A Chinese official said Tuesday that the deteriorating imbalance in the sex-ratio of newborns in China was not caused by the country's 33-year-old family planning policy.
However, the official admitted that the two were "related" and that the policy had "contributed to the imbalance."
"But that's not to say the policy has led to a rise in the imbalance," Zhang Weiqing, director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC) told a press briefing.
Formulated in the early 1970s, China's family planning policy encourages late marriages, late childbearing and limits most urban couples to one child and most rural couples to two.
Wang Guoqiang, vice director of the NPFPC, said China's family planning policy wasn't a "one-child policy". While couples in large cities and some rural areas have only one child, they accounted for only 36 percent of the total population, according to Wang.
In 19 rural provinces couples are allowed to have a second child if the first born is a girl. These families represent 53 percent of the population. Wang explained that there were different policies for different areas.
Zhang pointed out that other eastern countries-such as India, the Republic of Korea and Pakistan-also have unbalanced newborn sex ratios even though they don't have China's type of family planning policy.
The official blamed several factors for the growing imbalance including the traditional Chinese preference for boys, lower levels of development, an inadequate social security network in rural areas and the excessive use of ultrasound technology.
China's gender ratio for newborn babies in 2005 was 118 boys for 100 girls compared with 110 to 100 in 2000. In some regions the figure has reached 130 boys for every 100 girls.
In a statement, jointly issued by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, the authorities said the increasingly unbalanced sex ratio was "a hidden danger" for society that will "affect social stability."
To solve the problem, Zhang said China would take "comprehensive" measures including promoting rural productivity and improving people's living standards.
Zhang pledged that the government would take strict measures to prevent and punish illegal gender testing of fetuses and abortions which are not for medical purposes. "China doesn't use abortion as a birth control method," Zhang said.
Abortion is available to unmarried youngsters, but the government also provides sex education for young people to reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancies and promote sexual health.
He said the government would also improve the social security system in rural areas so that "elderly people are properly cared for".
The majority of China's rural residents aren't covered by the social security system and farmers traditionally rely on their children, especially boys, when they get old.
The government will also take further measures to promote equality between men and women and to improve the social and economic status of girls and women, Zhang said.
In an attempt to halt the growing imbalance, China launched a "care for girls" campaign nationwide in 2000 to promote equality between men and women. The government has also offered cash incentives to girl-only families in the countryside.
Zhang said solving the sex ratio imbalance would be "very difficult" and the country "needs 10 to 15 years to get China's newborn sex ratio back to normal."
He said China would maintain a fertility rate of 1.8. And the family planning policy wouldn't be changed during the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010). The country is in the midst of another baby boom so it is definitely not the right time to ease up on the birth control policy, Zhang said.
China is expected to increase spending on family planning from 10 yuan to 30 yuan (US$3.85) per person by 2010, according to a document jointly issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council.
China's government has pledged to keep the mainland population under 1.36 billion by 2010 and under 1.45 billion by 2020.
(Source: Xinhua News Agency January 23, 2007)