Cherchez la femme… China’s bureaucrats are pleading with women to have babies
We’re talking about China again. Why? Because when China sneezes, much of the world catches a cold. Ready or not, that is today’s multipolar reality. China matters – big time.
For the record, yours truly is neither misogynist, misandrist, nor Sinophobic – just an America-first guy. But the Wall Street Journal rang in the New Year with a report about Chinese women that cries out for comment: “China Is Pressing Women to Have More Babies. Many Are Saying No”.
Two accomplished female reporters, Liyan Qi and Shen Lu, take the People’s Republic (PRC) to task for hectoring young women to have more children. They have a point. I have it on good authority that women are at fault for 50 percent of the demographic conundrum. But many from the other 50 percent have opted out of family life in the lying flat (tang ping) and let it rot (bai lan) movements.
Regarding the fairer 50 percent:
Fed up with government harassment and wary of the sacrifices of child-rearing, many young women are putting themselves ahead of what Beijing and their families want. Their refusal has set off a crisis for the Communist Party, which desperately needs more babies to rejuvenate China’s aging population.
Putting yourself ahead of what the government wants is fine by me unless it harms others.
Putting yourself ahead of family is something else. In a materialist me-first ethos, individuals are valued solely for their economic utility. Family is an impediment to financial success, a lifestyle encumbrance. That is postmodernism, where everything is relative. Globalism thrives on it.
In Confucian (and Christian) tradition, the individual is integral to (thus inseparable from) the family. It is a filial duty to have children and carry on the spiritual and consanguineal bond transcending generations, each nurturing the next. There was a time, believe it or not, when families got along much better than they do now. But that’s something for another discussion.
It wasn’t too long ago that the Chinese government was doing more than simply hectoring women. Back in the one-child days the state tried to supplant the family. Didn’t work. Now the government really regrets the failed dystopia where government bureaucrats monitored menstrual cycles, fined families for bearing children, mandated abortion and didn’t exactly discourage infanticide.
Today China is in early-stage demographic collapse. The population is projected to fall from 1.4 billion to somewhere between 500 and 700 million by 2100. The fast-shrinking labour force is a huge problem, and caring for the exploding elderly contingent is more costly than ever:
- In 2022 there were 6.8 million marriages. In 2013 there were 13 million.
- In 2022 there were less than 10 million births, down from 16 million in 2012. Fewer than 9 million are projected for 2023. Preschools are closing.
- China’s total fertility rate is 1.09, one of the world’s lowest.
Party technocrats tasked with turning this around have an uphill battle. WSJ claims that Chinese women are being scapegoated:
In October, Chinese Leader Xi Jinping urged the state-backed All-China Women’s Federation to “prevent and resolve risks in the women’s field,” according to an official account of the speech.
“It’s clear that he was not talking about risks faced by women but considering women as a major threat to social stability,” said Clyde Yicheng Wang, an assistant professor of politics at Washington and Lee University…
That could be, though I’m reluctant to take their word for it. Why? Because casting women as victims has been weaponised in the service of woke ideology. Yes, women are mistreated and abused. But in today’s toxic popular culture, whining about oppression is blood sport. Just the allegation of bias against women is sufficient to ruin one’s life. The doctrine of innocent until proven guilty has gone down the #MeToo memory hole.
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A PRC government pastime is urging women to have children. It sponsors “family values” seminars. Public officials urge families to procreate. Relatives do the same. Myriad tax and financial incentives are in place. And get this:
Having had one child, I think I’ve done my duty,” Feng [Chenchen] said. A second child, she said, would be too expensive. She said she tells relatives, “I can have another kid as long as you give me 300,000 yuan,” around $41,000.
Maybe the lady is on to something. Expensive? We’re talking about survival. China, despite its economic problems, is cash rich. If financially incentivizing people to have children is what it takes, make it worth their while. Maybe some of China’s Belt and Road Initiative money or military budget could be better spent at home. The possibilities are limitless. Think outside the box. Lead through example.
China is trying. According to military physician Zeng Jian, “Soldiers win battles. When it comes to giving birth to second or third children and implementing the national fertility policy, we are also taking the lead and charging to the front.”
There has been a tightening of licenses for clinics offering medical procedures to block pregnancies. In 1991, the height of the one-child policy, 6 million tubal ligations and 2 million vasectomies were performed. In 2020, there were 190,000 tubal ligations and 2,600 vasectomies …
Officials have also tried to dial back abortions, a key tool for officials during the one-child policy. They have fallen by more than a third—from more than 14 million in 1991 to just under 9 million in 2020. China has since stopped releasing data on vasectomies, tubal ligations and abortions.
According to WSJ, the PRC government “sees feminism as a nefarious ideology backed by foreign forces, has detained women’s-rights activists and erased their social-media accounts in a years-long crackdown.”
Cherry-picked items lead us to believe that PRC women are indeed on the back foot. An example is that for the first time in decades there are no women in the top echelon of the Politburo. That is not prima facie evidence of oppression, though it does comport with a misandrist “bad men” narrative.
I’ve encountered so-called feminists who’ve told me that women are oppressed everywhere, that it is just a matter of degree as to how terrible their lot. I thought about that when the female presidents of the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard and MIT appeared before Congress to testify about antisemitism on their campuses. Pundits praised their diversity. Well, the WASPish white lady from UPenn resigned within days. The black lady from Harvard hung on a bit longer. No word yet about the Jewish lady from MIT. Were influential men behind the resignations? Gotta be misogyny.
Perhaps my days in the imperial capital left me irreparably jaded, but WSJ, a globalist mouthpiece, has given us a “twofer” with this story: it calls attention to the problem of falling fertility yet stokes anti-China fervour in woke gynecocratic circles. Pure genius.
Happy New Year!
Louis T. March has a background in government, business, and philanthropy. A former talk show host, author, and public speaker, he is a dedicated student of history and genealogy. Louis lives with his family in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
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