July 13, 2010


A Demographic Disaster: The Chinese government is now studying the consequences of its one-child policy (Michael J. Miller, July 2010, Catholic World Report)

The human costs of the one-child policy have been incalculable. Huo Datong, a psychoanalyst who trained in France and practices in China, says that “the trauma of the only child is the major challenge confronting China.” In a book titled China on the Psychiatrist’s Couch he explained that “the One-Child Policy strikes at the heart of the Chinese family structure, which is founded on many children—a sign of prosperity…. The government cannot eradicate the Chinese cultural desire to be the father or mother of many children…. A new equilibrium has to be devised.” Congressman Smith described the devastation more bluntly. “Women are severely harmed emotionally, psychologically, and physically. Chinese women are violated by the state. The suicide rate for Chinese women—about 500 a day—far exceeds suicide rates anywhere on earth.”

Females of all ages have suffered disproportionately from the government restrictions. Mosher writes, “Within a few years of the introduction of the one-child policy, hundreds of thousands of baby girls were being drowned, smothered, or abandoned at birth each year…even in relatively wealthy areas like the Pearl River Delta, where female infanticide was unknown in earlier times.”

The increased availability of techniques for determining the sex of a fetus has led to widespread selective abortion. An official report notes that currently 119 boys are born for every 100 girls (in 1982 the ratio was 108 boys to 100 girls). It is expected that by 2020 between 25 and 30 million Chinese men will have no prospects of marrying.

This gender imbalance has already led to a host of social ills: higher rates of crime, homosexuality, and divorce, and a lucrative market in surrogate mothers (usually recruited by agencies from poor villages). The Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing admits that there is trafficking in North Korean and Vietnamese women, who are sold to single Chinese farmers. These “undocumented slaves” are often resold to other networks or else handed over to the Chinese police, who receive a bounty for sending them back across the border.

In May 2009, the French newspaper Libération published an article on the abduction or “theft” of Chinese children. (A piece in English by Peter Hitchens corroborated the story in April 2010.) Between 8,000 and 15,000 children disappear in China each year; three quarters of them are boys, victims of human trafficking. A Chinese lawyer maintains that “the government does not want to acknowledge the breadth” of the phenomenon and does nothing to combat it. “There are three sorts of buyers: families without children; those who have daughters only; those who have a son but want to have several descendants in keeping with the traditional image of the family…. Theoretically one has to satisfy several criteria in order to adopt, but there are always local arrangements. After several years…the village leader legalizes the child,” making it impossible for the biological parents to find their child. (Human trafficking in Chinese children is hushed up because it would tarnish the country’s image.)

In February 2009, another study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences noted that in a poll of 18,638 women, 69 percent of those who were authorized to have a second child said that they did not want one, mainly for financial reasons. The urban Chinese, at least, have learned well the lessons of the past 30 years: China’s vast but shallow economic development leaves money tight, and parents have little margin of error.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 13, 2010 3:01 PM
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