China’s Not As Overpopulated As Believed; One Child Policy Nothing More Than A Poisoned Chalice?

Image Credits: Times Of India

For the longest time, we’ve known China to be the world’s most populous nation. And, as if proving this point, you can find them no matter which part of the world you’re in. If you haven’t been slammed in the face multiple times with this fact already, overpopulation is considered quite the problem. And as far as its threat in China goes, they were in quite the puddle. It has been considered overpopulated for many years now, so it’s only natural that they were pushed into a corner. They had to do something to save their resources, economy, and country, and they had to do it fast.

It was during such a time of crisis that the “One Child Policy” emerged. As is evident from the name, according to this policy, families residing in China were allowed to have only one child per couple, after which the mother was required to have a contraceptive intrauterine device surgically installed. This prevented chances of another pregnancy, and in the event of the birth of a second child, she was sterilized by tubal litigation, thus eliminating all chances of another such occurrence. As per the policy, only if the first child was a girl were they allowed having a second child. Those families who failed to abide by this policy were charged with a very heavy fine, which was required to be paid separately by both parents. There were some exemptions to this policy, however, when minorities were concerned.

Owing to the aforementioned policy, as well as a general decline in fertility rates even before the emergence of the policy, the birth rate in China decreased by a large amount. China is now faced with a new crisis, caused by their own actions. The “One Child Policy”, which was originally enforced in order to control population growth was, indeed, very effective – far more effective than was good for the country. The policy has finally shown its true form – a poisoned chalice.

Let’s take a moment to discuss this policy, shall we? While I won’t get into the details, what it aimed to do was decrease population growth and reduce fertility rates in China. But was it a bit too curbing? I’ve always believed that there is one thing that we humans have absolutely no say in – the existence of life. It’s never for us to decide who gets to live and who doesn’t. Now, some of you might argue otherwise, what with things like abortion and contraceptives available these days, of course, we ‘have a say’. But that’s not what I mean. I’m not saying we can’t decide, I’m saying we don’t have the right to. Your life isn’t anyone else’s, and no one else’s life is yours. No one else can decide whether you get to live or die – it’s not their call. And if truth be told, it’s not even your call. But the One Child Policy completely disregards this truth. Give me a moment to explain, if you would.

So, let’s take a look at this from a different perspective. What if you were the child that wasn’t allowed to be born? Imagine that. You just never would have been. Never existed. In this case, it wasn’t even because of a decision made by your parents, but by a complete outsider. Truth be told, it must have been quite sad for many couples. Not everyone wants to have just one child, many like to have large families. They find joy in it. And yet, they were denied the right to make that decision for themselves. Does the government, or anyone else for that matter, have the right to make that call for you? I know it was all in order to prevent overpopulation and reduce the burden on the environment, but is it an issue bigger than human lives itself? Is the number of people really the matter here? Where’s the humanity in that? Aren’t our real motives actually selfish? Think about it. If we really cared so much about it, there are plenty of other ways to make use of our inexhaustible, natural resources in order to meet our needs. We don’t need to overuse the exhaustible ones, it’s just our inability to adjust and our greed that makes us think otherwise. Aren’t we just decreasing the number of consumers so we can continue to consume? I don’t know if I’m making any sense to you, but all I’m trying to say is that we’re mixing up our priorities. And slowly, the consequences of our actions are catching up to us.

What everyone feared would happen has finally come to pass. China’s workforce is declining. The density of youth in China is very low in comparison to that of the older population, owing to the strict family planning policies that had been in effect for decades. There aren’t enough people to work in the various industries and keep the economy running. As more men retire, the number of vacancies will increase with no one to fill in and take up their roles. Ironic, isn’t it? The one thing they did in order to eliminate the most imminent threat at the time for the sake of the country’s future, has now become the reason for its biggest issue.

As an aftermath of the policy, a number of issues have now surfaced. Besides the decreasing workforce, China now has a distorted sex ratio. As part of the policy, a couple was permitted to have a second child only if the first one was a girl. Owing to this, and their preference for male children, the number of men now exceeds the number of women. Right now, China does not have enough daughters for their sons. Many men aren’t even going to get a shot at making a family, especially the poverty-stricken ones. This also means that there’s going to be further drops in birth and fertility rates. Besides this, with many women now being well educated and equipped to work, they no longer want to get married at a young age, thereby contributing to the already decreasing fertility rate. Taking all of this into account, the birth rate in China is only going to drop even further in the near future. Will they ever be able to make up for the population gap that has developed during the last few years?

As if this itself wasn’t problematic enough, Yi Fuxiang, a Chinese population researcher,  and scientist based in Wisconsin has revealed in a study that China has been overstating its population number since 1990. According to him, China’s real population may be 1.29 billion, i.e. 90 million lesser than the government’s estimate of 1.38 billion (in 2016). If this is true, China was never as overpopulated as they thought. Was everything they did thus far to annihilate the threat of overpopulation completely unnecessary? India, on the other hand, has shown a growth in population number to 1.33 billion in 2016. While we all saw this coming, it looks like India is, in fact, the most populated country in the world. Well, isn’t this a sudden twist in the plot!

On the bright side, it looks like India no longer needs to fear being the most populous nation in the world – we’ve been winning that contest since 1990! But maybe that isn’t a cause for much worry. We’ve been dealing with this situation for 27 years now, without even realizing it. (I even saw someone celebrate this fact – which I think is really cool, by the way – via a comment on a news page. We should be celebrating people, after all, ). So I guess it’s okay to believe that we’ve got this one in the bag, folks!