China's population and family planning program has heen successful. Women's fertility as measured by total fertility rate (TFR) has declined from 5.8 in 1970 to 2.3 in 1990, accordingly the annual crude birth rate(CBR) has declined from 34 per thousand in 1970 to 21 per thousand in 1989, and the annual natural growth rate from 2.6 percent in 1970 to 1.4 percent in 1989 (Coale and Chen, 1987; SSB, 1991; Gu, 1994). While this is indeed an astonishing achievement for a developing country to have its fertility down to replacement within a short period, some new issues emerging along with the rapid fertility decline require careful considerations. One of them is the uprising of the sex ratio at birth in China. The 1990 population census reported the sex ratio at birth in China of 113.8 in 1989, which is ohviously much higher than the acceptable level of normal ratio around 106. It has received since then a lot of tention in China and abroad, among demographic professionals and governmental agencies alike (Hull, 1990; Johansson and Nygren, 1991; Xuand Guo, 1991; Tu, 1993; Gu and Xu, 1994; among others). Based on the available demographic data and research results this paper will first have a review of the patterns and trends of sex ratio at birth in China, then turn to the immediate causes of abnormal sex ratio at birth and the determinants of the son preference, followed with a conceptual framework for understanding of the phenomenon, and finally the policy implications and recommendations will be discussed.
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