As people were ushering the New Year, a 36-year-old Chinese mother of one gave birth at 12.01 am.
US television network NBC reported she “dodged a $12,000 birth control tax by just a few seconds.”
That’s because China abolished a much maligned One-Child Policy in force for 35 years.
Beginning January 1, 2016, married couples are allowed two.
The origin of the One-Child Policy is in the late Chairman Mao Zedong penchant for encouraging couples to have large families because “the more people we have, the greater the force.”
Well, that probably made social sense in agrarian China and children were assets, and militarily when Cold War fears of a looming World War III dictated major powers’ policies.
Deng Xiaoping, an old Mao associate fallen out of favour and exiled during Mao and the Gang of Four’s chaotic rules, made a come-back in 1973.
By 1977 he was at the helm.
He had different views on population and the economy.
China wasn’t going to prosper if the expanding population was eating the profits of the expanding economy.
Persuading Chinese families to have fewer children wasn’t going to work. A Communist Party decree shall.
Granted there were exceptions and the policy was administered differently in different parts of the country.
However, the National Population and Family Planning Commission had an army of enforces. They did, ruthlessly.
By all accounts, on a human level the policy led to abuses of all rights imaginable; birth control tax became local authorities’ cash cow, forced sterilization, and abortions galore, secret abortions, undocumented children, gender imbalance, et cetera.
Finally it dawned on Chinese leaders: The country had a major flaw: China headed into being a land of too many elderly people who wouldn’t be productive, a labour shortage.
Experts reportedly predict there will be anywhere between 20 million and 24 million babies a year, almost equivalent to Australia’s population.
As the most populous country in the world with almost a population of 1.4 billion, China consumes, for example, world’s half cement, aluminium, and pork, wrote British author Andrew Winston in The Guardian last November.
Last year, the United Nations predicted world population will jump from current nine billion to 11.2 billion in 2100.
There’s a tendency to wonder how the expected Chinese baby boom would affect sustainability of these billions. Have no fear!
Citing measures under way in environmental management, Winston persuasively concluded “…it’s a good thing the sustainability train is moving. The prospect of more Chinese people does not change the destination, but does change how fast we need to get there.”