Case Study: China’s Population Control In 1979, China passed their One-Child policy in an effort to decrease their major overpopulation issue. This policy prevents most couples from having more than one child, although there are exceptions. Most ethnic minorities, such as the Hui, are allowed to have two children, ; those that are an ethnic minority ; live in rural areas are allowed three. Although these people can, by law, have more than one child, it is still encouraged that they choose to have only one. This policy has prevented approximately 250 million births, according to Laura Fitzpatrick of TIME Magazine.
Although China’s One-Child policy is helping to reduce overpopulation, it is also causing many unethical practices, making it more detrimental to the population than beneficial. These ethical issues are important because they could affect other countries in the future, including our own. In this essay, forced sterilization ; abortion, a growing gender imbalance that causes trafficking ; neglect of female children, the growing aging population, which doesn’t have enough young people to care for them, consequences of not following the law, ; possible solutions to these ethical issues will be addressed.
The first ethical issue is forced sterilization ; abortion. During the past week, dozens of women in southwest China have been forced to have abortions even as late as nine months into the pregnancy, according to evidence uncovered by NPR. China’s strict family planning laws permit urban married couples to have only one child each, but in some of the recent cases — in Guangxi Province — women say they were forced to abort what would have been their first child because they were unmarried. The forced abortions are all the more shocking because family planning laws have generally been relaxed in China, with many families having two children.
Liang describes how they told her that she would have to have an abortion, “You don’t have any more room for maneuver,” he says they told her. “If you don’t go [to the hospital], we’ll carry you. ” The couple was then driven to Youjiang district maternity hospital in Baise city. “I was scared,” Wei told NPR. “The hospital was full of women who’d been brought in forcibly. There wasn’t a single spare bed. The family planning people said forced abortions and forced sterilizations were both being carried out. We saw women being pulled in one by one. The newspaper noted thousands of Chinese people in the area have already agreed to become sterilized, potentially fearing the governmental reprisals that await them for refusing. Chinese officials have come under fire over the last week for a massive campaign to attempt to sterilize as many as 10,000 people for violating the nation’s one child rule. The family planning rule has seen the nation subject people to forced abortions and other human rights abuses. Another major issue is the growing gender imbalance.
Gendercide is a neologism that refers to the systematic killing of members of a specific sex. This is what experts are describing what’s happening to China as millions of families resorting to abortion and infanticide to make sure their one child, because of China’s One Child Policy, is born a boy. The age-old bias for boys, combined with China’s draconian one-child policy imposed since 1980, has produced what Gu Baochang, a leading Chinese expert on family planning, described as “the largest, the highest, and the longest” gender imbalance in the world.
For centuries, Chinese families without sons feared poverty and neglect. The male offspring represented continuity of lineage and protection in old age. After the Communists took power in 1949, Mao Zedong rejected traditional Malthusian arguments that population growth would eventually outrun food supply, and firmly regarded China’s huge population as an asset, then with an annual birth rate of 3. 7 percent. Without a state-mandated birth control program, China’s sex ratio in the 60’s and 70’s remained normal.
Then in the early ’80s, China began enforcing an ambitious demographic engineering policy to limit families to one-child, as part of its strategy to fast-track economic modernization. The policy resulted in a slashed annual birth rate of 1. 29 percent by 2002, or the prevention of some 300 million births, and the current population of close to 1. 3 billion. From a relatively normal ratio of 108. 5 boys to 100 girls in the early 80s, the male surplus progressively rose to 111 in 1990, 116 in 2000, and is now is close to 120 boys for each 100 girls at the present time, according to a Chinese think-tank report.
The shortage of women is creating a “huge societal issue,” warned U. N. resident coordinator Khalid Malik earlier this year. “In eight to 10 years, we will have something like 40 to 60 million missing women,” he said, adding that it will have “enormous implications” for China’s prostitution industry and human trafficking. China’s own population experts have been warning for years about the looming gender crisis.
According to Eric Baculinao, a Beijing Bureau Chief, “The loss of female births due to illegal prenatal sex determination and sex-selective abortions and female infanticide will affect the true sex ratio at birth and at young ages, creating an unbalanced population sex structure in the future and resulting in potentially serious social problems,” argued Peking University’s chief demographer back in 1993. ” The abortion of female fetuses and infanticide was aided by the spread of cheap and portable ultra-sound scanners in the 1980’s.
Illegal mobile scanning and backstreet hospitals can provide a sex scan for as little as $50, according to one report. A slew of reports have confirmed the disturbing demographic trend. In a 2002 survey conducted in a central China village, more than 300 of the 820 women had abortions and more than a third of them admitted they were trying to select their baby’s sex. According to a report by the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the vast majority of aborted fetuses, more than 70 percent, were female, citing the abortion of up to 750,000 female fetuses in China in 1999.
A report by Zhang Qing, population researcher of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the gender imbalance is “statistically related to the high death rate of female babies, with female death rate at age zero in the city or rural areas consistently higher than male baby death rate. ” Only seven of China’s 29 provinces are within the world’s average sex ratio. Zhang Qing’s report cited eight “disaster provinces” from North to South China, where there were 26 to 38 percent more boys than girls.
In the last census in 2000, there were nearly 19 million boys more than girls in the 0-15 age group. “We have to act now or the problem will become very serious,” said Peking University sociologist Prof. Xia Xueluan. He cited the need to strengthen social welfare system in the countryside to weaken the traditional preference for boys. The hint of “serious” problems ahead can be seen in the increasing cases of human trafficking as bachelors try to “purchase” their wives. China’s police have freed more than 42,000 kidnapped women and children from 2001 to 2003.
The vast army of surplus males could pose a threat to China’s stability, argued two Western scholars. Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. Den Boer, who recently wrote a book on the “Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Population,” cited two rebellions in disproportionately male areas in Manchu Dynasty China. According to their analysis, low-status young adult men with little chance of forming families of their own are “much more prone to attempt to improve their situation through violent and criminal behavior in a strategy of coalitional aggression. The growing crime rate in China which is being linked to China’s massive “floating” or transient population, some 80 million of which are low-status males, seems to add weight to their observation. According to one estimate, over the next decade, some 40 million Chinese men will be unable to find wives due to the “scarcity” of females, thus the growing number of so-called “bachelors’ villages” in various parts of China. A third ethical issue is China’s aging population. China’s one child policy has a looming presence over the future state of extended and nuclear families.
The fact is that within twenty years the elderly and ageing population will far outnumber their younger generations. “According to some estimates, China has nearly one million more births than deaths every five weeks” (Global Issues In Context). Due to technological and medical advancements, people are living much longer. Mortality rates have decreased as well, including mother and infant fatalities from birth. However, the problem remains that there are not enough newborns to replace those individuals leaving the workforce.
The main issue of this population gap is the economic state of China’s future. Instability is expected, yet the extent of which is unknown. China is stricken with the 4-2-1 rule in which six persons may be dependent upon one child. “China has been rather hindered by the so-called one child policy (leading to the 4-2-1 rule, whereby one working person may eventually have to look after two parents and four grandparents)” (King). Needless to say, this may prove to be a truly difficult situation for most families.
Some people are saving more money for their retirement since their children may not be able to care of them. Although there is a new social security system in place the infrastructure is shaky and taxes on the public are strenuous. As the large working population from the 70’s and up move into retirement age, they expect their dues. With the population ever expanding, however, China’s bank account continues to decrease in funds. The one child is expected to care for their elders, some of whom will have no additional help from the government or pensions. Not only do safety nets barely exist, but the basic social services that communism used to guarantee are long gone. With the shutting or privatization of state-owned enterprises, the ‘iron rice bowl’ that gave factory workers housing, education, healthcare and pensions cracked two decades back” (Global Issues In Context). The elderly are not guaranteed pensions and some families would rather save money than invest it back into the country. With fewer people entering the workforce each year and less money for the household, China’s economy will be a rocky worldwide concern.
Other ethical concerns arise from the immoral consequences for not following the One-Child policy. For 30 years, China has banned most urban couples from having more than one kid. But though the penalties for breaking the rule can be steep—including fines of up to six times a couple’s annual income—more and more Chinese are starting to ignore them, because they have either the money or the connections to do so. In Hunan province alone, 1,968 government workers violated the family-planning law between 2000 and 2005, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
And for those targeted under the policy — such as residents of Beijing, where the one-child rule is said to be more strictly enforced than in many other parts of the country — financial penalties, either in the form of fines or exclusions from benefits, are the main deterrent. Hukou documents are crucial to allow citizens access to public services, including schooling, medical facilities and jobs. Couples having more than one child in contravention to the policy must pay a fine to register their additional children.
Fines assessed for having additional children are calculated as a multiple of the per-capita gross domestic product in the parents’ domicile. Punishment for those who run afoul of the policy also varies: some find it hard to get their birth certificate registered and therefore find it hard to apply for government services; some have trouble being accepted into state owned universities; and still some find it difficult to land government jobs. In many regions of the country couples can opt to pay a fee for each additional child they have. Yang Zhizhu knew the dire consequences of breaking China’s one-child policy. He ould be stripped of his professorship at a Beijing university and hit with such a large fine that his family would be destitute. But when he found out that his wife, Chen Hong, was pregnant for the second time aged 38, they decided they could not let the opportunity pass. In his home in Beijing, Mr. Yang, 44, remains delighted at Yang Ruonan, his six-month-old baby girl, and defiant over his decision. Outwardly bubbly, he said former students were helping him and his wife financially to care for his two daughters, the older of whom, Yang Ruoyi, is now three. Not all offenders against the one-child policy are so fortunate.
Many of China’s 11 million abortions each year are forced on unwilling mothers by family planning officials. Nevertheless, Mr. Yang lives under the shadow of the Chinese law. At the beginning of the month, a curt notice from the Beijing family planning department informed him that a fine of 220,600 Yuan (? 22,000) would, at some point, is “forcibly collected”. Earlier this year, officials visited the head of the China Youth University of Political Science, where Mr. Yang taught law, and persuaded the college to fire him. The university continues to pay him a stipend, but at 360 Yuan (? 6) a month, it is not a living wage. “My wife and I manage to get by. She is not working, but I have some savings and I do some part-time legal work,” he said. Unable to pay the fine, Mr. Yang chose to protest, parading himself in Beijing with a sign offering to become a slave if a donor would pay 640,000 Yuan to clear his debt and set his family up. “It was more of a protest than a serious offer, but I would still consider it if someone came forward,” he said. The fine is known as a “social upbringing fee” and is designed to cover the cost to the state of a second child. But Mr. Yang says he has no reason to pay. We feed our own children, our second daughter. Breaking the one-child rule would result in a heavy fine, calculated as a multiple of salary in the year of the child’s birth, or as a proportion of the collective income of the community in peasant areas. State officials who have more than one child automatically lose their jobs, a heavy punishment. The rules are privately detested by many Chinese and have been criticized abroad. Human rights activists complain that the one-child policy has led to the practice of eugenics, and that the Chinese state uses it as a method of social engineering.
According to London’s Guardian, the Bobai county government in Guangxi recently increased fines for people who violate the policy and have been seizing or destroying the property of people who cannot pay the fines. According to the Times, several people have said Guangxi officials have issued fines from 500 Yuan, or about $65, to 70,000 Yuan, or about $9,000, on families who violated the policy at any time since 1980. If violators failed to pay the fine within three days, their homes would be destroyed and their belongings seized.
There are a few possible solutions to the ethical issues presented by the One-Child policy. One of these solutions is to abolish the law all together. This would resolve the issues of forced sterilization & abortion, an aging population that doesn’t have enough young people to take care of them, & the gender imbalance. Another solution would be to implement a two or three-child policy. This would decrease the occurrence of the ethical issues, but not solve them completely. A third solution would be to create more exemptions to the policy, such as being exempt if the people lived in a certain area.
This would only help to decrease ethical issues slightly. Any of these solutions to the One-Child policy would help at least slightly, to decrease the occurrence of unethical acts, if not greatly. In conclusion, the benefit of China’s One-Child policy, a decreased population, fails to outweigh the disadvantages of ethical issues, including forced sterilization & abortion, a growing gender imbalance that causes trafficking & neglect of female children, the growing aging population, which doesn’t have enough young people to care for them, & the extreme consequences of not following the law.
One day in the future, if this ethical dilemma is not resolved, it could have an immense negative impact on our country, as well as others. If it is resolved, then China might be able to reduce their population, a major concern, as well as prevent unethical events from occurring, which would be beneficial not only to the country & its citizens, but also to other countries that might have been impacted by a lack of reform.