A child looks at his reflection in a window in Beijing on November 17, 2013. On November 15 China's Communist rulers announced an easing of the country's controversial one-child policy as part of a raft of sweeping pledges including the abolition of its 're-education' labour camps and loosening controls on the economy.
Will couples in China now have more children?
02:05 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

New policy welcomed but few seem keen to have a second child

Others poke fun at the unexpected policy change

CNN  — 

From street corners to social media, Chinese have hailed the ending of the country’s one-child policy – but it seems few rushed to their bedrooms to celebrate.

“I want to have a second child but I won’t,” said Wendy Zhang, a 33-year-old pharmacist in Xi’an. “We both have to work, so no one would have time to take care of our children and our life would be too stressful.”

China announced that all couples would now be eligible for a second child on Thursday, reversing a controversial 35-year-old policy, but it seems that it may not have an immediate impact.

Some 100 million couples are expected to benefit from the relaxation of the rule, but of the more than 50,000 people responding to an Internet poll posted by a journalist on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, only 20% said they both wanted, and could afford, a second child.

It’s a sentiment shared by Zhou Juan, a 28-year-old vegetable seller.

“My kid is only three and I have spent at least 80,000 yuan raising her.”

But for others the policy shift simply came too late.

“I would want three kids if I had been allowed! But it was in the 1980s – raising kids was much easier then,” said Tian Xiling, a retired worker.

“Now my son can’t afford a second child. Food, clothing, education… all cost a fortune today.”

READ: Recollections of an only child

Devil’s in the details?

Online, some demanded to know the fine print before taking the plunge – China’s hasn’t said exactly when it will take effect and the move won’t formally be approved until March.

And a two-child policy doesn’t mean China is removing all controls on childbearing.

Most likely, married couples will still have to apply for birth permits and some commentators have suggested the new rules may require a specific interval between children.

Others feared pressure from over-eager family members: “Daughter-in-laws get ready to be nagged by your mother-in-laws,” Weibo user LYMLuWinnie predicted.

Lighter side

Many poked fun the about-face, which came largely as a surprise.

“Can Zhang Yimou get the 7.8 million yuan fine refunded?” quipped Weibo user Zhilifangdeyangshitou, referring to the famous movie director who had to apologize for his “excessive” children last year.

A widely shared cartoon read: “2005: Crackdown on illegal pregnancies! 2025: Crackdown on illegal contraception!

And undeterred by a potential drop in business, condom maker Durex sensed an opportunity:

“The larger the population, the greater the responsibility,” said a new tagline on its Weibo account.

OPINION: No triumph for human rights

China on child quote pix

More brides?

Li Sipan, a woman’s rights advocate in Guangzhou, said the move could end up misfiring as it doesn’t address inequality between men and women when it comes to the responsibilities of child rearing.

“If China isn’t going to come up with accompanying policies that’d lead to a more equal distribution of childcare duties between men and women, and push for affordable daycare services for communities, the burden will still fall on women,” she said in widely shared post on Weibo.

Some men, especially those labeled “bare branches,” relished the thought of having a bigger pool of prospective brides to choose from. Thanks to a traditional preference for sons that the one-child policy has compounded, China has a surplus of 34 million men.

While others seemed shocked that a policy that had so deeply shaped their lives could be gone so quickly:

“I can see an only child me like me becoming a cultural relic,” said Yu Ying, a doctor.

MORE: China’s one-child policy: 5 things to know

READ: Too little, too late?

Elaine Yu and Yazhou Huang in Hong Kong contributed to this report.