China Reaps the Seed it Didn’t Sow

ANZ chief economist Richard Yetsenga has published an essay canvassing the factors retarding China’s progress: restraints on the private sector, favouritism towards state-owned enterprises, and restraints on the informal credit system or shadow banking. These can all be remedied by government action, especially in the totalitarian regime currently prevailing in China.

What may not be capable of remedy is China’s newly-emerging demographic problem – a problem which also afflicts Europe, Russia, Japan, and many countries which have failed to, as Genesis puts it,  “be fruitful and multiply”:

In the free enterprise countries of Europe, plus some of those in Asia and in North America and Australia, the problem of birth rates below replacement levels can be temporarily ameliorated by immigration from India and working-age “refugees” from Africa and the Middle East where birth rates are still healthy, but this option is not available to China which has – literally – been hell-bent on reducing its population and strictly enforced a one-child policy. The policy has been only too successful and now China has belatedly realised its demographic problem – an inverted age “pyramid” with more citizens over 60 (that is a retiring age for many people) than children under 15.

This is a serious demographic problem, perhaps a disaster, for any country, but wealthy countries in Europe, North America and Australia can deal with the issue to some extent, as they also take in large numbers of working-age immigrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East. However China has operated a brutal one-child policy for decades and this is now haunting the country because it needs to provide pensions for its millions of elderly but has fewer young people entering the workforce.

I once watched a documentary about the pathetic plight of widows in rural China – it is mostly widows who are suffering because they outlive their husbands and the one child they were allowed to have has long since left the rural area in search of better pay in the cities. These widows are isolated and lonely, even if they get some financial support from their one child. Another consequence of the one-child policy is explained in the clip below.

China’s demographic problem has been exacerbated by the national cultural preference (common to many Asian countries) for male babies over female babies. Many female babies were selectively aborted or abandoned to die. With the imposition of its coercive one-child policy China has been left facing not only a demographic age-related problem but a severe gender imbalance. It has been reported that there are 40 million Chinese men for whom there will be no availability of Chinese wives, even if some are kidnapped from across the borders of Thailand, Vietnam etc.

Belatedly, China has recognised its demographic disaster and is now encouraging couples to have two children. But guess what? Like their counterparts in the prosperous West who have below replacement-level birth rates, Chinese couples are not taking advantage of this new permission and are mostly not having two children. It seems as if once religious faith and cultural tradition is lost, so is optimism about an earthly future, let alone the Hereafter.

Babette Francis, mother of eight children, is the National & Overseas Co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc., a pro-life, pro-family NGO which has special consultative status with the Economic & Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations

4 thoughts on “China Reaps the Seed it Didn’t Sow

  • Lewis P Buckingham says:

    Meeting more and more ethnic Chinese here in Australia, they are increasingly having more and more girls and real, rather than token,families.
    The few I know from Hong Kong have the look of the true refugee.
    Hard working, fearfull of return to their home of birth,hit by the real estate recession, unable to discuss politics, especially Chinese,
    Despite the politeness, anxious and overwhelmed.
    After the clear signs of State Chinese hacks of our universities, governance, defence and weather data, as the creature called ‘A state actor’ or some such, the Chinese in the street is running.
    Running as far as he and his family may ,from China, fearfull of return.
    As such they need our compassion and support.
    We need to show them that being an Australian means protection from the need, wants and directives of their ‘state of origin’.
    May they find ‘peacefull coexistance and the rule of law’ in Australia.
    As an afterthought I used to listen to radio Peking on a valve short wave radio my father gave me as a child.
    The signal from China was good when the sun set.
    There was a question and answer session where the perfectly well spoken compare answered questions from listeners.
    One was ‘Do you have freedom of religion in China’
    Answer ‘Yes, China has freedom of religion, as long as the exercise of that freedom is not contrary to the Constitution’
    Even when 12 years old I smelled trouble.

  • Alice Thermopolis says:

    China introduced its one-child policy in 1979 to “replace what it called “the current state of reproductive anarchy” by “reproductive planning to ensure the success of the socialist revolution.”

    It did so because the country’s population had doubled from about 500 million in 1950 to almost a billion in just 30 years.

    The central government decided something had to be done because it believed continued unrestricted growth would lead to economic and environmental catastrophe.

    The global population, currently 7,350 million, is projected by the UN to reach 9,800 million in 2050 and 11,200 million in 2100, assuming a continuing decrease in average fertility rate from 2.5 births per woman in 2010–2015 to 2.2 in 2045–2050 and to 2.0 in 2095–2100.

    How many people are too many in a finite world?

    As for demographic transition to below-replacement fertility levels, this is considered to be a consequence of economic growth, rather what the author describes a “loss of religious faith and cultural tradition”.

  • lloveday says:

    “It has been reported that there are 40 million Chinese men for whom there will be no availability of Chinese wives”.
    And unmarried men with few prospects of becoming so make for ferocious fighting men, enthusiastically attracted by China’s military recruitment program “Peace behind me, War in front of me”.

  • Alice Thermopolis says:

    Did the gender imbalance benefit women by giving them a way out of poverty?

    Yes, in areas where genders are most unbalanced, “scarcity allows women to marry into higher socioeconomic status.”

    However, it can benefit men too. “The sex industry tends to explode in situations where women are scarce, and prostitution, kidnappings and human trafficking have risen in China since the first generations with out-of-whack sex ratios became adults” [source: Tucker].

    Tucker, J.D. et al. “Surplus men, sex work, and the spread of HIV in China.” AIDS. Vol. 19, No. 6. March 24, 2005.

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