When the State Engineers Families, Family Structure Eventually Breaks Apart

I’m pretty sure you think, “Oh, here comes a lecture about Democrats and the War on Poverty.” 

You’re safe – I’ll be sparing you that. Instead, it’s a look at what China’s done to themselves.

Their current tenuous state of affairs started with worries about overpopulation – and they have never been able to feed themselves, so a legitimate concern – and, now, decades later chickens coming home to roost thanks to policies enacted, like “One Child.”

China’s getting older rapidly and just waking up to the fact that they don’t have enough people to replace themselves.

When you’re a country bent on world domination, that’s a calculus guaranteed to jack with your plans.

China’s baby bust is happening faster than many expected, raising fears of a demographic collapse. And coping with the fallout may now be complicated by miscalculations made more than 40 years ago.

The rapid shift under way today wasn’t projected by the architects of China’s one-child policy—one of the biggest social experiments in history, instituted in 1980. At the time, governments around the world feared overpopulation would hold back economic growth. A Moscow-trained missile scientist led the push for China’s policy, based on tables of calculations that applied mathematical models used to calculate rocket trajectories to population growth.

Four decades later, China is aging much earlier in its development than other major economies did. The shift to fewer births and more elderly citizens threatens to hold back economic growth. In a generation that grew up without siblings, young women are increasingly reluctant to have children—and there are fewer of them every year. Beijing is at a loss to change the mindset brought about by the policy

Births in China fell by more than 500,000 last year, according to recent government data, accelerating a population drop that started in 2022. Officials cited a quickly shrinking number of women of childbearing age—more than three million fewer than a year earlier—and acknowledged “changes in people’s thinking about births, postponement of marriage and childbirth.”

Really? A repressive Communist government can’t convince women who grew up with stories of what their parents – especially their mothers – were forced to endure by the state in order to be allowed to birth even one child? 

Do tell!

Of course, the authoritarians can’t imagine why their posters and cheery jingles don’t work – they weren’t living in those homes as citizens agnonized trying to hide pregnancies, or live, illicit births.

The other aspect of growing up under such circumstances?

Only children who’ve never known what it’s like to be surrounded by family and siblings tend to be pretty self-centered in most respects, especially in this day and age. When the focus of your parents’ life is on you, and your only focus is on you, well…living your life is pretty much the focus of your life.

Today’s Chinese women of a certain age are no different. They want stuff and kids interfere with that.

When it comes to settling down and having children, 26-year-old Bihan Chen views the choice in simple terms: It’s a bad investment.

“Let’s face it, having a child is like owning an investment with no guaranteed return for at least 18 years,” Chen, a Chinese venture capital analyst, told Business Insider.

…For starters, it appears matrimony just isn’t on the cards for many Chinese people of childbearing age. The number of marriages registered in China sank to a new low of 6.83 million in 2022.

…For youths like Chen, grappling with China’s slowing economy and record youth unemployment rates is already a tall order.

I wouldn’t choose to spend a part of my income on children because it’s expensive. The biggest thing on my mind right now is how I am going to fund my retirement. I feel like with my current level of income, I can’t retire comfortably anytime soon,” Emily Huang, 29, told BI.

They’re pretty cold-blooded discussing it, but when you haven’t the life experience of a “family,” how would you know what you’re missing if you choose not to have one?

You’re not the wiser, and the government has mostly themselves to thank for this when they brutally mandated a nation of only children.

…With his computer-assisted mathematical models and political connections, Song [Jian, one of China’s top scientists in the 70s] caught the attention of top leaders. He argued that rapid population growth would prevent China from becoming a rich, modern country, said Susan Greenhalgh, an anthropologist at Harvard University who has written books about the one-child policy.

“He used a frightening narrative of a coming demographic-economic-ecological crisis to persuade people,” she said.

…Within a little more than a decade, the fertility rate had dipped below the replacement rate. The cohort of young women was still massive, which kept the population growing. But the number of newborn girls was quickly dwindling

…One factor missing from Song’s population math was human behavior. The government’s sometimes brutal enforcement, including forced abortions and sterilizations, as well as decadeslong propaganda about the benefits of having a small family, left a lasting one-child mindset. The modeling also failed to take into account the traditional preference for sons. If couples could only have one child, they would prefer to have a boy.

Young women are now at the core of China’s demographic dilemma. They are increasingly reluctant to have children—and there are fewer of them every year.  

Greenhalgh, the Harvard anthropologist, said that the women growing up under the one-child policy were raised in line with Beijing’s goals of a smaller but what it called “higher-quality” population: well-educated, savvy and independent. “These women are not going to accept going back to the family to be housewives,” she said.

Congratulations – this is what you get when they grow up. They aren’t shy about it.

…”Not having kids means I can spend all my money on myself. I can take an overseas vacation whenever I like, sleep in on the weekends, and go out drinking late at night. That beats worrying about my kids day in and day out,” another person wrote.

Now the Chinese government is desperately trying to play catch-up, but, as the one young woman said, babies are at least an 18 year investment strategy, if you have a baby at all.

At the moment, the population projections are pretty stunning…

…Following the data release, researchers from Victoria University in Australia and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences predicted that China will have just 525 million people by the end of the century. That’s down from their previous forecast of 597 million and a precipitous drop from 1.4 billion now. 

…and it will require a lot of makin’ whoopee to make up.

Those campaign recruiting posters are really going to be something.

Somewhere Thomas Robert Malthus is smiling.

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