Following a government debate over easing birth control,China's family planning chief said Monday that the controversial one-child policy in China will remain for at least ten more years.
Any changes to strict family planning laws would only come after an expected peak in the number of births in the next decade, Zhang Weiqing, minister of the State Population and Family Planning Commission told the state-run China Daily.
"The current family planning policy, formed as a result of gradual changes in the past two decades, has proved compatible with national conditions," the English language daily quoted him as saying.
"So it has to be kept unchanged at this time to ensure stable and balanced population growth."
Nearly 200 million Chinese will enter childbearing age in the next 10 years, the report said.
"Given such a large population base, there would be major fluctuations in population growth if we abandoned the one-child rule now," Zhang added.
"It would cause serious problems and add extra pressure on social and economic development."
Zhang's firm line was the latest rebuttal from central government authorities to officials who appeared to raise the possibility of changes ahead of the annual meeting of China's parliament, which started last week.
Zhao Baige, vice minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, was one of those voices, saying ahead of the parliament that the policy had "become a big issue among decision-makers."
Premier Wen Jiabao used his annual policy address to the opening of parliament to outline in general terms that China would stick with its family planning rules.
Zhang's comments went further, outlining a timeframe for the policy to remain unchanged, and the reasons why.
China's family planning policy began in the late 1970s as a way to prevent the world's largest population -- now at around 1.3 billion people -- from exceeding the country's capacity to feed it.
Generally, urban families can have one child and rural families can have two if the first is a girl.
The policy has averted about 400 million births, the government says, although it has created a large gender imbalance in favour of males.
It has also been heavily criticised for the abuses that have taken place in order to enforce it, such as forced sterilisations and late-term abortions.