The Telegraph UK and other sources are reporting that 3 million babies are hidden in China each year. This is according to research by Liang Zhongtang, a demographer and former member of the expert committee of China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission.
People have been warning about problems with China having a gender imbalance (too many boys) and having a shortage of younger people (an aging population and increasing dependency ratio). Both of those problems are not as bad as earlier feared because of the cheating against the one child system.
Since 1978, China’s government has limited each couple to one child in a bid to stem the growth of the world’s largest population. To police the law, neighbourhood committees keep a close eye out for any pregnancies, and Family Planning officials have the power to force women to have abortions and sterilisations, as well as to monitor their contraception.
The policy does not apply to everyone. In the countryside, parents are allowed to try for a second child if their first is a girl. Couples who are both single children themselves are also allowed to have two children. A growing number of rich Chinese also pay fines in order to have a second child.
Examining China’s census figures, Mr Liang came across discrepancies that proved the subterfuge. “In 1990, the national census recorded 23 million births. But by the 2000 census, there were 26 million ten-year-old children, an increase of three million,” he said. “Normally, you would expect there to be fewer ten-year-olds than newborns, because of infant mortality,” he added.
His findings suggest that the one-child policy may not have the grim consequences that have been widely predicted. According to China’s own figures, the traditional desire among Chinese families to have a boy, coupled with the one-child regime, should produce a surfeit of 30 million men by 2020, with many parents allegedly using ultrasound to guarantee the sex of their child.
Mr Liang said the imbalance was “definitely not as severe as the statistics suggest”. Instead of aborting female foetuses, Mr Liang’s research suggests that the families have the girls, but do not declare them. The families wait until they are six or seven and by then, the local governments tend not to care as much
Liang Zhongtang and Two Child Policies
Susan Greenhalgh took an indepth treatment of the formation of China’s one-child policy. This volume exemplifies some of the strongest work in the anthropology of China in the present day, pulling ethnographic research in China into the mainstream of central debates in contemporary anthropology. The work also looked at Liang Zhongtang’s background.
The spokesperson closest to revolutionary political culture, Liang Zhongtang, described by Greenhalgh as a Marxist humanist, was the one who paid the greatest attention to the social impact of the one-child policy, especially for the elderly (but less so for women), and was able to urge a more socially responsive and gradual approach
Details of the experiment were reported for the first time in the Southern Weekend newspaper in Guangzhou — and the results are sure to call into question the viability of the official family planning policy.
According to the paper, the population of the county has grown over the 25-year period of the scheme by 20.7 per cent, which is nearly five percentage points lower than the national average, despite families being allowed two children. The experiment also appears to have redressed the imbalance between male and female births in China: the national average is 118 males to every 100 females, but in Yicheng the ratio was in line with the natural norm at 106 to 100.
Liang Zhongtang, who designed the programme, believes that the draconian one-child policy has served its purpose. “Under natural conditions, with no family planning policy, the birthrate would drop faster than with strict restrictions,” he said. Zou Xuejin, of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, has also called for a relaxation of the official family planning policy.