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China ends its one-child policy after 35 years

Chinese retailers idle in empty malls as shoppers go onlineChinese retailers idle in empty malls as shoppers go online
Young Chinese students play electronic games at a stall in an empty electronics mall in Zhongguancun, Beijing, China.Photograph by Song jiaru — Imaginechina/AP

China is lifting its three-decade one-child policy, the official news agency Xinhua reported today after top Communist Party members finished a four-day planning session to shape policies for the next five years.

The government rarely shares information about the meeting until weeks or months later. But the immediate signs point to a recognition by the government that China is in danger of growing old before it gets rich.

The country’s National Bureau of Statistics has said that by 2030, one in four Chinese will be over 60. That’s a breaking point for many countries that rely on young labor for growth, like China still does.

More information will likely leak out of the main Party apparatus in the next few weeks. For now, this is the biggest decision out of China to break with its past family planning policies since they were enacted in 1980.

The World Bank estimated China’s population at 1.357 billion in 2013, over four times the size of the U.S.’s and three times the size of the European Union’s. However, population growth has flattened out in recent years, and current U.N. projections suggest it will be overtaken by India as the world’s most populous country by 2022.