Earlier this month, a People’s Daily’s opinion piece that urges Chinese citizens to have more babies as a “national issue” caused a backlash online. The online sentiment is perhaps best summarized in this comment, (translated from Weibo): “When you don’t want children, you force people to get sterilized. When you want more, you urge us to give birth. What do you think I am?”
On August 14, Xinhua Daily (a newspaper controlled by the Jiangsu Communist Party branch) also become a target of scorn and mockery for an editorial encouraging people to have children (in Chinese). The author, Liu Zhibiao 刘志彪, is an economics professor at Nanjing University.
Titled “Raising fertility rates is a new mission for China’s demographic development in the new era,” Liu’s article suggests a host of measure to prevent a demographic crisis. While most of them are reasonable — such as reducing childcare costs, improving the education system, and mandating better maternity and paternity leave — one recommendation sent the Chinese internet into an uproar.
The mind-boggling paragraph reads:
“A reproduction fund system should be established that will reward families for second children without government investment. The government can stipulate that citizens under the age of 40, regardless of gender, each contribute a certain percentage of their salary into a personal account each year. When a family has a second child, it can apply to cash out the money and receive a maternity allowance to compensate for short-term income loss caused by interruption to the parents’ work. If a citizen never has a second child, the government will return the money when they retire. The fund should be based on a PAYGO system, which means that the money that has been contributed by individuals can be used by the government to pay subsidies to other families.”
Since China eased its decades-long one-child policy in 2016, the central and local governments have been aggressive in encouraging people to have babies. In recent months, the campaign has become noticeably more intense.
One response to the new pressure from the government to reproduce is humor: some Chinese internet users have joking that the government will at some point introduce a tax that will be paid only by people with no kids. Liu’s proposal is not too different from the fears expressed in that joke. “They have no sense of shame. This is a form of punishment on people who don’t want to give birth,” one Weibo user wrote (in Chinese).