China’s aggressive one-child-per-family policy has cost it freedom, prosperity, and the lives of many Chinese. These have been sacrificed in the name of an economic progress that is doomed to be undermined by the very policy that aims to increase that progress.
The one-child-policy aims to curb the overpopulation of China by imposing strict fines and other sanctions to parents of more than one child. As a result, the numbers of unwanted abortions and abandoned children have spiked into the millions. Girls are seen as less productive than boys, and many girls are abandoned or aborted before reaching term.
These abortions and abandoning of children are done in the name of reducing the economic burden of overpopulation. Aside from the obvious human rights violations that have resulted from the one-child policy, what China fails to see is that its current economy is supported by this very “overpopulation”. China is a labor-centric economy, labor being cheap because hands are plentiful. If this is the road China wants to take into economic progress, it has sealed that path already.
Novelist Ma Jian said it best: “Although initially introduced as a “temporary measure”, more than 30 years later this barbaric experiment in social engineering is, astonishingly, still in force. China’s totalitarian government may have relaxed its control of the means of production, but it has maintained firm control of the means of reproduction, and continues to intrude into the most intimate aspects of an individual’s life, stunting relationships, destroying traditional family life and spreading fear. Two generations of children have grown up without siblings, uncles, aunts or cousins. Women have lost sovereignty of their bodies. The state owns their ovaries, fallopian tubes and wombs, and has become the silent, malevolent third participant in every act of love.”
Furthermore, China is mistaken in it assumption that low birth-rates advance economies. The birth rates of advanced nations like Japan, and more recently Korea, declined to an average of 1.0 child per family as a result of their economic prosperity. Thus, as in the example of Japan and Korea, advanced economies naturally lead to decreased birth rates, but decreased birth rates do not lead to advanced economies.
Japan is already witnessing the problems of a 1.0 birth-rate in its rapidly ageing population and an economy that cannot both be supported by the dwindling number of able-bodied workers in its economy. It is increasingly relying on technology to support its labor production. If China graduates from its labor-centric economy, it will be faced with an aging population exacerbated by its one-child policy, and will have to adjust its policies effectively without the benefit of a slow interim a country like Japan has had. China will also need technology surpassing Japan if it is to support its foreseeably massive senior population. Neither possibility seems feasible for China.
Before imposing hardships on its people in the name of some economic progress, China should be using its newfound economic status to relieve these hardships.
China is a nation of one billion people; the word “people” should be more important than “one billion.” Whereas the Chinese government sees numbers on a population census or an economic report, it is up to us to see the people. If a million people suffer in the name of a number, then a million more of us must help. Neither one more child nor one more mother should suffer from China’s oppressive one-child policy. It is a violation of human rights, plain and simple. How many reasons support the one-child policy in China? That is the only number that should be limited to ZERO.
Isabel Hernandez is a regional intern at the World Youth Alliance Asia Pacific office