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NLM Announces New Online Exhibition, "Family Planning and Socioeconomic Development: Posters from China"


The History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) announces the release of a new online exhibit, Family Planning and Socioeconomic Development: Posters from China. Based in the Library's premier collection of posters and ephemera from the People's Republic of China, the exhibit features over 30 images ranging from the 1950s through the 1990s, from the first years of the People's Republic, through the Cultural Revolution, and into the recent era of rapid social change and economic growth. Curated by Dr. Liping Bu, professor of history at Alma College, the exhibit includes material on birth control, national development and family planning, and the unintended effects of a nation of one-child families. The exhibit may be found at: //

As one of the most populous countries in the world, China saw the need to have a strong family planning policy. Debate about family planning began in the mid-1950s, linked to plans for national development. The country launched family planning campaigns in 1956-1957, 1962-1966, and from 1971 to the present. The third family planning campaign emphasized wan, xi, shao (晚, wan, late marriage; 稀, xi, longer birth spacing; 少, shao, fewer children). Two-child families were promoted through public education campaigns, and a one-child policy was adopted in 1978. More than the previous two, this campaign was pursued consistently and effectively, supporting a variety of birth control methods coupled with rewards and penalties. As a result, China's general fertility rate dropped significantly, from 5.75 children per woman in 1970 to 2.12 in 1985. With this policy's success, though, came new social stresses, played out along geographical, generational, and gender lines, and showing a society still grappling with its population pressure.

This site joins four other online exhibitions of Chinese public health images: Health for the People: Continuity and Change in Asian Medicine (2010), Consumptive Disease: Chinese Anti-Tuberculosis Posters, 1950-1980 (2010), Chinese Anti-Malaria Posters (2009), and Chinese Public Health Posters (2006). All are available at: //


 Poster 1

 "计划生育好处多! Family Planning Has Many Advantages"

(Produced by Ningpo City's Health Bureau, Red Cross Association, and the Science and Technology Association; June 1963.)




Poster 2 

"计划生育好处  Family Planning Has Many Advantages"

(Produced by the Family Planning Leadership Office of Jilin Province, n.d., circa 1975.)





Poster 3 

"围着太阳转 Revolving Around the Sun (the child is the center of the family)"

(Created by Hua Junwu 华君武.)