The birth rate debate in China is out of control

Society & Culture

A proposal to establish a fund to reward families for having two children, created by Nanjing University professor Liu Zhibiao 刘志彪 and published by Xinhua Daily on August 14, was an absurd idea amid an ongoing national conversation about how China can halt declining birth rates.

Amazingly, after the outrageous suggestion backfired miserably on the Chinese internet, more experts, for reasons inexplicable, felt the need to contribute even more horrendous recommendations to the dialogue on family planning.

Last Thursday, Hu Jiye 胡继晔, a finance professor at China University of Political Science and Law, told (in Chinese) that he was totally on board with a “production fund.” Moreover, he suggested the government consider slapping an additional tax on DINK families (households that have “dual incomes, no kids”).

“Procreation embodies excellent Chinese traditional culture,” he said. “It’s impossible to solely rely on money when people get old. They also need young people to take care of them. These DINK families will consume lots of social resources when they age because they have no offspring. Therefore, they need to be taxed.”

Meanwhile, Yi Fuxian 易富贤, a longtime critic of China’s birth limits who cast himself as an empathetic analyst by criticizing Liu for “objectifying human beings,” offered (in Chinese) an alternative that is actually no better than Liu’s proposal.

Yi, citing the minimum age of marriage in some Western countries, suggested China allow women who are 17 or younger to get married. “The goal is to let women have their first child before reaching 25. We want the majority of women to have three children by the age of 30 and then enter the workforce smoothly.”

When Liu’s suggestion about the “reproduction fund system” was reported, the Chinese internet reacted with anger. But after enduring this recent spate of daft and farcical takes, people have begun to wonder: How is it possible that these experts are so out of touch with public opinion? Why do they still think people want their participation in the dialogue?

Will they ever realize that every person is entitled to make the reproductive decisions that are best suited for their own lives?

As one Weibo user pointed out (in Chinese), “The main conflict in today’s China is people’s growing intelligence and experts’ decaying morality.”

Image by Christian Bjork