When the CCP and its mouthpiece Global Times and People´s Daily issued a loud official warning that the birthrate was far too low and China in danger to sacrifice its economic and geopolitical progress and maybe the hoped-for status of the new world power by demographic overaging, it became clear that the party had to do something and now it has proclaimed a three-child policy instead of a two- child policy and the former one-child policy. The Strait Times reports:
“Three-child policy: China lifts cap on births in major policy shift
BEIJING (REUTERS) – Married Chinese couples may have up to three children, China announced on Monday (May 31), in a major shift from the existing limit of two after recent data showed a dramatic decline in births in the world’s most populous country.
Beijing scrapped its decades-old one-child policy in 2016, replacing it with a two-child limit to try and stave off risks to its economy from a rapidly aging population. But that failed to result in a sustained surge in births given the high cost of raising children in Chinese cities, a challenge that persists to this day.
The policy change will come with “supportive measures, which will be conducive to improving our country’s population structure, fulfilling the country’s strategy of actively coping with an ageing population”, the official Xinhua news agency said following a politburo meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping.
Among those measures, China will lower educational costs for families, step up tax and housing support, guarantee the legal interests of working women and clamp down on “sky-high” dowries, it said, without giving specifics. It would also look to educate young people “on marriage and love”.
China had a fertility rate of just 1.3 children per woman in 2020, recent data showed, on par with ageing societies like Japan and Italy and far short of the roughly 2.1 needed for replacement level.
“People are held back not by the two-children limit, but by the incredibly high costs of raising children in today’s China.
Housing, extracurricular activities, food, trips, and everything else add up quickly,” Yifei Li, a sociologist at NYU Shanghai, told Reuters.
“Raising the limit itself is unlikely to tilt anyone’s calculus in a meaningful way, in my view.” In a poll on Xinhua’s Weibo account asking #AreYouReady for the three-child policy, about 29,000 of 31,000 respondents said they would “never think of it” while the remainder chose among the options: “I’m ready and very eager to do so”, “it’s on my agenda”, or “I’m hesitating and there’s lot to consider”.
The poll was later removed.
“I am willing to have three children if you give me 5 million yuan (S$1 million),” one user posted.
Share prices in birth- and fertility-related companies surged.
‘Too late now’
Early this month, a once-in-a-decade census showed that the population grew at its slowest rate during the last decade since the 1950s, to 1.41 billion, fueling concerns that China would grow old before it gets wealthy as well as criticism that it had waited too long to address declining births.
“This is without a doubt a step in the right direction, but still it’s a bit timid,” Shuang Ding, chief economist at Standard Chartered in Hong Kong, told Reuters.
“A fully liberalised birth policy should have been implemented at least five years ago, but it’s too late now, although its better late than never,” he said.
China’s politburo also said on Monday that it would phase in delays in retirement ages, but did not provide any details.
Fines of 130,000 yuan ($26,986) were being imposed on people for having a third child as of late last year, according to a government notice in the city of Weihai.
Fearing a population explosion, in 1979 China implemented its one-child policy, which succeeded in curbing population growth but also led to coerced sterilisations and sex-selective abortions that exacerbated a gender imbalance as many parents preferred male children.
A study published earlier this year by academics from Hangzhou University found that the two-child policy encouraged wealthier couples who already had a child and were “less sensitive to child-rearing costs”, while driving up the costs of child care and education and discouraging first-time parents.
“I’m super happy,” said Su Meizhen, a human resources manager in Beijing, who is pregnant with her third child.
“We won’t have to pay the fine and we’ll be able to get a hukou,” she said, referring to the urban residence permit that enables families to receive benefits including sending their children to local public schools.
It is still questionable whether the Chinese start breeding a new population,, but as one Chinese woman said: As long as childcare, healthcare, rents and apartments and the education system are so expensive, there will be no more children.Therefore it remains to be seen if the economic incentives will be enough to cause a birth wave. Maybe China has to create a social welfare state in order to raise its birth rate. The two-child policy of the last 5 years has not helped either. China is falling victim to its capitalist success. It is interesting that children are not seen as the product of love, but exclusively from an economic point of view. Apparently nothing but status-, geopolitically- and economically-oriented purposes Singapore, like most western and many Asian countries, only has a birth rate of 1.1 to 1.3. Only France has managed to increase it to 1.9. The country of the bambini, Catholic Italy, has now Europe’s lowest birth rate.
The introduction of counterreceptives in Western countries in the 60s stopped the baby boomer generation and after that the birth rates rapidly and continiously declined. However, it was not just a question of contrareceptives and econmnic factors, but also societal change as feminism, sexual liberation individualism and hedonism and the integration of women in the labour market as well as rising demands for a higher living standard and individualism that were other factors. And children were often not seen as a romantic fruit of love, but as economic or factual hindrances for the own life style and life. It is hard to predict how these trends are also present in the Chinese and Asian societies and to what extent they also have influence. However, a sexual revolution is also going on in China and a generational change of traditional vaues. However, many young Chinese males due to the lack of potential brides and living partners have to rely on prostitutues, ascetism, mastrubation or sex toy plastic puppets which are bestsellers in Chinese online shops.But these froms of sexual liberation are no contribution to the national birthrate and don´t give birth to children.
But the new three child policy also doesn`t address the phenomen of Chinese families prefering boys instead of girls due to traditional values and thereby creating a male bulge. It remains to be seen if China´s three child policy will work or if the CCP will be forced to import lacking workforce, potential mothers and women for the Chinese males and consumers from other parts of the world and thereby allow migration to China which would be a new challenge to a dominant Han-Chinese chauvinist society. Japan till now has limited any migration and is besides Iceland the only ethnic homogenous society which will also face overaging and demographic problems.
Therefore it remains to be seen if digitalization and automatisation can absorb the missing work force, prevent migration or if Japan and China will be forced to become migrations states as many other Western countries in the process of falling birth rates and globalization. However it is hard to imagine a Statue of Liberty at the port of Shanghai or Canton welcoming migrants to the promised land of the free and the brave and enlightning the world: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The question was which dimension and extent such labour and other migration to China besides the already very limited brain drain migration from foreign countries would have and how it would create inner conflicts and change the inner fabric of the Chinese society as we already see the rise of nationalism, xenophobia and cultural clashes in other migrant societies. Another soultion could be if the CCP promotes mass artificial fertilization or new forms of reproduction communities beyond the traditional small core familiy, maybe similiar to SS- Himmler´s “Lebensborn” and change the whole value system in China and connect reproduction numbers with its social bonus credit system, maybe with a new title for the new national heroes and national champions as “Breeder of the day”.
Or the CCP implements a new nationwide concubine system in a more traditional fashion with Chinese characters. However, the problem remains that there are far too few concubines for the hundred millions of little emperors and as only the rich could afford one or more concubines it might be a limited, socialdarwinist reproduction program. A German filmmaker and an US friend from the Silicon Valley, consumers of futuristic and brainstorming literature from the RAND Corporation and other hightech- futurology institutes, Aldous Huxley, Ray Kurzweil to Yuval Hariri (Homo Deus) imagines that the tech-savy CCP might develop an artifical breeding womb for mass reproduction or shorten the female reproduction cycle of 9 month and extend the life expectancy by genetic engineering to create a Brave New China (maybe in a biogentic and secret research laboratory in Wuhan) . Maybe with eugenic selection and optimalization by artifical intelligence and by this creating a real singularity of human beings, human capital and life science. Of course, that is still science fiction and not feasible at the moment and won´t solve China´s demographic problems till 2049, the 100th anniversary when China wants to become the leading world power. However, the Chinese population, even the younger generation and maybe also the older Chinese leadership and Communists even if they want to appear as modern might be too traditional and conservative to use these farreaching forms of reproduction policy, societal change of values and might even see it as symbol of capitulation in comparison with other states.