An editorial on a Chinese state-run news site has suggested that Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members are obliged to have three children for the good of the country, as Beijing seeks to address plummeting birthrates.
The editorial, which was first published last month, went viral this week and drew sharp reaction from Chinese Internet users, with millions of shares, views and comments.
As the wave of reaction grew, the original article disappeared from the Web site.
The piece, published by the China Reports Network, said that every CCP member — of which there are about 95 million — “should shoulder the responsibility and obligation of the country’s population growth and act on the three-child policy.”
“No party member should use any excuse, objective or personal, to not marry or have children, nor can they use any excuse to have only one or two children,” it said.
The post appears to have been deleted, but screenshots have been widely shared, and associated hashtags have reportedly been viewed millions of times.
China is facing a demographic crisis with an aging population and a declining birthrate. More than 18 percent of the population is aged 60 or older, census data showed last year.
Figures released by the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics last month showed that there were 8.5 births per 1,000 people last year, the first time in decades that the figure has fallen below 10.
In 1978, the figure was more than 18 per 1,000.
The CCP has implemented a range of measures in response, including relaxing long-held limits on having children, easing the costs associated with education and child rearing, subsidies for second and third children, and introducing mandatory “cooling off” periods for divorces, but they have had limited effect.
China’s one-child policy formally ended in 2016 and was replaced by a two-child limit on most couples, which was this year been lifted to three.
However young Chinese continue to say that the high cost of living and pressures of long working hours are obstacles to having children.
“Although the three-child policy has come out, many people don’t have the conditions, ability, money or time to take care of children, especially for women, who have to go home early, and this will make more companies not want to hire women,” one commenter said on social media. “Shouldn’t society be balanced in development? When does it become a mandatory rule to have three children?”
Another said: “I’m just an ordinary person. My time, energy and money only allow me to raise a child in the future. Most party members are also ordinary people.”
Some warned that the editorial’s message could harm people’s faith in the party.
“’Party members take the lead’ has always been our party’s fine tradition, which has withstood many tests of history,” one commenter said.
“The impact of this bad public opinion, like other public opinions, could easily change from accusations against the China Reports Network to resistance to the three-child policy and shaken trust in the government.”
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