeting Al Qaeda have been carried out by the CIA since 2002 arguably fuelling the anti-American sentiment.  Also, there is another separatist movement in the South of the country who want to escape what they see as an oppressive state and the government’s inability to stem Al-Qaeda expansion in the South. This has given rise to militias run by tribes’ popular committees.

How did this civil war become an international proxy war? The divides in this conflict are deeply religious and cultural. They not only reflect the lack of cohesion between tribes of the same religion, but also between the other religions in the region.  Yemen’s majority Muslim population is split between mainly Sunni and Zaidi Shia Muslims. It is a bitter religious divide. Saudi Arabia, a key player in air strikes, is a majority Sunni Muslim country and borders on Yemen. Although, Yemen is vital to Saudi Arabia’s exports of oil to Asia across the Red Sea.  To add the complicated situation Iran, who back the Houthis separatists, is a majority Shia Muslim state and is one of the most stable and powerful states in the region. A Shia Houthi and Iranian controlled Yemen would be a great threat to their main export market and the strategic Red Sea coastline. Saudi Arabia fears growing Shia influence making Yemen an important battle ground. Furthermore, Western tensions with Iran and perhaps interest in the large natural gas reserves in Yemen have tied Western nations in particular the USA and the UK into backing Saudi led air strikes. The Saudi led coalition air strikes began in March 2015. Why did The West get involved? The USA and the UK have an invested interested in military action in Saudi Arabia as it is one of their largest arms export markets. The USA also regards Yemen as needing to maintain a secular democracy rather than Islamic control.  The main force of destruction are air strikes and heavy weaponry clashes.  This has resulted in war crimes committed by both Coalition and separatist forces.

The humanitarian crisis in Yemen, just like its war, is also complicated and seemingly without end.  Yemen has been declared a level three emergency by the UN. This is seen as the highest level of severity.  There are over 1.5 million internally displaced Yemeni people which is five times the recorded number in 2004. Intense Saudi border controls have left 78% of the population in urgent need of food, water and medical supplies.  Aid ships are allowed into the country, but they are insufficient to supply a country that imports 90% of its goods though bulk commercial shipping which is blocked.  Yemen is a transit country of mixed migration flows, including asylum-seekers and migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia. Refugee camps have been common place in Yemen for decades. Now with the addition of Yemeni people to the UN refugee camps aid is being pushed to the limit.

So month’s down the line who is winning? No one. As Houthis are being battered in their northern power house terrorist groups like IS and Al Qaeda have filled the vacuum. Sunni based IS have already targeted Shia mosques with suicide bomb attacks murdering more people in a country already torn from violence.  Long term peace in Yemen is looking slim.  It seems America’s Great Middle East Experiment has failed.

By Vicki Lincoln 

Does Linguistics Really Matter? A Review

Geoffrey K. Pullum, IvanFest, Stanford

Geoffrey K. Pullum, IvanFest, Stanford

Does linguistics really matter? – was the question posed by Professor Geoffrey K. Pullum to attendees of the Durham University Politics and International Relation Society on the 16th of October.

Although such a title may, on the surface, appear to have little relevance to the political world, Professor Pullum’s lecture was highly in tune with the politically oriented interests of his audience. Indeed, through an engaging use of case studies, Pullum invited students to become highly sceptical of linguistic based criticism of political speeches both by individuals and the press. For example, press organisation Reuters has been accused of bias against Palestine through use of the passive voice in reporting – however Professor Pullum was able to pick apart the argument against Reuters, by demonstrating a lack of the passive voice in its articles.

Moreover, through an employment of highly relevant examples, Pullum was able to demonstrate the importance of linguistics in political debates. Most memorably, a close analysis of the 2nd amendment of the American Constitution (the right to bear arms). He was able to pick out three serious syntactic and semantic errors with the amendment which he suggests is causing increased difficulty with the enforcement of laws banning guns in the US – for example, the vagueness of the sentence, ‘to keep and bear arms’, leads to difficulty interpreting the sentence as guns are never explicitly mentioned. After Pullum’s lecture, students were invited to ask questions to which he was able to provide detailed and thoughtful responses.

Pullum’s speech advocated the need for politically aware individuals to have an understanding of linguistics in order to be critical of press reports on individual speakers’ language use. He suggested that the simplicity of linguistic studies makes basic errors on behalf of reporters unforgiveable. The talk left students with a lot to think about and being a lot more aware of the dangers of simply believing all linguistic criticism in politics.

By Kate Dean

Second Speaker Event of Epiphany Term – EU: In or Out?

EU: In or Out? With Lord Liddle and Nikki Sinclaire

PolSoc were very pleased to welcome such a great turn out to our final event of Epiphany term, which was a debate on Britain’s place in the EU.

We heard from two esteemed speakers: Lord Liddle, Labour member of Lords, former special Advisor of European affairs to Tony Blair and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso. He is also currently chairman of the international think tank Policy Network.
Nikki Sinclaire is founder of the ‘We Demand a Referendum’ Party (offshoot of a campaign) in 2012, MEP of the West Midlands 2012-2014. She is a former UKIP representative, now an independent.

Lord Liddle gave us his views first: He asserted that a debate was required as to whether Britain stays in the EU. There is an unhelpful degree of exaggeration from both sides of the debate, and this needs straightening out. He pointed out that the economically, Britain’s prospects would be reduced if we left the EU. Europe needs strength against Asian investors, and if independent, Britain would have issues attracting global investors to ensure this strength. Notably, Britain is valuable to the US in its place in the EU.

Lord Liddle placed much emphasis on the importance of sovereignty. Global issues such as climate change can be better tackled in a group, and Britain has a better chance of having an impact in global affairs when part of the EU. Britain has always been an integral part of European and Global affairs – throughout history we have always had a say, or an impact, in foreign affairs. We need strength to maintain this ability. Lord Liddle admitted that a strong argument to leave the EU is centred on immigration problems. He agreed that these need to be addressed. However, he finished his speech with the uplifting image of young European citizens from all countries appreciating our monuments and culture together, to emphasise the idea of unity in Europe.

Nikki Sinclaire then presented her views on the topic. She began by asking us what we though the EU was, in order to show how its status and purpose have become confused and unclear. She pointed out that being part of the EU did not ensure security: Iceland, a non-EU member, is a happy, prosperous country, whereas Greece, an EU member, is suffering. She argued that each country in the union needs its own approach; there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Regarding trade, Ms Sinclaire argued that the EU was not necessary, and gave the example of Nissan’s ‘empty threats’ of cutting trade with Britain if we did not join the Euro. Britain does not need the EU for power: we are a permanent member of the Security Council, and the US needs us for convenience, not for our position in the EU. She strongly asserted the lack of democracy in the debate. MEPs do not have mandate of the British people to participate in meeting: Britain is merely a member in name. She argued that Britain needs to remain independent and govern our own country.

The floor was then open to questions.

Speaker Event: ‘Arab Militaries in the wake of the Arab Spring’

(Summary by Tom McGivan, PolSoc secretary)

On Tuesday 25th November, Robert Springborg spoke to Durham University Politics and International Relations Society about ‘Arab Militaries in the Wake of the Arab Spring’. It was a pleasure to welcome such an established expert on the Middle East region to speak about the recent uprisings and his thoughts on the future.

Springborg emphasised how the Arab Uprisings should be considered as a case in their own right due to the complexities of the region. He then went on to divide the region into monarchies, bully states, bunker states and then democracies.

Springborg explained how the Arab upheavals and reactions to them have resulted in a profound militarization of the Arab world.

In the republics this has taken the form of remilitarizing Egypt, further entrenching the power of Algeria’s military and possibly preparing the Tunisian military for an unaccustomed role in the future. In the other republics a Hegelian dialectic has pitted the kata`ib of regime supporting militaries against militias emerging from protest movements, with both sides attracting external support, including additional militias.

In the monarchies ruling families have bolstered their militaries by increasing their capabilities and by roping them together in collective commands. They have done so primarily to confront and put down further upheavals, wherever in the Arab world they might occur, but probably also as part of intensifying intra-family power struggles.

Lying atop this militarization is the U.S. presence in various forms, included as primary supplier and trainer, operator of autonomous bases, and/or orchestrator of counter terrorist campaigns.

This is a novel and dangerous development for the Arab world. The very existence of several of its key states is now in question as civil wars and insurgencies rage on. Those conflicts have already sucked in external forces and threaten to draw in more, while destroying whatever cohesion once existed in their militaries and other state institutions.

Militaries that in the past were either parade ground forces, such as those in Tunisia or several GCC states, or which had through peace lost their raison d’etre, such as in Egypt, are now being reinvigorated not only to combat internal threats, but as possible expeditionary forces to confront “terror” and instability in neighboring countries. This growth of military power may in many if not all cases be at the expense of whatever civilian control, whether royal or commoner, now exists.

– Thank you to those who attended, we hope you enjoyed the event.

– Our final speaker event of Michaelmas Term will take place Thursday 4th December

As America turns its focus away from mediation and towards viewing the region from a counter terrorist perspective, Springborg concluded on something of a worried note. He argued that creating a clear and conflict-free future will be difficult and will require careful policy making from all parties.

Speaker Event: ‘The Future of the U.S Democrats’ 4/11/14

Last Thursday, PolSoc were very pleased to welcome Dr Jon Herbert from Keele University, and our own Professor John Dumbrell for our second speaker event, ‘The Future of the US Democrats’. The event was in a spacious chemistry lecture theatre, and this week was in the format of a discussion, in which Dr Herbert and Professor Dumbrell were invited to discuss 5 questions posed by PolSoc on the topic.

  1. To what extent did the results represent a referendum on Obama’s presidency?

Prof. Dumbrell suggested that the results did not display a hugely uneven split, and that the Democrats’ popularity was not too outweighed. Dr. Herbert then replied with the suggestion that the Democrats’ popularity varied from state to state, depending on the effect of factors such as immigration and healthcare in each individual state.

  1. What do midterms mean for the rest of Obama’s term as President?

Prof. Dumbrell and Dr Herbert implied that both the Republicans and Democrats would attempt to change their image. Instead of radical policies from the Republicans, and the aim of undercutting the rivals, both parties will try to improve their own party, and in that way undermine the opposition. Dr Herbert added that the Republicans would be in danger of tearing themselves to pieces, with many very conservative and thus radical members elected.

3 What are the significant policy areas that are likely to cause tension over the next two years?

Prof Dumbrell was adamant that with Obama thinking about his legacy, he is most likely to focus on his foreign policy. Dr Herbert suggested that Obama would pick up on issues such as healthcare, immigration and economy, as it would benefit him to be seen to be taking action in these areas.

  1. To what extent to the results show an increasingly unbalanced US between North and South?

Both Prof Dumbrell and Dr Herbert agreed that the division between the north and south had always been profound, and that now the south was resolutely Republican. Dr Herbert implied that this was due to low wages since the recession, and also a spilt between rural and urban areas regarding economy.

  1. How has this changed the playing field for the 2016 Presidential election?

Prof Dumbrell proposed that the election will have a larger turn out than in 2014, and hinted at the controversial thesis of the ‘emerging Democratic society’, which suggests that the Democrats will most likely take the lead in future. Dr Herbert commented on the fact that Obama offered something “fresh” and more diverse, whilst the choice of Hilary Clinton would potentially be falling back a generation. He also observed that the potential of the growing Hispanic vote would be a large factor in the next election.

We hope that all of those who attended enjoyed the evening, and please note our next speaker event is Thursday 25th November.

Our next social is Thursday 20th November at Whisky River (see Facebook group for details and event).