World View: China to End Two-Child Policy, but Considers a ‘Wacky’ Three-Child Policy

HUAINAN, CHINA - OCTOBER 01: Nurses take care of babies who were born on the National Day on October 1, 2017 in Huainan, China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
VCG/VCG via Getty Images

This morning’s key headlines from

  • China to end two-child policy, but considers a ‘wacky’ three-child policy
  • China evaluates the failure of the two-child policy
  • China may adopt a ‘wacky’ policy with a ‘reproduction fund’

China to end two-child policy, but considers a ‘wacky’ three-child policy

China's new Year of the Pig stamps
China’s new Year of the Pig stamps

For four decades, China has been attempting to control family planning decisions for individual families through the “one-child policy,” announced in 1979, which called for forced abortions, forced sterilizations, and harsh fines to prevent families from having more than one child, and which was revised to a “two-child policy” in March 2016, allowing two children instead of just one.

Early in August, China’s government announced new postage stamps to be used starting in the Year of the Pig, next year. One of the stamps displays a happy family of five pigs, a mama pig, a papa pig, and three little baby pigs.

To many Chinese, these Year of the Pig stamps appeared to confirm long-rumored plans to eliminate even the two-child restriction. This claim was reinforced by the memory that in 2016, the Year of the Monkey, China had released a similar stamp showing two baby monkeys.

However, Chinese officials denied this claim about the three-piglet stamps when they were announced three weeks ago. In particular, the designer of the stamps, 81-year-old Chinese folk artist Han Meilin, denied this claim through his spokesman, who said that Han decided to draw three piglets because they made the composition of the painting more balanced. Moreover, the five pigs on the stamp echo an auspicious Chinese proverb “five blessings gathering together” and the design is set to bring good luck to the public in the coming year, according to the spokesman.

Those denials are now turning out to be false. China announced in a Weibo social media post on Monday that all family planning matter has been removed from the new draft civil code that is scheduled for enactment in March 2020.

This means that all family planning controls should end. There will be no more one-child policy, no more two-child policy, no more forced abortions, no more forced sterilizations, and no more harsh fines.

According to Zhang Juwei, director of the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Population and Labor Economics, “It has become an irresistible trend to allow people to make their own decisions on fertility, which will be the direction for the adjustment of population policy in the future.” Daily Mail (8-Aug) and Reuters and South China Morning Post

China evaluates the failure of the two-child policy

The one-child policy was arguably a disaster for China’s society. Women who had unapproved pregnancies could be violently dragged from their homes and forced to abort and be sterilized. If an unapproved child was born, then the child could not be registered, and essentially did not exist, so could not get schooling or other social benefits.

The negative consequences of the one-child policy were apparent almost as soon as it was adopted in 1979. The policy accelerated the aging of the population, and a decline in the working-age population, which threatened economic growth. Furthermore, with fewer children, fewer elderly people could be cared for by their children.

The one-child policy did have an effect on the demographics of China’s population. The most well-known is that many parents aborted their unborn babies when ultrasounds showed that the babies were girls because many parents wanted a boy who would take care of his parents when they got old, something that girls rarely did. The sex ratio peaked at 121/100 (121 boys for each 100 girls) in 2005, with recent estimates at 116/100, and as high as 140/100 in parts of rural central China.

Aborting girl babies creates a vicious cycle. The number of births in a population grows exponentially based not on the total size of the population, but rather on the number of females in the population. So if there are fewer girls, then there will be fewer females and fewer births. This vicious cycle is occurring, as statisticians are predicting a sharp fall in China’s population in the next decade for exactly this reason.

The two-child policy did little to improve these figures. Many couples chose not to have a second child simply because they do not trust the authorities and feared reprisals. For those who do have a second child, the birth ratio problem is exacerbated. Those with a daughter, knowing that they could have only one more child, almost universally aborted a female baby.

The population growth rate is below what was promised and is far from satisfactory. In fact, in some regions, the number of births is decreasing. In the first six months of this year, the number of births in many provinces in mainland China fell by 15-20 percent from the year before. East Asia Forum and US National Institutes of Health

China may adopt a ‘wacky’ policy with a ‘reproduction fund’

With the failure of the one-child policy and the two-child policy, one of the proposals being considered, sometimes called the three-child policy because of the three piglets, is receiving massive outrage in China.

The proposal is to impose a brand new tax on all working adults under age 40, and put the money into a “reproduction fund.” The money would go to subsidize families with more than one child.

Although it is only a proposal, many women fear that it is a return to forced family planning by China’s government. Whereas the Chinese government used fines, forced abortions, and sterilizations to prevent unapproved births under the one-child policy, under the new policy the Chinese government would use heavy taxes to effectively force women to have a second child, whether she wants it or not. So the government would be back in the family planning business as soon as it got out.

According to one female journalist commenting on the new Year of the Pig stamps, “However, we are not pigs. And when it comes to having babies, we should have free will, and the freedom to choose.” South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and Global Times (Beijing) and South China Morning Post

Related Articles:

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, China, Year of the Pig, Year of the Monkey, one-child policy, two-child policy, three-child policy, reproduction fund, Han Meilin, Zhang Juwei
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