On June 1, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) announced that it will allow Chinese families to have three children. This adjustment is the latest in in a long string of CCP policies interfering in personal decisions about the size of Chinese families. This month’s policy shift further highlights yet again the significance the CCP places on families as fundamental building blocks of society and demonstrates the lengths the Party will go to in order to control them.
The three-child policy comes five years after Beijing shifted from its decades’ long one-child policy to a two-child policy. The 2016 adjustment was made in response to shifting demographic trends that revealed a rapidly aging population simultaneous with a decline in the size of China’s working age population.
China precipitated its own demographic decline by keeping the one-child policy in place for nearly 35 years. And the decline is not yet over. Credit Suisse predicts that, as a result of the one-child policy, China will experience a four million to six million person labor shortage each year during the 2020s, reaching its height of 6.2 million in 2024 and then easing after that.
Another oft-overlooked byproduct of Beijing’s coercive family planning policies was the disproportionate effect it had on the size of China’s female population. In earlier years, certain provinces in China had a sex ratio imbalance of 126 males for every 100 females. From 2009 to 2019, babies aged 0 to 4 had a sex ratio imbalance of 114 boys for every 100 girls. The natural ratio is 103 to 105 boys born for every 100 girls; anything above that suggests human intervention. Many believe that the shortage of females in China is due to a preference for boy children and the consequence of both sex-selective abortions and forced abortions pressed upon Chinese women who wanted to have a child outside of the allotted birth quotas set by the CCP.
According to The New York Times, during 2020, only 12 million babies were born, the lowest reported birth rate since 1961 (when China faced a famine during the Great Leap Forward). That means that, despite the initial shift from one-child policy to two-child policy, Chinese family sizes are not expanding. And, at least during the pandemic, they were shrinking. Many Chinese families say they have no desire for additional children for a variety of reasons. That leaves many to wonder what impact—if any—the three-child policy will have on population growth.
Demographics aside, the CCP believes it has a vested interest in controlling personal family decisions. Nowhere is this clearer than in Xinjiang, where the CCP has sought to dismantle the Uighur family unit and replace it with state-based collectivization and reeducation.
Uighur women are being forcibly sterilized and subject to forced abortions at record rates. Uighur children are being separated from their families. Sometimes this results from their parents being among the 1.8 to 3 million held in political reeducation camps. Sometimes, it’s because their parents are taken for forced labor or labor transfer programs. Sometimes it’s because the children have been taken away to be “reeducated” in live-in kindergartens or boarding schools. Each of these practices formed the basis for the atrocity determination made by the U.S. government earlier this year.
Why the attempt to dismantle Uighur families? The CCP views Uighurs as a threat to the state; it has characterized them as an extremist group (largely because they are Muslim religious minority) and accused them of being separatists. Because the CCP views Uighurs as threatening to its sovereignty and stability, it stops at nothing to sideline them. Hence the crackdown. Their treatment of Uighurs is an extreme—but very real-life example—of the logical conclusions of coercive family planning.
While many view China’s relaxations of its family planning schemes as encouraging, others see it as a continuation of the Chinese government’s infringements on individual liberty. After all, if the CCP didn’t aspire to control family’s decision, wouldn’t they lift birth restrictions entirely?
As the Chinese government faces the consequences of its previously stringent policies, perhaps the most important takeaway for the CCP is that even if a government can control family size, it might not be wise to do so. The unintended demographic consequences are severe; the restrictions on human rights and freedom even worse.
The U.S. should not support the CCP’s continuing coercive family planning efforts. Republican administrations have often discontinued U.S. contributions to the United Nation’s Population Fund (UNFPA) precisely because it was believed that their funding supported population control efforts—like forced abortions—carried out by the CCP.
The Biden administration would be wise to reconsider its reinstatement of U.S. contributions to UNFPA that may enable U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund forced abortions in China. Instead, the U.S. should oppose the CCP’s coercive “family planning” and support the rights of the Chinese people to have as many children as they desire.
This piece originally appeared in Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/oliviaenos/2021/06/09/why-a-three-child-policy-doesnt-actually-help-the-chinese-people/?sh=223bcad21c0e