A Chinese professor says China — and the world — is better off because of Beijing’s draconian one-child policy. Zhai Zhenwu (翟振武), director of Renmin University’s School of Sociology and Population and apologist for Beijing, said that without the policy, there would have been 400 million more births in China and the world’s population would have hit the 7 billion mark five years ago, instead of this Monday.
When challenged by other experts about the numbers and years involved, he said quibbles over the exact figure ignored the key fact that the policy prevented a really large number of births.
Many people have “quibbles” about China’s population policies, especially the “one child” rule, because of the glaring facts: The policy has resulted in forced abortions and sterilizations, maternal deaths, female infanticide and a skewering of gender birth ratios that will leave tens of millions of men with no chance of finding a wife. Chinese men now and in the future will have it bad, but a Chinese woman without a “birth permit” risks losing her baby, and perhaps her life, to enforced abortions.
Just this month reports told of a woman in Lijin, Shandong Province, who died during the forced abortion on her seven-month fetus, which would have been her third child. The Guardian reported that relatives said 10 men turned up at the woman’s home, forced her to go to the hospital and pressed her fingerprint to an authorization form for the abortion. The relatives were not told for hours that the woman had died and were never told about the fetus’ fate.
It’s not the first time officials in Shandong have hit the headlines for their zealous pursuit of forced abortions. Blind rights activist and lawyer Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) was given a three-year prison term for publicizing the abductions of thousands of pregnant women and forced abortions in Linyi District, even though technically it is illegal to kill a baby in China. Beijing continues to deny that any abortions are forced.
However, the attitude of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership toward population policies has always been problematic, even discounting its willingness to let millions starve, like in the Great Famine of 1958 to 1961 that killed somewhere between 20 million and 40 million people. And who can forget the great helmsman Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) declaration that contraception was a “Western plot” aimed at keeping China down. Mao saw plots and plotters everywhere, but contraceptive products were a new twist even for the most paranoid.
It was not until 1970 that the CCP’s politburo began to see “birth planning” as a real necessity. The Beijing government had to wait until three years after Mao’s death to implement the “one child” policy.
More than 20 years ago, China’s fertility rate had already fallen below what experts say is the minimum rate of 2.1 children per family that is needed to ensure a stable population, and yet Beijing continues to maintain that it must keep the one-child policy in most areas.
However, countries as disparate as Thailand and Iran have achieved the same kind of sharp drops in fertility rates that China has without the need to kill either women of child-bearing age or their babies.
China may have contributed in a very minor way to delaying the world population reaching the 7 billion mark, but its abysmal treatment of its women and girls and the rapidly escalating gender imbalance has done no one any favors, least of all the Chinese themselves. Their society will be reaping the repercussions of such misguided efforts for generations to come — at least those that are allowed to be born. The world will be better off not following such a model.