In their longstanding and misbegotten mission to control the population as well as crush any institutions that might subvert the people’s loyalty to The State (i.e., family and religion), the Chinese Communist Party imposed upon their subjects an often brutally enforced one-child policy back in 1980 that have made female infanticide and forced abortions and sterilizations a part of everyday life in China. The widely-abhorred policy is the subject of a lot of open public disgruntlement, and as part of a series of, ahem, “reforms” the Communist Party is currently occupied with implementing, the ruling class announced earlier this fall that they would be easing up somewhat on the policy’s restrictions — which they have now formally done, via Reuters:

China formally approved on Saturday easing its decades-long one-child policy and the abolition of a controversial labor camp system, the official Xinhua news agency reported. …

Under the new policy, couples will be allowed to have two children if one of the parents is an only child. Previously, a couple could generally only have a second child if both parents were only children.

The plan was envisioned by the government about five years ago, with officials worried that the strict controls were undermining economic growth and contributing to a rapidly ageing population China had no hope of supporting financially.

…Except that, in reality, this is only the tiniest adjustment being added to the list of standing exceptions, and one that will accomplish approximately nothing to solve that pesky problem of a “rapidly ageing population” that China has “no hope of supporting financially.” As Nicholas Eberstadt explained last month at the WSJ after news of the change first leaked, the minor change won’t help with the incoming demographic crash:

The day after the new birth directives were announced, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua ran the headline “Birth policy changes are no big deal.” Beijing did not significantly “reform” population control. Rather, it just reaffirmed its coercive program with one minor and relatively insignificant change.

But why? China today faces staggering demographic problems, including a shrinking pool of working-age men and women and a rapidly aging population that will slow economic growth, perhaps severely. The traditional family structure will be tested by, among other things, a growing army of unmarriageable men, a consequence of rampant sex-selective abortion in the One Child era. To the extent that the policy has “succeeded,” it has made each of these demographic problems more acute.

Yet even if Beijing repudiated all forms of population control tomorrow, these problems would persist for the generation to come. Practically everyone who will be in the Chinese workforce in 2030, or the Chinese marriage market in 2035, has already been born under the current restrictions. No variations in population policy today can change this part of the country’s future.

With a population of over 1.3 billion people, they’ve dug themselves into quite the demographic hole — and it isn’t at all clear how they’re going to manage to climb back out of it.