May 30, 2007


China's culture of abortion (Kent Ewing, 5/30/07, Asia Times)

What will it take to jar Chinese leaders out of their long-standing fiasco of a family-planning strategy?

Not that it was really needed, but the past two months have provided further evidence that the State Population and Family Planning Commission needs a new game plan - and the sooner, the better. Instead, however, once again the response has been to suppress dissent and soldier on with a policy that has provoked violent protests in the countryside and exacted a terrible price in human life.

Riots in the southern province of Guangxi this month over the one-child policy - implemented in 1979 to curb China's runaway population growth - are only the latest manifestation of that policy's inherent inhumanity. The unrest also serves as a reminder of its erratic and sometimes brutal implementation, which has led to forced abortions and sterilizations. At the same time, there are signs that because of the woeful lack of sex education in China, young women are increasingly turning to abortion - often multiple times - as a favored form of contraception.

While officials seem to note all this with due gravity, they don't pledge to do much about it. The recent riots in Guangxi provide a textbook case in point.

According to a report last month on National Public Radio (NPR) in the United States, dozens of women in Guangxi have been forced to have abortions as late as nine months into their pregnancies. The report, which ran on NPR's Morning Edition, described the harrowing ordeal of Liang Yage and his wife, Wei Linrong. The couple already had one child but wanted a second. But, according to Wei, in the seventh month of her pregnancy, family-planning officials forced her to abort her child in a Baise city maternity hospital. The Christian couple do not believe in abortion.

An unmarried 19-year-old woman, He Caigan, told NPR that her forced abortion occurred just days before her scheduled delivery. The report also cited an anonymous witness who counted 41 occupied beds on one floor of the same Baise city hospital and said he believed all the women on that floor were there against their will.

Corruption in China: The anger boils over (Carl Minzner, May 29, 2007, International Herald Tribune)
The vicious nature of the Guangxi enforcement campaign is all the more striking because it directly conflicts with the orders of China's top leaders.

In January, Communist Party and government officials in Beijing issued a joint directive ordering stronger enforcement of China's population planning laws - precisely the aim of the Guangxi authorities. But the national directive clearly emphasized the need to rely on positive financial incentives to reward compliance with birth control policies - not coercive measures.

Indeed, national officials touted the directive as a move away from "administrative" controls on population growth. The director of China's national family planning council even suggested that the authorities would waive fines for poor citizens.

So how can there be such disconnect between the bright ideas coming out of Beijing and the hard reality of the Guangxi streets?

One reason is that the central authorities are not in full control of their country. This may seem difficult to believe, particularly to outsiders accustomed to images of Chinese security forces dragging away protesters in Tiananmen Square. But Beijing actually has major difficulties supervising local officials.

Sure, you can demand that the local authorities meet designated birth control, tax revenue or economic development targets. But how do you supervise this? How do you ensure that local officials don't simply falsify data? Or that they don't rely on their own private goon squads to brutalize local residents into meeting whatever targets have been set?

In other countries, a range of independent, bottom-up channels help monitor and check the behavior of local officials. A free press exposes government corruption. Independent judicial institutions evaluate whether the actions of the local authorities accord with national law. Open elections allow citizens to remove officials engaged in unethical behavior.

These channels don't exist under China's one-party system. Local Chinese party secretaries exercise sweeping control over the local media, legislatures and courts.

Naturally, this breeds corruption and abuse of power. It also means that local party officials can effectively choke off information to Beijing, blinding the central authorities as to exactly how their mandates are carried out.

Some localities have degenerated into private fiefdoms run by local party officials. This has serious consequences for people whose rights have been violated by local officials. Citizens are far from passive. They resort to any and all channels to get redress - lawsuits, petitions, foreign media. But these often don't work.

Always amusing, if chilling, to hear folks claim that China has developed an effective alternative to Western liberal democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 30, 2007 6:58 AM

The number of people who think China is a model so is "chilling" indeed. Add to that the creeping corporate state developing here, and we have a problem on our hands.

Costco would like nothing better than to be able circumvent pesky citizens and markets, and just buy some trustees and have them condemn the strip of land they want.

The Bill of Rights impedes the corporate/mercantilist state that the business sector and both corporate parties are trying to foist on us. That is why it is under continuous attack. (FOIA, HIPPA, Abuse of Patriot Act provisions, etc etc)

I wonder what our children's text books say about the "Chinese Model." Hmmmmm.

Posted by: Bruno at May 30, 2007 8:16 AM

Lighten up, Bruno. We're not all doomed.

Posted by: Eeyore at May 30, 2007 8:27 AM


I agree that we are not all doomed. I'm even cautiously optimistic.

OTOH, one can't fix things if they don't realize they are broken. OJ is probably right about the long term trends. I'm right about schools.

Posted by: Bruno at May 30, 2007 11:11 AM

The Constitution explicity favors eminent domain.

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2007 11:22 AM

The Constitution provides for eminent domain, it doesn't explicitly favor the taking of private property only allows for that instance under fairly specific conditions. The problem is not the powers explicitally provided for but those powers assumed under little, if any, constitutional color.

Posted by: hugh at May 30, 2007 1:12 PM

List the specifics and you refute yourself.

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2007 3:47 PM

How so? If the decision is decided arbitrarily it lacks a basis in constitutional language. Dred Scott's a good example. Wickard v Filburn's another.

Posted by: hugh at May 30, 2007 3:55 PM

The constitutional standard for eminent domain isn't Dred Scott.

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2007 7:23 PM

Obviously. Wickard v Filburn might fill the bill.

Posted by: hugh at May 30, 2007 8:10 PM

No, the text is the bill. List its specifics.

Posted by: oj at May 30, 2007 9:32 PM

In Wickard v, property could be taken even without compensation in the name of 'interstate commerce'. The federal government, in this case, believed it had a regulatory 'interest' based on nothing but a theory and the cowed court backed the central state. Hard to believe that the nation of farmers that ratified the constitution would have ever imagined that the commerce clause held such power. Safe to say that the constitution would never have been ratified if the commerce clause was thought to mean what the court in Wickard said it meant.

Posted by: hugh at May 31, 2007 5:15 AM

Uh-huh, so you can't cite the text?

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2007 6:43 AM

which text do you have in mind? it's a court decision, not a bill. the distinction is becoming meaningless although it's one that should be kept in mind.the six line summary above sums it up.

Posted by: hugh at May 31, 2007 7:00 AM

"The Constitution provides for eminent domain, it doesn't explicitly favor the taking of private property only allows for that instance under fairly specific conditions. The problem is not the powers explicitally provided for but those powers assumed under little, if any, constitutional color.
Posted by: hugh at May 30, 2007 1:12 PM "

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2007 12:13 PM

"The costitution explicitly favors eminent domain" was your reply to an earlier comment regarding condemnation of private property in order to benefit another private entity, i.e. Costco. The constitution deals with the public use, the general welfare and just compensation. If Costco wants the property they should make a bid rather than looking to the state in order to benefit themselves at another's cost. The state has no just power to do otherwise. Wickard v was a travesty and one of the silliest deecisions, in a long line of silly, arbitrary decisions ever issued by the court. The interests of the state became interests seperate and apart from the interests of the people with that particular decision. The remedy for agricultural price deflation through price and production controls reflects plain economic ignorance and was hardly worth the price of subjugating property rights to the whims of a clueless experimental bureaucracy.

Posted by: hugh at May 31, 2007 12:56 PM

It's a stubborn dang text, eh? To quote it is to disprove your contention.

We should hardly be surprised that the Founders favored takings, given the fact that Washington and others used them for canal companies and the like they invested in.

Posted by: oj at May 31, 2007 4:12 PM