The New York Times is reporting on the announcement made today that all married couples would be allowed to have two children as a way to reverse the country’s rapidly aging work force.
“Improve the demographic development strategy,” said the official communiqué, or summary, of the meeting issued through the Xinhua news agency. “Comprehensively implement a policy that couples can have two children, actively taking steps to counter the aging of the population.”
According to the Times, the government’s five-year plan will also focus on achieving cleaner and more equitable growth by spreading social security provisions to more people, strengthening environmental protection, eradicating poverty and improving access to education and other public services.
“We must firmly establish and implement a concept of development that is innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared,” said the government’s communiqué. “This is a profound transformation that concerns the whole of our national development.”
The latest move on the country’s draconian family planning policy, which cost the life of an estimated 300 million Chinese citizens, cames after a slight easing of the policy in 2013 which approved a second child for families where a parent was an only child.
According to the Times, the initial public reaction to the latest decision was restrained with many citizens in Beijing doubtful of the news.
“Really, can you show me the news on your phone?” asked Sun Bing, a 34-year old owner of a small technology store in Beijing who had his 2-year-old son by his side.
“This is a good thing, and I’m very supportive,” he told the Times. “I want to have a second kid in two years. But, of course, it’s not cheap to raise children.”
Chinese demographer Wang Feng told National Public Radio (NPR) after last year’s easing of the policy that the beginning of the end of the one-child policy was definitely in sight, a prediction that has now come true.
“I would say nobody in the decision-making policy would insist the policy should continue indefinitely,” he said at the time. “Even the most cautious and conservative members would concede that some day, this policy has to end.”
After the government collapsed the Family Planning Commission into the Ministry of Health, and got rid of the many jobs needed to enforce the policy, Feng saw the writing on the wall and predicted that the policy would gradually just fade away.
But it effects will reverberate for generations.
“The one-child policy will be added to the other deadly errors in recent Chinese history, including the famine in 1959-61 caused largely by the industrialization and collectivization campaigns of the late 1950s, and the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s and early 1970s,” he wrote in an academic paper with fellow demographers Gu Baochang of People’s University and Cai Yong of the University of North Carolina Population Center.
“While those grave mistakes both cost tens of millions of lives, the harms done were relatively short-lived and were corrected quickly afterward. The one-child policy, in contrast, will surpass them in impact by its role in creating a society with a seriously undermined family and kin structure, and a whole generation of future elderly and their children whose well-being will be seriously jeopardized.”
Many Chinese are happy to see the policy go, particularly a woman named Amy who commented on the Times’ article: “As someone who was born in China whose mother was forced to have an abortion or be horrendously taxed for what would have been my little brother, the ignorant remarks about overpopulation by some of the people below disgusts me. And as someone who comes from a pretty educated, upper middle class Chinese family who would have been able to support two children, let me tell you that we’re not all poor breeders who just want to procreate. In fact, the families that do have more than one child in China are mostly poorer country farmers that can get away with it. The cost of human life should always be the most important factor when debating government policy. You should be ashamed.”
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