From allowing just 1 child to forcing to have 3

Based on questions that I have been asked, it seems that some people still don’t know that the one child policy is not enforced in China anymore. To be precise, it was scrapped at the end of 2015, six years ago. After that the two children policy was adopted, and then this year the three child policy was approved. Will they fine people who have more than three children? I somehow doubt it, given the current state of affairs.

People always say (and it is indeed true) that in China, things change very fast. This topic is a good example: in only six years, China has gone from giving fines to people who have more than one child to trying to convince families to have more children. Forced abortions and sterilizations, and also easily obtained pregnancy terminations, have now given way to difficulties for men who want to get a vasectomy.

And how have Chinese people reacted to this calling to have more babies? With a big “screw you”, pardon my French. In this survey that was done in May and which around 30,000 people answered, 1443 said they were looking forward to having a third child; 213 replied they were noting it up in their agendas; 828 answered that they had some doubts and had to think about it; and 28,000 people replied with the Chinese equivalent of “no way Jose”.

Pow! Right in the kisser! When the two child policy was adopted, the government also thought there was going to be a big boom in births, but to their dismay there were only a few more births the following year (from people that had always wanted a second child and could still conceive) and then the birth rate kept falling. Now it is the lowest in 70 years (since there are records, I guess).

Why are Chinese people not interested in having more children? Most of them say that it’s because they simply cannot afford it. Apart from the usual costs of raising a child, Chinese parents spend thousands every year on extracurricular classes so their spawn has more chances to attend a good university, study a good major and earn a lot of money. “If everybody else does it, my child cannot be left behind”. Those families that send their children to private schools, with the intention of later having them attend university abroad, also pay through the nose in school fees. You may have heard that, last summer, the government banned all extracurricular classes for children (except art, sports and the like), but as the requirements to enter university and the limited amount of university spots have not changed, parents are still anxious about their children learning less than their peers and now are paying more money than before to teachers that have to teach in an unregulated way and basically in secret.

Comic from here. Parents under the pressure of raising a child.

And let’s not even talk about the time you have to dedicate to your children, even more if you are very worried about their education and you feel like to have to micromanage them at all times. This is mostly a women’s job, of course, and many of them end up giving up their careers and losing financial indepence. So it’s not a surprise that many young women don’t even want to have one child, or reluctantly have one just to fulfill their societal obligations.

Balance between career and kids? From Xinhua.

So what is the government doing to encourage people to have children, apart from banning extracurricular classes? Are they perhaps giving financial help to families? Ha, that’s a good one. None of that yet. Like always, they say they will protect women from being fired or having their salary reduced if they get pregnant. But if companies are not even willing to hire young women, what’s the use of that? There’s already been articles in which companies confess that they will have to think a lot before hiring a young woman. Will this end up like The Handmaid’s Tale, albeit a more domestic version in which female work outside the house is forbidden and they only have to provide babies to their husband?

For now, a few days ago the Chinese Communist Party published a very funny directive in which they exhort party members to be an example for the people and start having three children.

The highlighted part says: “Party members cannot, for this or that subjective reason, avoid getting married or avoid having children. They also cannot, for this or that subjective reason, have only one or two children”. Loud and clear. Apart from paying the party fees and attend meetings, now members will also have to show their “big family” cards, hehe. Unfortunately Xi Jinping and his wife are too old for that, but their 29 year old daughter should start doing her part (by the way, that same daughter studied in Harvard, and now parents that send their children to universities abroad are considered unpatriotic. Oh, the shock!). In this article that someone published on WeChat and that has been removed from that platform (someone posted it in that foreign website so it can still be accessed), the author warns that whoever thinks this is going to stop with party members should think twice, as the rest of the society will surely have to follow. Let’s see, maybe in another six years Chinese women will be forced to have three children, for the benefit of the whole society and of the motherland. Yep, it does sound suspiciously like The Handmaid’s Tale.