China’s three-child policy may not prevent the population from falling freely

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When will the Chinese government release Census data Last month, it revealed the extent of the population slowdown. The country’s fertility rate is now one of the lowest in the world. last year The number of births was similar to that in the early 1960s, when China was Years of famine.

These figures are obviously too stark to be ignored.This week the government announced New three-child policy, To further relax the population control that has been implemented for four years. The Chinese public responded to online announcements by mocking its shortcomings. Although parents have been allowed to have two children since 2015, domestic experts and even the central bank have called for the complete abolition of population control. They warned of imminent problems caused by the rapid population decline, such as the burden of young people who must feed their elderly parents and grandparents.

But Beijing is unwilling to completely sever ties with its historic population control. To admit that the government has made a mistake is to admit that the Communist Party’s most hated policy since the Mao Zedong era is not only vicious but also meaningless. The one-child policy developed in the late 1970s based on the population trajectory was supported by weapons scientists, one of the few groups of researchers who maintained political influence after the Cultural Revolution. In the decades that followed, the one-child policy resulted in so many violations of women’s bodies by the state that the trauma was far from being announced.

It is important to reflect on these traumas, from a large number of forced abortions to daughters hidden in search of a son. But the Communist Party is not interested in reflection. In the process of shifting from restricting fertility to encouraging fertility, the government needs to avoid making similar mistakes. Population control agencies have been set up to collect fines and enforce sterilization operations. A very different approach is needed to support fertility.

National health and population policies can strengthen or weaken its citizens. The first time I felt this difference was as a visiting student at Peking University. In a class discussing sexual health with social work graduate students, I mentioned that women can get an IUD for free at the NHS in the UK. Most of my female classmates took a breath. I looked through the dictionary and wondered if the translation was wrong. Finally, someone asked women if they were willing to get them. For them, the IUD is a small metal weapon for forced sterilization. They may be inserted into the woman’s uterus against the will of the woman and stay there. My classmates did not expect that a woman would willingly ask for one in order to control her body.

When Chinese scientists predicted the population trajectory in the 1970s, they did not consider social variables. Coupled with the prevalent historical preference of patriarchy over sons, the one-child policy has led to gender-selective abortions, further reducing future fertility rates. According to government statistics, there are 17 million more males than females between the ages of 20 and 40.

As people move to cities and women’s education and income increase, China’s population slowdown may happen anyway. Now, the male-dominated leadership in China needs to contend with a new generation of women. The surviving daughter had no brothers to compete for resources, which led to a group of highly educated and ambitious post-1980s women.

Population policies often have unintended consequences. Ye Liu, a lecturer at King’s College London, once recorded women born in the 1980s. She said that although the two-child policy theoretically gave her interviewees more choices, they flinched. “At the peak of their careers, they felt that their advantages were disappearing-their employers began to suspect that they would have another child,” Liu said.

The relaxation of the one-child policy seems to have little effect on the gender burden of parenting. Today’s women have gone through their scandals, From infant formula To the vaccine -They don’t want to worry. Now that local governments are launching a series of policies to support childbirth, it is time for the most radical intervention: establishing public services that parents can trust.

Yuan.yang@ft.com

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