Unplanned Demography

The Grim Realities of China's Eugenics & Population Control

In June 2021, the Chinese government announced that couples are now allowed to have three children, a step up from its two-child policy enacted in 2015 and its one-child policy enacted in 1980. This comes in response to China's latest census, which shows a continuing decline in birthrates. The census data showed a fertility rate in China of 1.3 children per woman in 2020, in line with the trends from previous years. That may be compared to 1.36 children per woman in Japan in 2019 and 1.7 children per woman in the U.S. in 2019.1

Most advanced societies' birthrates ebb and flow, usually in connection to changing demographics and socioeconomic factors. For example, the birthrate in the U.S. decreased during the Great Depression but increased after World War II, the so-called baby boom. It decreased again in the 1970s, increased somewhat during the 1990s' tech boom, and started decreasing again after 2008. Many other developed countries have seen similar trends, with a gradual drift toward lower birthrates as factors such as child mortality and urbanization influence the number of children.

However, China's decreasing birthrate and increasing elderly population are more acute and precipitous than those in the U.S. and even in Japan, and they speak to a looming demographic crisis in the country. The severity of the problem is due to the population control measures taken by the Communist Party of China (CCP), some of which pre-date the party's one-child policy instituted forty years ago.

China's Future Workforce

In both the U.S. and China, there was a baby boom in the 1950s and 1960s. If we look at the subsequent generations in both countries, we can see how China's heavy-handed population control methods affected its population.

Currently in the U.S., the number of 15-to-25-years-olds is 100 percent of the number of 45-to-55-year-olds. In other words, for every person in the 45-to-55 age range, there is a person in the 15-to-25 age range. So, in 10 to 20 years, when members of the former group hit retirement age, they will be replaced by about the same number of younger people moving into the prime of their careers and raising families of their own.

In Japan, where the average age skews older, the number of 15-to-25-year-olds equals only 79 percent of 45-to-55-year-olds. In China, the percentage is even worse, at 72 percent. This means that, in 10 to 20 years, when those currently 45-to-55 years old retire, China will not have enough people to re-supply its workforce. This in turn will hamper the CCP's long-term goals of achieving technological and economic supremacy, not to mention military predominance. Some demographers project that by 2100, China's population will be only half of its current 1.41 billion.2

The U.S. birthrate has remained steady largely because of immigrant populations. The U.S. takes in more immigrants than any other country, while China and Japan have historically been insular countries. According to 2017 data, 15 percent of the U.S. population was born in another country, but 23 percent of all births that year were to immigrant women. For many years, the largest number of immigrant births were to women from Mexico, but their numbers have decreased recently. In 2018 there were more immigrants from Asian countries, especially China and India, than from Mexico and Latin America, and consequently, Asian immigrant births made up more than half of all immigrant births in the U.S. that year. According to Pew Research, the largest number of new immigrants to the U.S. in 2018 came from China, at 149,000.3 China, however, is not receiving nearly as many immigrants, further diminishing its own population numbers. To add insult to injury, Chinese millionaires, who can afford to have more children, are migrating from China to other countries, such as Australia, where they can protect their wealth.4

China's four-decades-long one-child policy has also resulted in an over-abundance of men. Natural birth patterns result in a sex ratio of about 104 boys born for every 100 girls born. This is a remarkably stable ratio; therefore, when a population has anything above 107 boys for every 100 girls, some large-scale, deliberate action must account for the disparity, such as sex-selective abortion or pre-implantation screening of IVF embryos to favor boys. The unregistered adoption of girls or under-reporting of the birth of girls may also occur, though that would mean the official figures are inaccurate.

As of 2020, China officially has about 113 boys born for every 100 girls. The age group with the most-skewed sex ratio is 10-to-14-year-olds, among whom there are over 116 boys for every 100 girls.5 Other sources say the disparity is even greater, giving a ratio of 120 boys for every 100 girls, though the numbers vary by region.6

When the CCP announced its three-child policy, young people responded negatively, with some saying they couldn't have three children if they wanted to. Northwestern University professor Nancy Qian, a native of Shanghai, says state-level control of the birthrate will not solve China's underlying demographic problems. She points to the cost of living in China, which is higher than in any other country at the same income level, as well as to dwindling job opportunities for university graduates. Additionally, because pensions are limited in China, older people are dependent on their adult children for financial support, but since many of the latter are only children—thanks to the one-child policy—they do not have siblings to help share in the cost of caregiving. That means one working-age couple may be supporting a child and as many as four parents.

Another factor is the urban/rural divide in China. Birthrates are higher in rural areas where the cost of living is lower, but rural people also have worse healthcare and lower life expectancies, which incentivizes many young people to move to the cities.7 Qian cites educational levels as another example of the urban/rural divide. From 2010 to 2012, the percentages of urban enrollment in middle school, high school, and college were 100, 63, and 54, respectively. During the same period, rural enrollment was at only 70 percent for middle school, and a meager 3 and 2 percent, respectively, for high school and college.

History of Controlling Family Size

Sociologists Wang Feng and Yong Cai point out that population control is a "pillar of the Chinese Communist Party's monumental social engineering project." Mao considered a large population an asset until the 1970s, when overpopulation became a concern in many countries because of medical advances that decreased mortality rates. Additionally, people in China were incentivized to have more children because of rationing rules within the socialist system. Other than the years of the Great Chinese Famine (1959–1961), mid-century China saw much higher birthrates and lower death rates, leading to a burgeoning population.8

At the same time, however, China also experienced economic crises, for which it became convenient to blame over-population rather than poor government policies or the failure of the socialist system. So the Chinese authorities responded by enacting a one-child policy in 1980 that remained in effect until 2015, when people were allowed to have two children. However, birthrates increased only moderately in 2016, then continued to decline.

Many people within China, particularly local government officials in China's northeast "rust belt," have called on the national government to lift all birth restrictions as soon as possible to avoid even worse outcomes. But Wang Feng and Yong Cai say that this will probably not happen because "lifting controls over births would be, for the Chinese Communist Party, a tacit admission that its state policies have failed." Instead, the CCP has layered new policies on top of its failed older ones.

However, sources told the Wall Street Journal that the Chinese government is considering eliminating birth restrictions by 2025, when the party's current five-year plan ends. Those sources speculate that the birth policies will be lifted even sooner in provinces with exceptionally low birthrates, such as Heilongjiang and Jilin, where people were allowed to have a third child in 2016.9 Yet others say that the CCP will never give up control because the government only wants certain Chinese citizens to have more children, but not others.

Uyghurs & Other Minorities Excluded

While the Chinese government is encouraging middle- and upper-class Han Chinese couples to have more children, the birthrate in areas where many Uyghurs and other minorities live has declined even more drastically. In Salvo 55 ("Eugenicide"), I wrote about Uyghur women being forcibly sterilized or inserted with IUDs as a punishment for having had too many children or having a second child within four years of the first.

The Australian Strategy Policy Institute (ASPI) analyzed Chinese government statistics dated between 2017 and 2019 and found that the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China has experienced the sharpest decline in birthrates ever seen in the 71 years that the United Nations has been recording global fertility data—sharper even than the declines resulting from the Rwandan genocide and the Syrian civil war. Moreover, the birthrate decline in Xinjiang is greater than that seen in the rest of China during the entire time the one-child policy was in effect.

From 2017 to 2019, birthrates in regions with large numbers of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other largely Muslim ethnic minorities decreased by 43.7 percent. The ASPI also unearthed "government notices showing that Xinjiang officials are being given quotas to lower birthrates, with punishments meted out to those who failed to meet family planning targets. A target set in one heavily Uyghur county is lower than the birthrate of South Korea, the lowest in the world at 0.92 in 2019."10

History has shown the catastrophic consequences of state-sanctioned "breeding" (and suppression) of human beings. No matter how many children it has or hasn't allowed, the CCP's population policies, as well as its repression of China's minorities, are eugenics in all but name. 

1. Nancy Qian, "China's Three-Child Policy Won't Help" The Wire China (June 6, 2021): thewirechina.com/2021/06/06/chinas-three-child-policy-wont-help.
2. The Lancet (July 14, 2020): thelancet.com/article/S0140-6736(20)30677-2/fulltext.
3. Abby Budiman, "Key findings about U.S. immigrants" Pew Research Center (Aug. 10, 2020): pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/08/20/key-findings-about-u-s-immigrants.
4. Nick Routley, "Mapping the Global Migration of Millionaires," Visual Capitalist (April 16, 2019): visualcapitalist.com/global-migration-of-millionaires.
5. "Gender ratio in China," Statistics Times (Jan. 16, 2021): https://statisticstimes.com/demographics/country/china-sex-ratio.php.
6. "Recent sex ratio at birth in China," BMJ Global Health (May 18, 2021): ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8137222.
7. Qian, "China's Three-Child Policy Won't Help," ibid. note 1.
8. David Howden and Yang Zhou, "Why Did China's Population Grow So Quickly?" The Independent Review (Fall 2015).
9. Keith Zhai, "China Considers Lifting All Childbirth Restrictions by 2025" Wall Street Journal (June 18, 2021): wsj.com/articles/china-plans-further-shift-toward-encouraging-childbirth-11624003448.
10. Dake Kange, "Drop in Xinjiang birthrate largest in recent history: report," AP (May 12, 2021): https://apnews.com/article/beijing-china-race-and-ethnicity-health-religion-5aab6b4b99263b535ff1d0e9ae890b8f.

has an M.S. in chemistry from the University of Texas at Dallas, and an M.A. in bioethics from Trinity International University. She resides in Dallas and currently works as a freelance science writer and educator.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #58, Fall 2021 Copyright © 2022 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo58/unplanned-demography


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