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The big news of the week is that China’s one-child policy is being relaxed. After 34 years when most Chinese families were officially limited to only one child, most couples will now be allowed to have two children. The reality, however, is that it will make very little difference.

It will make little difference because only about one-third of Chinese couples were still living under those restrictions anyway. The one-child limit never applied to ethnic minorities, and in the past 15 years it has rarely applied to people living in rural areas either: Couples whose first child was a girl are almost always allowed to have a second child (in the hope that it will be a boy).

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