The paper today had a nice little side article about how China had approved a lifing on the restrictive one-child policy for those families with children who were killed or disabled during the massive collapses of schools during the Sichuan earthquakes. It also had a separate article about parents of dead children being pressured to accept quick monetary settlements from the government in exchange for an immediate end to demands that the government investigate why so many schools collapsed while the buildings around them remained mostly intact.
For those of you who don’t know, China’s “one child” policy restricts couples to only one child. Sometimes, and in certain areas, couples may be granted permission to try again if the first child is a girl. Conceiving a child without permission results in fines equivalent to more than a year’s earnings for a farm family and, sometimes, the demolition of the family home. Women are screened regularly to ensure that they are not hiding a pregnancy and that they are using the mandated birth control. Women who conceive without permission, often wives desperately trying to have the preferred son, can be arrested and given an involuntary abortion. Women who escape capture and go into hiding often come back for the forced abortion, because the police have arrested their parents and are threatening to starve them if the woman doesn’t return for the abortion.
Shortly after the earthquake, shaken by a massive outpouring of grief over the complete collapse of many school buildings, the government offered a small compensation: famlies with “illegal” children who lost their “legal” child, could register their “illegal” child. “Illegal” children are those who were conceived without permission and hidden; without being registered with the government, they are not eligible for any sort of government program or assistance and are not allowed to go to school. Gee, how sweet and generous of the Chinese government.
The media rumored that there might even be a further relaxation of the one child policy for families who lost children in the earthquakes. And now, just in time for the Olympics, here it is: families whose only child was killed or disabled, or families with two children who were both killed or disabled, will be allowed to have another child. Too bad that most of these women were probably sterilized as soon as they gave birth to their child, and definitely after the birth of the second. (Heck, it seems that getting your tubes tied on the delivery table after the second child is considered pretty “normal” in this country, from what several neighbors have told me… The first time I heard that, I stood there with my jaw hanging open, aghast at this mockery of motherhood. “I popped out my two, now let’s immediately make sure this never happens again!” Yikes.) So, Beijing gets a nice, happy story in the international media about the Communist Party’s compassion for the workers in impoverished Sichuan Province… and it won’t really make them change anything.
Aside from the horrors of forced abortions, China’s one child policy has had several unintended effects. China, like many other Asian countries, strongly favors sons. It isn’t just a, “Well, it would be nice to have a son to carry on the family name,” kind of thing like it is in the West. Sons care for their parents in their old age; girls become part of the husband’s family and have to take care of his family first. Trying to counteract millenia of cultural preferences, the communists pushed Mao’s saying that, “Women hold up half the sky.” The peasants didn’t buy it, apparently, or, at least, aren’t buying it very quickly. When we were in China to adopt, the national English-language paper had an article on a man who, surprisingly, took care of his mother-in-law, “Even to the inconvenience of his own mother!” This kind of behavior is so unusual that the Chinese government has even offered government pensions to parents who only have a girl, trying to encourage increased acceptance of girl babies.
Many people are unconvinced. There is speculation that the vast majority of the girls that make it into the orphanages were second children, their parents’ last chance at having a son. They were likely delivered at home to avoid the government’s surveillance, so that the parents could say the baby was stillborn and get another try at a son in case the baby was a girl. Since it is illegal in China to place a baby for adoption, they had to be left someplace to be found. They told us our daughter was warmly dressed, complete with hat, and left in the doorway of a busy company. Other babies in our adoption group had been wrapped in old clothes. Babies are left at the market, in the park, on the steps of the police station, anywhere where they will be found and quickly taken to the police or the orphanage.
Growing up in China as a missionary’s daughter, Pearl S. Buck wrote later that it wasn’t uncommon to stumble across the shallow graves of infant girls in the countryside. Why spend the family fortune raising a girl who will just leave to join another family? At least the orphanages give these women some hope that their daughters will get out of this cycle and not have to face the same thing their mothers and grandmothers faced… but it isn’t a guarantee.
And so, the gender ratio becomes increasingly skewed. At birth, the gender ratio in a normally procreating society should be about 102 boys for every 100 girls. It seems that nature knows that boys are *ahem* a little more rambunctious and likely to die before reaching marriage age. By the time the generation reaches the age to marry, the gender ratio should be about even. In China, it isn’t. It varies by region, but there are estimates that there are already millions of men of marriage age who will never find a wife because the women aren’t there. In another twenty years, that total will be around 40 million unmarried men aged 20 to 45. (see http://www.lifenews.com/nat515.html ) And there sure haven’t been that many adoptions in the last twenty years, so, odds are, more than 90% of these “missing” women are dead.
Several countries in Asia, although they don’t have such a coercive family restricting policy, are seeing the same problem. India is trying to stem the problem by making it illegal for doctors to do an ultrasound to determine the baby’s sex. The fines are stiff, but doctors are still doing sex-selection abortions. (see http://www.lifenews.com/int801.html ) Even among immigrant communities in Britain and the U.S., the gender ratios are heavily skewed towards boys.
You would think that feminists would be screaming about the injustice of all these “missing” girls. You would be wrong. They’ve been pretty much silent.
Pat Robertson made an on-air gaff by answering a caller who asked about the situation by saying, as best I remember the quote, “Well, China has a population problem, and they’re doing what they can to solve it.” Apparently, even some Christians are willing to ignore what is going on in China because it looks like the only “logical” solution.
All those unwed men are going to add up. Young, single men are statistically more likely to commit crimes (apparently, marriage tends to calm them down some): the crime rate in China and other Asian countries with gender imbalances are already starting to trend sharply upwards. Trafficking in young women is increasing, especially since there are many “illegal” girls who were never registered, in hopes that their parents could have a “legal” boy. Their parents can’t really go to the police and report someone missing who, technically, doesn’t exist, so the traffickers often get away with it. (see http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=19652&prog=zch )
Other early effects are already being felt, and the problem will only compound as the population ages. China’s economy has been growing by leaps and bounds, largely based on manufacturing. But that relies on labor, and there are already labor shortages in many factories in the heavily industrialized coastal areas. (see http://www.lifenews.com/int787.html) Like Europe, which also has below-replacement birth rates, pension plans are collapsing because there aren’t enough younger workers paying into them to support the growing ranks of retirees.
Yes, China has a population problem: they’re headed for a disastrous population crash with a short, painful path to get there.