Reproductive Freedom

The 'One-Child' Policy Was Tyrannical in Theory and Brutally Oppressive in Practice

For decades, Western apologists downplayed the horrific consequences of China’s reproductive restrictions..

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It is not surprising that the Chinese Communist Party, which this week further loosened its legal limits on reproduction, still does not admit the "one-child" policy that Deng Xiaoping imposed four decades ago was a grievous error, tyrannical in theory and brutally oppressive in practice. But the extent to which Western apologists have downplayed that ugly reality is surprising—and shameful.

In 2009, Financial Post columnist Diane Francis declared that "a planetary law, such as China's one-child policy, is the only way to reverse the disastrous global birthrate." Four years later, BBC documentarian David Attenborough joined Francis in praising China's policy, although he regretted "the degree to which it has been enforced" and acknowledged that it "produced all kinds of personal tragedies."

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who admires what a "one-party autocracy" such as China's can accomplish when it is "led by a reasonably enlightened group of people," thinks the one-child policy is a good example. In his 2008 book Hot, Flat, and Crowded, Friedman said restrictions on family size "probably saved China from a population calamity" and expressed the hope that the Chinese government would show the same dictatorial fervor in pursuit of "net-zero buildings."

In a 2015 HuffPost essay titled "In Praise of China's One-Child Policy," Israeli environmentalist Alon Tal cited the famines that killed an estimated 45 million Chinese in the late 1950s and early '60s as evidence that strict population control was necessary. He did not mention Mao Zedong's calamitous Great Leap Forward, which caused those food shortages in a misguided attempt to modernize the Chinese economy by government fiat.

The assumption that coercion was necessary to reduce China's birth rate is contradicted by trends in other developing countries that never adopted such a policy. As Cato Institute Senior Fellow Marian Tupy notes, "plenty of other countries experienced dramatic declines in fertility, which is highly correlated with income and education, and does not necessitate draconian intervention by the government."

The "personal tragedies" that Attenborough lamented were not, as he seems to think, an unfortunate side effect of an otherwise enlightened policy. They were necessary to enforce the government's dictates, which people predictably resisted.

The enforcement measures, which varied widely by time and place, included "family planning contracts," birth permits, gynecological surveillance, fines that could amount to several years of income, property confiscation, home demolitions, beatings, arbitrary detention, kidnapping of unauthorized children, denial of employment and government services, and forced abortions, sterilizations, and IUD insertions. While not all those methods were officially blessed by the central government, Brookings Institution scholar Wang Feng observed, the national policy was "so extreme that it emboldened local officials to act so inhumanely."

In her 2019 documentary One Child Nation, Nanfu Wang returns to the farming village in Jiangxi province where she was raised and talks to an uncle and an aunt who mournfully remember the infant daughters they felt compelled to abandon. Wang's grandfather says he had to dissuade local officials from sterilizing her mother after Wang was born.

A former family planning official tells Wang that "sometimes pregnant women tried to run away" from forced abortions, often performed at eight or nine months, and "we had to chase after them." A midwife estimates that she performed 50,000 to 60,000 sterilizations and abortions.

"Many I induced alive and killed," the midwife says. "My hand trembled doing it."

In 2011, notwithstanding the horrific consequences of China's reproductive controls, then–Vice President Joe Biden told students at Sichuan University that "your policy" is "one which I fully understand" and "I'm not second-guessing." The problem, Biden said, was that it had led to a rising ratio of retirees to workers, which was "not sustainable."

The Chinese government now seems to agree with Biden. But the problematic demographic results of China's experiment in coercive "family planning," which include a gender imbalance as well as an aging population, are hardly the worst thing that can be said about it.

© Copyright 2021 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Is a 3 child limit any better? It might not end up killing as many, but it’s just as brutal.

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    2. In a free society, the limit is as many as the individual parents desire and can afford.

      1. I agree. Unfortunately, in this society, those having the most children are, in many cases, those who can least afford them, behavior subsidized by the government stealing from those who are more restrained in their procreating.

  2. SPB2 also opposed the one child policy, but it’s not the same thing.

    1. I am old enough to remember when those jokes used to be made about Old Man With Candy.

      1. Ha. Good times.

    2. Who? Or do I even want to know?…

  3. In 2011, notwithstanding the horrific consequences of China’s reproductive controls, then–Vice President Joe Biden told students at Sichuan University that “your policy” is “one which I fully understand” and “I’m not second-guessing.” The problem, Biden said, was that it had led to a rising ratio of retirees to workers, which was “not sustainable.”

    So he he, eschewing totalitarian oppresion and at least then anyway, understood full well the implications of falling birthrates, crushing debts, higher minimum wages, and open borders. Paid stooge? Zealous accomplice? Both? You decide!

    1. Alzheimer’s.

      1. Worse than Reagan at the tail end of his 2nd term.

        1. Probably giving Wilson at the end of his, a run for his money. Or for ours, really.

    2. Biden has been owned by the CCP for a long time.

      1. Hence the “Tankie” in my name for him: Sleepy, Creepy, Crazy, Cranky, Tankie , Corn-Pop, Luch-Bucket, Basement Bunker, Shotgun Joe.

    3. The Chinese government now seems to agree with Biden.

      I appreciate Sullum for collecting the MSM quotes showing they agree with Chairman Mao’s one child policy, one which Biden “fully understands”. He could have also mentioned Biden’s predilection to quote Mao in his speeches, such as to the Naval graduates.

      Sullum errs in the quoted statement above, the correct statement being “Biden now seems to agree with the Chinese government.”

      While I otherwise agree with Sullum about this oppressive policy, IMHO it is a policy counterproductive to China’s prosperity (I personally believe a country’s citizens are its greatest resource) and desire to rule the world. So there’s no reason to bring it to their attention, or criticize it. The fallacy of Joe’s “full understanding” is that he believes with fewer people on the planet, the more individuals will have, because he forgets it takes people to turn natural resources into something of value. With that kind of thinking, it makes sense to use bio-weapons to reduce the world’s population, provided you aren’t killed.

      1. “I appreciate Sullum for collecting the MSM quotes showing they agree with Chairman Mao’s one child policy”

        Fully understand this: It was not Mao’s policy. Mao was pro natalist. If only because he thought the more Chinese there were, the higher the chances were in winning a nuclear war.

      2. (I personally believe a country’s citizens are its greatest resource)

        As reprehensible as The Butchers of Beijing were with their “One Child Only” policy, it is equally reprehensible from the other side to call human beings a “resource.” If your handle is “MoreFreedom,” you may want to rephrase that to something that recognizes the independent value sovereignty of the individual.

        The fallacy of Joe’s “full understanding” is that he believes with fewer people on the planet, the more individuals will have, because he forgets it takes people to turn natural resources into something of value.

        This is true, but only part of the recipe. It takes individuals who think and apply productive effort to the objects in the Natural Universe to create things of value. In a society, this requires freedom to think and freedom to produce and freedom to own, to value, and to exchange values. In short, it requires “Free Minds and Free Markets.”

        (Hmm…Where have I heard that phrase before? And where was it once regarded as kind of a big deal?)

  4. Progressive have been all in on eugenics and infanticide for over a hundred years.

    1. It’s rich to hear millennial prog feminists now complain that they want to make more babies but can’t afford to because inequality, sexism, capitalism

      1. And they can’t find men willing to be absentee sperm donors and walking ATM machines. I hope they like box wine and being Mom to herds of kitties.

  5. The author of the above article evidently hasn’t heard of global warming. If something is not done about global warming (and it looks as though not enough will be done) the effect on those living on a planet which is far too hot in 100 years time will be “brutal”, if we’re going to bandy the word brutal around. Population reduction is one way of cutting down on the latter “brutality”.

    1. You’re making the idiotic assumption that there is an ideal temperature for Earth and that it must not vary.

      The most productive parts of the planet are in climate zones that benefit from rising temperatures. I like the prospect of longer growing seasons where most people live. It means more productivity and less starvation.

      1. Exactly. Ralph also presupposes there will be no species adaption to the change in climate over that 100 year period. Will AZ be too hot to live in in 100 years? Maybe. Or maybe humans will change along with that climate and be perfectly happy there.
        If nothing else, the Lizard People will have a home. Hmmm. Maybe that is the plan all along…

    2. A wild little Eichmann appears.

    3. So, if what you say is true, then anything a government does to ‘correct’ the problem is justified. Just saying, so you will feel better when the death squads come for you. Old people don’t add as much to the economy but consume almost as much as the young, so getting rid of them solves a great problem.
      Look to China for the future!

    4. Nuke China and India and you solve not only overpopulation but global warming too, and save countless US manufacturing and IT jobs. What’s not to love?

    5. Yeah, that 1.6 F rise in temperature will be so brutal.

      1. To be fair, it might be as high as another 3 C from today, but yeah, civilization isn’t going to perish because the average temperature in winter goes up 7 F degrees and in summer the average temperature goes up 5 F degrees. (most of the science says the bulk of the warming will be in the cold seasons).

        1. Not to mention that more of the warming occurs at night, so night time temperatures will not drop as much as currently, leading to a milder climate.

    6. Didn’t you hear that scientists expect to have better air conditioners thanks to advances in technology, to allow us to adapt to a warmer climate? No need to worry. Further, Sun scientists (remember the motto: follow the science) are telling us the Sun is cooling down and they expect us to have a mini-ice-age lasting maybe 60 years or so; thus, some man made global warming in anticipation is likely a good thing.

      1. “Didn’t you hear that scientists expect to have better air conditioners thanks to advances in technology, to allow us to adapt to a warmer climate? ”

        Great expectations. Will these better air conditioners also allow our crops of wheat, corn and rice to adapt to a warmer climate?

    7. Feel free to join the Hemlock Society, and reduce the excess population by yourself.

  6. If the Communists do this to their own people – draconian enforcement of 1-child rule – what do you think they will do to us, if given the chance. Think about that.

    A war is coming with those communist bastards.

    1. War with China? Not likely.

      IF you must find a war, (another war) for the USA – watch out for the India-Pakistan area. Nuclear armed, religious fanatics. THAT is scary!

      Libertarians reference: https://www.cato.org/policy-analysis/china-rise-or-demise#chinas-rise

      1. None of their nukes can reach us. Besides, they would use them on each other.

    2. We’re already in an economic war with China, in which our politicians sold out US interests by partnering with them, allowing them to steal our technology, and permitting them to use slave labor. They don’t respect patents or other intellectual property, and have a double standard just like our political class.

      I don’t mind competing with China, because their communist system has big political overhead costs that make them uncompetitive, but they don’t want to compete on a level playing field, because they can’t do it very successfully, depending on very low wages and Chinese government subsidies to compete.

    3. If the Communists do this to their own people, the war is likely to be between the Chinese people and the CCP. I see no reason to spill US blood to free up the Chinese.

  7. I don’t see the down side of less Chinese in China and a projected weakening of the CCP due to its aging population.

    1. The down side, just like in the USA, of fewer Chinese (or a population that doesn’t grow) is the government won’t keep its promises to care for the old, because they and we need to grow out of our respective debt holes. I give credit to Joe’s handlers for putting “The problem, Biden said, was that it had led to a rising ratio of retirees to workers, which was ‘not sustainable'” in the teleprompter.

      This is the main reason IMHO, that Koch supports more immigration, though I’d guess the benefits to citizens and law abiding immigrants alike, from the work of those immigrants, are also important.

      Libertarians should mention the ratio of workers/retirees more when advocating for more immigration. The GOP and Democrats don’t want to admit the problem they created even exists.

    2. As Redd Foxx would say: “They’ve stopped coming! Ooooh! This is This is The Big One! You hear that, Elizabeth! I’m coming to join ya, honey! With a take-out box in my hand!”

  8. “But the problematic demographic results of China’s experiment in coercive “family planning,” which include a gender imbalance as well as an aging population, are hardly the worst thing that can be said about it.”

    An expansionist society with a surplus of younger men may be bad for the rest of the world.

    1. Not if they can turn to sexbots and/or each other to relieve their urges. Parachute them an army of the silicone babes and rainbow flags.

  9. Any progressives who feel that the Earth is overpopulated can self-induce a 90th trimester abortion.

    1. Any clingers who don’t like progress imposed by their betters can open wider.

      1. Artie praising the Chicoms again. Schmuck.

      2. So now you are Honorable Arthur L. “Round-Eyes Running Dog” Kirkland? Well, you would make The Butchers of Beijing a great pet. Carry on, Leg-Clinger.

  10. Do you know what limits a populations’ birth rate? Affluence. The richer a society the lower the birthrate.

    Globally we have moved on from abject destitution. It’s still there, but it’s an evil we have conquered. All around the world poverty rates are in a huge decline. And so with China no longer being a nation of peasants they no longer need their two child rule. It wasn’t their communism that did it, it was the rising tide of affluence that began when they opened up. Still an evil country, no doubt about that, but opening up in the 90s after two thousand years of isolation is what propelled them out of the Confucian dark ages. And not just china, everywhere is seeing declining birth rates coupled with increased affluence.

    The peak population will happen in our children’s lifetime. Malthus was wrong. All the fearmongers of the 70s were wrong. Free markets and free trade are what saved us. The green revolution saved us. Technology saved us. And no offense to the New Right, but it was Globalism that saved us as well. We passed peak growth rate in 1968. We will have passed peak population in 2064. Holy shit, I might even still be alive to see it!

    1. “Do you know what limits a populations’ birth rate? Affluence. The richer a society the lower the birthrate. ”

      The issue these days is declining birth rates. It’s caused by women and men having fewer children and having their first born at a later age – 26 now opposed to 21 a few decades ago. Also caused by shrinking life expectancies and declining male sperm counts.

      Affluence causes rising fertility rates. Falling rates are a healthy and natural response to stress. Population density being the most easily understood form of stress. It is seen in the animal kingdom and with humans it is most evident in Taiwan, the region on earth with the greatest population density and the lowest birth rate on the planet.

      1. So, a self correcting problem.

        1. It’s not a problem biology wise. Any problems come from economics and the assumption and need for endless economic growth.

      2. The highest birthdate country is Niger, at the bottom of the Human development index, where the leading cause of death is diarrhea. It has a low population density because 80% consists of the Sahara Desert.

        That doesn’t sound like “affluence” and “low stress.”

    2. I want to be alive to see the F.I.C.A. line of paystubs marked out with the quote: “Gone Bankrupt. Replace with your own private, voluntary pension plan.” Oh! Happy Day!

      Perhaps we’ll both be alive to see these dreams as Cyborgs. You’ll know me because I’ll be the one doing Dog Wonder malfunctions attempting to act like a regular yard-dog! 🙂

  11. As a consequence of this policy, China has condemned itself to aging prematurely and likely doomed their effort to permanently surpass the US in GDP.

  12. The ‘One-Child’ Policy Was Tyrannical in Theory and Brutally Oppressive in Practice

    But environmentally necessary!

  13. US will never adopt one child policy. They will adopt Medicare for All which will only cover one child.

    1. Nah. Lefturds want as many dependent voters as possible. They’ll never go for limiting unwed mothers to a single kid.

      -jcr

  14. I don’t mind competing with China, because their communist system has big political overhead costs that make them uncompetitive, but they don’t want to
    ( https://wapexclusive.com/ ,compete on a level playing field, because they can’t do it very successfully, depending on very low wages and Chinese government subsidies to compete

  15. The illustration shows what seems to be a female child, most likely to be killed.

    1. Trans.

  16. The intersection of people who hate fascism but love China is surprisingly large.

  17. “The world needs hundreds of millions more Chinese communists.”

    – Reason, probably

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  19. In his 2008 book Hot, Flat, and Crowded, Friedman said

    I thought Hot, Flat, and Crowded was how Annabelle Chong described her lady business after her “World’s Largest Gangbang.”

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