The policy, implemented in 1979 to combat overpopulation and accompanying environmental problems, has been variably enforced over the years, and extremely controversial, leading to discrimination against some sub-populations (including females).
There have been calls to scrap it before: in March 2007 some 30 delegates at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference called on the government to abolish the one-child rule because “it creates social problems and personality disorders in young people.” (AsiaNews) An aging population, increasing gender bias, and changing attitudes to family size (apparently most couples now want fewer than 2 children anyway, Reuters) have been posited as reasons for change.
The latest reports originate with comments by family planning chief Zhao Baige, who told reporters she wanted an “incremental” change in the policy (BBC). CNSNews suggests the conversation has been spurred by increased attention on Chinese human rights in the run-up to the Olympics there.
China’s media carries a related story about how the negative population growth seen in Shanghai since 1993 looks set to switch over to positive growth soon (Xinhua; Shanghai Daily). This is because the single-child generation is growing up, and now having children of their own: by the current rules, if a man and woman are both the single child in their families, they are allowed to have two babies.