Family planning has been promoted as one of the basic state policies in China, the policy combining government guidance with voluntary compliance by citizens. The government guidance includes: formulation by the central and local governments of policies and legislation for controlling population growth, improving the population quality and structure, as well as macro population development plans. The governments also provide consultation, instruction and technical services concerning reproduction care, contraception, good childbirth and good rearing. Voluntary compliance of citizens means that couples of child-bearing age, with the provisions of the relevant state policies and regulations, can choose appropriate contraception methods in a responsible and planned way, in accordance with their age, health, employment and financial situations.
The basic requirements of family planning are late marriage and late childbearing, having fewer but healthier babies, especially one child per couple. But a flexible family planning policy is adopted for rural people and ethnic minorities. In rural areas, couples may have a second baby in exceptional cases, but must wait several years after the birth of the first child. In areas inhabited by minority peoples, each ethnic group may work out different regulations in accordance with its wish, population, natural resources, economy, culture and customs: in general a couple may have a second baby, or a third child in some places. As for ethnic minorities with extremely small populations, a couple may have as many children as they want.
Since the initiation of the family planning policy, late marriage, late childbearing and fewer but healthier babies have become the accepted norms of most people in China. Meanwhile, family planning has helped Chinese women escape the burden of frequent childbearing and heavy family responsibilities after marriage, thus improving the health of mothers and children alike.