After decades of brutal – and often corrupt – enforcement, Beijing has announced the end of its one-child per couple policy. Introduced in 1979, it may have prevented as many as 400 million births in the world’s most populous country.
But the end of the one-child policy will not stop Beijing’s attempt to control reproduction including forced abortions and sterilization. The effort at population control has been so draconian that bloody seventh-month pregnancies were reported in 2012 after failure of a couple to pay a 40,000 yuan [$6,338.37] fine. [Average annual wages in China in 2014 were 56,339 yuan.] The fines brought the government about 2 trillion yuan [$314 billion] since 1980, but there has been no public accounting where these monies went. That’s why there is widespread skepticism even if the restrictions were abandoned, it would result in additional financing for public health.
Not officially acknowledged, of course, is the now built-in lobby for some continued population control by a large bureaucracy with almost unlimited powers operating even in remote rural areas. The two-child limit will still require official permission for the second child — so bureaucrats will still have the power to say no, or in some cases to assign fines.
Communist authorities have had to move, not out of humanitarian concerns and continued foreign protests, but because of a demographic catastrophe overtaking the country. Demographic trends are notoriously hard to predict, of course. A recent example has been the turnabout in birth rates among Israeli and West Bank Arabs which have dropped substantially, whereas birth rates among Israeli Jews [and not just the religious] have increased substantially. The trend somewhat negates the old argument that Arab majorities would inevitably dominate the region.
But in China, about 30% of the population is now over 50, with the threat of rising social costs and a depleting work force. It’s what is called among a very practical Chinese public with limited calls on a government social network, 4-2-1 — four grandparents and two parents dependent on one child. Again, falling birthrates are dogging many of the world’s developed economies, especially China’s neighbor, Japan. But the announcement of new rules has not been greeted enthusiastically on China’s social media; many urban couples report they simply cannot afford nor do they want to jeopardize their present rising living standards with another child.
One of the worst aspects of the one-child regime was infanticide against females. The upcoming census is expected to reveal a gender ratio of 122 boys for every 100 girls, typically replacing 105-106 boys for every 100 girls. There are already today 35 million young Chinese men, more than the population of Canada, for whom there are simply no female partners.
One solution being suggested in non-official quarters, is encouraging immigration of Southeast Asian workers. There are already reported to be tens of thousands of illegals from those countries working in China’s manufacturing. But so far there has been no official government supported programs of in-migration of younger workers.
It is not clear whether the new regulations will cover so-called “illegal” children, that is, those born beyond the one-child limit to couples despite the regulations and fines. Government census report there are at least 12 million, but informed observers reckon there are two or three times that number not registered for fear of government reprisals. That would make them as many as 3% of China’s 1.37 billion.
There is obvious “lesson” in Beijing’s madness. It is the inhuman, immoral and inoperative effort to control population through government fiat. But untangling the mess would be monumental, even were there the will among the huge Chinese Communist bureaucracy — some 50 million officials, amounting to about one official for every 27 people. As long as Communist elite rules, that is extremely unlikely.