For many years, China has had a "one child" policy. The only exceptions have been farmers who need more than one child to help on the farm. There are also those who have children secretly. But any birth that is not authorized by the government is not allowed citizenship privileges. In China, all residents have a "hu kou" or residence permit. This permit defines where a person will live and work. I think you can change the location of where your permit resides, but it's not easy to do. So it is very important, if people want government benefits, that every birth is first okayed by the government leaders of the person's residence district.
If a person wants to have a baby, they must register with the local government where they hold a resident permit, for the year that they want to try to have a baby. If the person does not get pregnant in that year, they have to register again the next year. If they have a miscarriage, they may be told to wait awhile before trying again.
I assume there are fees that must be paid to register. I was told by my cleaning lady that if a person gets pregnant without permission, they will be forced to have an abortion. If they do not have the abortion, they will be fined, and the child will not get any benefits such as education and health care. The parents must pay high fees for their child to get these benefits. But some people have a lot of money, so don't care if they have to pay the fines and fees.
The new policy states that couples may be allowed to have a second child if one of the spouses is an only child. If both spouses have siblings, they will not be allowed to have a second child. This is how the government controls the population.
The interesting thing to me is to see how the "party line" has become engrained in to the psyche of the citizens. Even though they are now allowed to have a second child, many will not because they are convinced they can't afford a second child, and that the country is already over-populated. I think also that many people do not know how to parent families of multiple children. Most new parents today came from being an only child, so never had to help take care of other children. Almost every home has a set of grandparents living with them, and these grandparents are built in babysitters. So teenagers here are not asked to babysit. Typically a young newlywed will learn mothering skills from her own mother, or from her mother in law who lives with her after she has the baby. I really believe that because they have not had modeled for them how to raise multiple children, most people will not have the second child.
My cleaning lady, Ling Ling told me that when she got married she was quite ignorant of pregnancy, so didn't know she was pregnant until someone noticed her growing belly and suggested that she get it checked out by a doctor. She went to the doctor and found out she was 6 months pregnant. With her second pregnancy, when her stomach began to grow she went in to be checked out, but the doctor told her she wasn't pregnant. The doctor told her that he thought it was a tumor, but wouldn't give her help to go have an ultra sound in a neighboring city. In addition, she didn't have the money to pay for the testing, or for the trip, so didn't go. Then when she was a little farther along, they discovered she was actually pregnant. But because it was the doctor's fault that she was mis-diagnosed, she wasn't forced to have an abortion. So luckily, she was able to have two children.
It's actually quite frightening to me to know that there are countries in this world that control their population in this way. Child bearing is a fundamental human right! In my opinion, the family is the most important unit in society, and this control does great damage. In many countries, people are having just one child by choice. In many cases, the people in those countries aren't even replacing themselves! The "Zero-population" crowd is probably very pleased with this, but they will find that this attack on the family will bite them in the butt in the future.
While I'm glad that China has released the reins a tiny bit to allow people to have more than one child, I still hope that in the future these people are allowed total freedom with this basic human right. The cities in China are over-populated, but the country isn't. It isn't a matter of having too many people, it's bad government planning that forces people to have to crowd in to the city in order to have a better standard of living. I hope that China can get all of this figured out so that the people can begin to enjoy some of the freedoms of basic human rights.