China’s Two-Child Policy

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On Thursday, Oct. 29th, China’s Communist Party announced the end of its infamous 35-year one-child policy. The Oct. 29th statement will now permit a second child to all Chinese couples. But while the abolition of the one-child policy may seem like a human rights victory, activists are far from satisfied. The plague of mass gendercide, forced sterilization, and incalculable psychological trauma maybe be lessened, but it’s unlikely the institution of a new two-child policy will eliminate the real problem: a culture that doesn’t value life.

The one-child policy leaves a trail of carnage in its wake. While the rich can afford to buy limited freedoms (famous film director Zhang Yimou paid $1.23 million in fines for his three children), poor women lacking birth permits are subjected to brutal forced abortions. Millions have been sterilized, sometimes without anesthesia. Those who break the rules face reprisals: houses razed to the ground, food destroyed. Overall, the Chinese government estimates that at least 400 million lives have been prevented. (For perspective: The death tolls of Mao Zedong, Hitler, and Stalin combined don’t even come close).

This is all the more tragic because the policy failed to accomplish its basic goal: stabilize China’s population. What overpopulation problems China might have suffered are more than matched by the disastrous effects of the one-child policy. A graph in The Washington Post demonstrates that from 1950 to 1970, most of China’s population was 10 years old or younger, but by 2060, 70-year-olds will form the largest percentage of the population. This means the rising number of retirees has no counterbalance of young workers, creating widespread labor shortages. Childless seniors or elderly parents whose children die face a destitute old age.

Coupled with this is the massive gender imbalance created by sex-selective abortion. The cultural desire for males causes families to abandon or abort baby girls by the millions. CNN reports that by 2020, 30 million more men than women will be reaching adulthood in China, meaning most of those males will die childless. These young men are known as “bare branches,” the tragic finale to long family histories. Solutions vary from polyandry to mass military enrollment.

But the effect of the one-child policy that could prove the most difficult to overcome is the psychological scars of the Chinese people. When the policy was eased in 2013, only 1.5 million of the 11 million eligible applied for a permit. A survey reports that “only 29 percent of couples said they would like to have a second child.” Propaganda has killed what was once a culture of life.

China would do well to remember the words of the Psalmist: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalms 127:3). All life is precious because it bears the image of the Creator God. Though we ought to rejoice for each life spared, doubling the one-child policy only slows the death toll. Until China stops seeing children as a collection of costs, weighing their pros and cons against their very existence, they will remain a culture of death.