The Chinese birth rate fell last year, two years after the country withdrew its long-standing one-child policy and allowed Chinese couples to have up to two children.
Birth rates rose by 8 percent to 17.9 million children born in 2016. The increase seemed to indicate the success of the new policy: Half of the babies in 2016 were born to couples who already had one child. But the rate dropped in 2017 to 17.2 million births, according to a Chinese National Bureau of Statistics report released last Thursday.
The drop alarms Chinese authorities who are on a mission to increase the size of the country’s younger population to support its fast-growing number of elderly people. With almost 1.4 billion people, China has the world’s largest population but skews elderly, with more aging parents than children to care for them.
And it looks as if a two-child policy is not doing the trick.
One expert is not surprised. Steven W. Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute and author of Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream Is the New Threat to World Order, testified before the Congressional-Executive Committee on China in 2015 that he didn’t expect the two-child amnesty to make a difference in the Chinese birth rate.
“Forty years of anti-natal, anti-child propaganda has left its mark on the Chinese psyche,” said Mosher. “Few Chinese young people, who are themselves only children—and often the children of only children—are inclined to be generous when it comes to having children of their own.”
Faced with a dropping birth rate, Mosher said he expects the Chinese Communist Party to soon “encourage,” then “motivate,” and finally “order” more children.
“If the higher birth rate called for by China’s new Planned Birth policy cannot be achieved voluntarily, China’s leaders will inevitably use force,” said Mosher, who was the first American scholar allowed to do research in China in 1979 and first uncovered the practice of forced abortions and forced sterilizations to impose the one-child policy.
If they took brutal and invasive measures to limit childbearing, they will do the same to increase it, he told me: “Childbearing in China may well become mandatory. Regular pelvic examinations will be instituted to monitor menstrual cycles and plan pregnancies. Abortion may be forbidden.” But this is the very opposite of what Chinese leaders should do.
“They should abandon the Planned Birth policy altogether,” Mosher said. “They should allow couples to freely choose the number and spacing of their children, and have as many, or as few, as they desire.” —K.C.