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 a long series of CCP policies that interfere with personal decisions about the size of Chinese families. This month’s policy change highlights once again the importance the CCP places on families as fundamental pillars of society and shows how far the Party will go to control them.
The three-child policy comes five years after Beijing switched from its decades-long one-child policy to a two-child policy. The 2016 adjustment was made in response to changing demographic trends that revealed a rapid aging population at the same time as a decline in the size of China’s working-age population.
China precipitated its own demographic decline by maintaining the one-child policy for nearly 35 years. And the decline is not over yet. Credit Suisse predicts that as a result of the one-child policy, China will experience a labor shortage of four to six million people every year during the 2020s, reaching its height of 6.2 million in 2024 and then declining thereafter.
Another often overlooked by-product of Beijing’s coercive family planning policies was the disproportionate effect it had on the size of China’s female population. In previous years, certain provinces in China had a sex ratio imbalance of 126 men for every 100 women. From 2009 to 2019, babies 0-4 years 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 women in China is due to the preference for male children and the consequence of sex-selective abortions and forced abortions placed on Chinese women who wanted to have a child outside of the assigned birth quotas set by the CCP.
According to The New York Times
During 2020, only 12 million babies were born, the lowest birth rate on record since 1961 (when China faced famine during the Great Leap Forward). That means that despite the initial shift from the one-child policy to the two-child policy, the size of Chinese families is not expanding. And, at least during the pandemic, they were shrinking. Many Chinese families say they do not want any more children for various reasons. That leaves many wondering 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 tried to dismantle the Uighur family unit and replace it with state-based collectivization and re-education.
Uighur women are being force sterilized and subject to forced abortions at record rates. Uighur children are being separated from their families. Sometimes this is because their parents are among the 1.8 to 3 million held in political re-education camps. Sometimes, it’s because their parents are taken for forced labor or job transfer programs. Sometimes it is because the children were taken away for “re-education” in kindergartens or boarding schools. Each of these practices formed the basis for the atrocity determination made by the United States government earlier this year.
Why the attempt to dismantle the Uighur families? The CCP sees the Uyghurs as a threat to the state; he has characterized them as an extremist group (largely because they are a Muslim religious minority) and has accused them of separatists. Because the CCP views the Uyghurs as a threat to its sovereignty and stability, it stops at nothing to sideline them. Hence the repression. His treatment of Uyghurs is an extreme, but very real, example of the logical conclusions of coercive family planning.
While many see China’s relaxation of its family planning schemes as encouraging, others see it as a continuation of the Chinese government’s violations of individual freedom. After all, if the CCP didn’t aspire to control the family’s decision, wouldn’t it completely remove birth restrictions?
As the Chinese government faces the consequences of its previously strict policies, perhaps the most important conclusion 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; restrictions on human rights and freedom are even worse.
The United States should not support the CCP’s continued coercive family planning efforts. Republican administrations have often discontinued United States contributions to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) precisely because it was believed that their The funding supported population control efforts, such as forced abortions, carried out by the CCP..
The Biden administration would do well to reconsider your reinstatement of US contributions to UNFPA that may allow US taxpayer dollars to fund forced abortions in China. Instead, the United States should oppose the CCP’s coercive “family planning” and support the rights of the Chinese people to have as many children as they want.