THERE IS STILL HOPE FOR CHINA! YOUNG CHINESE REFUSE TO PROCREATE AND CONDEMN THEMSELVES AND THEIR PROGENY TO SLAVERY! POPULATION REDUCTION IS THE QUICKEST WAY TO DEFEAT CAPITALIST EXPLOITATION!
China struggling to engineer a baby boom after scrapping one-child policy
Wang Yasong has zero plans to have children even after getting married last July.
She prefers her two adopted cats over crying babies, and spends days and dimes on treats for the black-and-white fluffballs, rather than diapers for an infant.
“It’s okay to have kids if I find them cute while looking at them, but I don’t,” she said. “Cats are way cuter than kids.”
Ms Wang, 28, is among a growing group of women in China whose personal choices are contributing to a record-low birth rate, as the country grapples with fallout from the one-child policy – even after it was scrapped five years ago.
China posted 10.48 births per thousand people last year, the lowest rate ever since the Communist Party took power in 1949. The number of live births fell for the third consecutive year, declining four per cent to 14.65 million, or 580,000 fewer babies in 2019 than the previous year.
Imposed in the late 1970s, the one-child policy was aimed at combating concerns over whether the economy could support a rapidly growing population.
Implementation was brutal – women were forced to undergo abortions and sterilisations, and couples were hit with high fines for daring to have more children.
“The policy was one of the most catastrophic policy blunders in Chinese modern history,” said Wang Feng, a leading expert on China’s demographics and professor at the University of California at Irvine. It represented “a total disrespect for human lives.”
Three decades of the policy “changed Chinese childbearing attitudes,” said Fuxian Yi, a senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
“People have changed their reproductive habits, psychology and behaviour. Having just one child or no children has become the social norm in China.”
Ms Wang herself has wondered, “If I had a sibling while growing up, I might have...liked children more.”
“I’ve seen my friends raising their children – they don’t have time to themselves.”
Men, too, aren’t interested in procreating.
“It’s probably because I’m the only child,” said Wu Liang, 23, a computer science student. “Everybody takes care of you in the family, and you don’t feel the urge to take care of others.”
Strict family-planning restrictions have led to a severe gender imbalance, given a traditional preference for sons over daughters.
China has about 30 million more men than women, leaving a shortage of potential mothers, and a glut of bachelors, not by choice but by circumstance.
Authorities finally scrapped the policy in 2015, allowing couples to have two children. The goal was to boost the number of babies born to replenish the already-shrinking labour force, the engine that propelled China’s to become the world’s second-largest economy.
At the time, family planning authorities estimated that three million babies would be born each year between 2016 to 2021 – but the baby boom hasn’t materialised.
Couples are worried about the rising cost of living, and years of food and health safety scares from expired meat to faulty vaccines have perplexed many would-be parents.
Chinese women are also becoming more educated at a time gender norms are changing, leading to new, non-traditional views on career, children and marriage.
Su Yi, 24, has hit the pause button on children for now, put off by China’s rapid urbanisation with cramped apartments not ideal for raising kids. As a graduate student, she also has no means to support a family.
“In high school, I thought I would have children at a relatively young age, but as I started my PhD program in Shanghai, I realised how limited the living space there is,” she said.
Discrimination at work are also discouraging women from having babies. Job postings in China, for instance, routinely advertise specifically for males, and women are sometimes hired only if they pledge not to get pregnant.
With the labour force expected to fall roughly 23 per cent by 2050, according to official data, experts and policymakers are growing worried about long-term economic stagnation, especially as growth is already on the wane.
The Chinese economy expanded 6.1 per cent last year, the slowest rate in three decades.
“A shrinking young population brings many negative consequences, from [a] smaller size of taxpayers to fewer young consumers,” said Mr Wang.
The government is also challenged with providing health care and pension payouts as more people enter their golden years.
While China isn’t the only country grappling with the issue – South Korea and Japan are as well – Mr Yi thinks China’s fertility rate, a politically sensitive issue, is worse than authorities are letting on.
Still, Beijing has “some time to put policies in place to deal with the inevitable aging process,” said Andy Rothman, a veteran China economist at Matthews Asia, a financial investing firm.
“The remaining control over people’s reproduction, to limit the number of children to two, is long outdated and makes no sense in the context of rapid population aging and very low fertility,” said Mr Wang.
The government could also “introduce birth-friendly policies, such as lowering house prices, lowering education and medical costs, and increasing kindergartens,” said Mr Yi.
Such proposals have been floated in some provinces, and the government has experimented with subsidies to parents having a second child, including financial assistance for infant formula.
Single women also aren’t allowed to freeze their eggs; in China, fertility treatments are limited to married couples. One woman filed the country’s first-ever lawsuit last month to pressure the government to change the rules.
But it might come down to personal preference, and for Ms Wang, raising a pair of cats is simply easier.
“There’s simply too much pressure to be a good mother,” said she said. “If you fail to take care of something, even just a little bit, people will blame you for being a bad mother.”