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Nuanced numerical adjustment to One Child Policy

HONG KONG (SE): Although hailed as the end of the infamous One Child Policy, the announcement made by Beijing on December 27 that from now on all couples will be allowed to have two children, only constitutes a nuanced numerical adjustment to the old policy, rather than signalling its demise.

Nevertheless, it will undoubtedly add punch to the increasingly unrepresentative logo of a mother, father and two children, commonly used around the world by family-oriented organisations, and see it proliferate across China.

The state news agency, Xinhua, reported on December 28 that the new regulation was slated to take effect from 1 January 2016. Xinhua said, “The law was formally adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress as it wrapped up its bimonthly session.”

The one-child-only regulation has never applied across the board, as rural families were allowed two children, if the first was a girl, and ethnic minorities had the right to an extra child, which led to it being dubbed the one-and-a-half-child policy.

In praising the Communist Party for its foresight in responding to a demographic crisis, Xinhua said that the One Child Policy had prevented an uncontrollable population boom in the past, but since its introduction in 1979 the country has changed and now a greying boom is bringing a crisis in care and support for the aged, as well as a shortage of labour in the nation’s massive production industries.

In a bid to reverse this trend in a controlled manner in 2013, couples, one of whom at least was an only child, were given permission to have two children, but few took up the option, citing the high cost of raising a child, especially in urban areas.

The One Child Policy had been enforced by a commission through a system of fines and restrictions, as well as forced abortion, which led to some heart-rending stories of the barbarity of state officials in the way they went about enforcing the law.

In a hint that the numerical adjustment to the policy will right a few wrongs, Xinhua pointed out that the down side of the One Child Policy was that it led to sex-selective abortion, female child genocide and an imbalance in the male-female population ratio.

But it added that today, as the nation is looking at a shrinking workforce, it is time to boost the population.

But the much touted end to the One Child Policy amounts to no more than a nuanced numerical adjustment to the pre-existing policy, which, for bureaucratic reasons if no other, will continue to be enforced in the same rigorous manner.

At a meeting on December 14, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China called for a continuation of the family planning policy as a basic state mechanism for the coordination of reforms, service management and family development support.

The Catholic News Agency reported Reggie Littlejohn, the president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, as saying that she is not surprised by the change, given the demographic disaster China now faces as a result of its One Child Policy.

“However, instituting a two-child policy will not end forced abortion, gendercide or family planning regulations in China,” Littlejohn said in a statement, adding that the change to a two-child policy is not enough.

“Women will still be forcibly aborted under a universal two-child policy,” she said in calling for continued pressure on China until it completely abandons all coercive population control.

She explained that at the core of the policy is not the number of children permitted, but the fact that the government is setting a limit on children and enforcing this limit coercively. “That will not change under a two-child policy,” she pointed out.

Joann Pittman, from ChinaSource, said that while the news of the end of the One Child Policy has been widely welcomed, both inside and outside of China, it is important not to overstate its significance, or misrepresent what is happening.

“Most headlines leave the impression that the government has decided not to interfere in the matter of how many children a couple can have. That is not the case. There has been no change of heart as to the nature of the relationship between the citizen and the state.”

Stephen Soukupm, a fellow at the Culture of Life Foundation, told the Christian Times, “Beijing hasn’t relinquished any control of its citizens’ personal lives and family planning decisions; the government remains aggressively committed to controlling even the most private and intimate decisions of its citizens’ lives.”

A member of the congress in the United States of America, Chris Smith, who has been on several fact-finding missions to China and been critical of his country’s funding of birth control in the mainland, said, “The new policy also needs to be thoroughly vetted for dishonesty.”

The National Catholic Register quoted him as saying that even if the policy change is legitimate, it will not mean reproductive freedom.

“Children will continue to be killed if unauthorised by the government and huge fines imposed—the so-called social compensation fee—on families who evade detection and have so-called illegal children,” he pointed out.

Littlejohn was even more blunt in saying, “The One Child Policy does not need to be modified. It needs to be abolished.”