China: On second thought, let's have lots of babies

We hate to say we told you so, but then again, it didn’t take a genius to see how China’s one-child policies would work out. Thanks to two generations of forced abortions and penalties for procreation, China finds itself in the middle of a demographic disaster — a rapidly aging population with nowhere near enough younger workers to support them. Suddenly, fertility is favorable with Beijing:

China appears to be backpedaling on its decades-long policies to limit population growth as it attempts to address a demographic time bomb.

The one child policy ran until 2015 when it was partially relaxed to allow some couples to have two children, but families have been slow to embrace official approval to expand.

An op-ed in a state-run newspaper titled “Giving birth is a family matter and a national issue too” is the latest to encourage couples to have more children, and call for official action to enable young people to start families.

The full-page column was published in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily, mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party. It warned that “the impact of low birth rates on the economy and society has begun to show.”

CNN provides a handy chart to explain just how it “has begun to show.” Fifty years ago, only 3.36% of China’s population was older than 65, a point where productivity declines and the need for care begins to rapidly increase. Now that cohort accounts for almost 10% of the population, and that growth has accelerated over the last two decades. Without a burst of fertility, the problem will get worse faster than it can improve.

In fact, it already has gotten worse. Three years ago, China changed to a two-child policy in an attempt to goose up the birthrate, but that’s been a failure.  It did result in a slight increase the first year, but it fell off the second year again.

Western nations face similar issues in population replenishment, but China has a unique problem. As fewer children have been born, the cultural imperative in China to care for one’s parents has fallen on fewer shoulders. That burden makes those who did manage to be born over the last 50 years less able to put resources into building their own families, even to the extent allowed under China’s brutal population-control regimes. With parents growing ever older and support efforts more costly and time consuming, the potential for putting people into procreative relationships at all is likely declining fast, let alone actual procreation.

China has a second unique problem, too — the demographics of those children carried through to birth. Since 1979’s official imposition of a one-child policy, live births have skewed sharply male, as sons usually shoulder the burden of caring for elderly parents. That left China with far fewer women than men, creating a demographic imbalance that will handicap their fertility for generations. Even a two-child policy will inevitably favor males, which means that damage continues to get worse.

These policies of punishing procreation, especially with forced abortions that reportedly have continued to present day, were and are particularly evil. We should not be surprised when evil policies have horrendous outcomes. This is what happens when people presume themselves to be gods — we learn quickly that hubris is followed eventually by disaster.

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