Will China’s Two-Child Policy Improve Women’s Rights in China?
Translator: Jennifer Yuan 11-15-2015
A few words from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during the 5th plenary session of its 18th Central Committee brought massive suffering to the people of China, infiltrating their psychology and body. In the recent 40 years, the Party implemented a stringent One-child Policy, controlling the wombs of a total of two generations of women, and controlling the reproductive systems of two generations of strong young men. In order to get a second child, couples were almost tortured to the point of death by the various cruel punishments imposed by the Birth Planning officials. Cases in which houses were demolished and actual deaths occurred were not rare. The extent, duration and depth of the turmoil were a “historic creation” of the CCP, found in no other place in the world. Now, hearing the phrase “Allowing Two Children”, women who have endured forced abortions are still crying endlessly, tears dampening their collars and clothes. Their sadness is heartfelt.
Yet, to the farmers who make up the majority of the Chinese population and ethnic minorities, this new policy doesn’t seem too relevant. They are not really beneficiaries, since most villages and ethnic minority regions already have a policy for households with two girls that permit a second child. What peasants fear the most are that their wives with “illegal births” are dragged like a pig to undergo forced abortion, and that harsh fines are imposed. These policies currently remain in place, and have no signs of loosening up. Peasants have to face these situations everyday: pregnant out-of-wedlock, fined! Pregnant after unregistered marriages, fined! Inadequate time between the first and second pregnancy or births, fined for not following
regulations! Unplanned pregnancy or births, fined! Not going for operations for Intra-uterine devices (IUDs) or vasectomies as required, fined! Shielding people with “over-quota” births, arrested and fined! Peasants who cannot afford the “Social Childcare Fees” or cannot pay it in installments have to pay additional overdue fees and high interests. All in all, fines are given numerous labels, and a large number of migrant workers have to send their hard-earned money from work in the cities back home to pay these fines or interests. Living under such an “iron-fist” policy, powerless farmers of course are not happy about any surprises, and feel that they have nothing to be grateful for.
Two years ago, after the launch of the CCP’s “Two-child Policy” for families with an only child, the National Health and Family Planning Commission’s data claimed that there were a total of 11 million eligible couples. However, only less than 10% went to register. One year later, only 241,300 couples that registered were approved by the government i.e. 5% of eligible applicants (Source: http://www.chinanews.com/gn/2014/07-11 /6374093.shtml). This Two-child Policy is not embraced by the city dwellers because even if they can afford to give birth to a second child, they cannot afford the cost of raising the child. Expensive fees for daycare and education etc. make parents who want a second child fear the prospects. The government overemphasized the numbers and has already been proven to be wrong. Chinese scholars basically agree on the same point: the trend of age disparity is inevitable; A serious imbalance in the ratio between men and women. even if a Two-child Policy is launched, will take about 100 years for the demographic to return to a reasonable condition. After studying population issues for many years, Mr. Yi Fuxian pointed out that in the 1960s of the last century, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea advocated only two children. Along with economic development, rapid fertility declined from a high level of 5.0 or more, and later pro- state policies have been, but did not appear compensatory baby boom, the fertility rate hovering at low levels of around 1.1. China from the beginning of the last century, 1980 times uses to pilot the “two-child program” in the rural areas of Yicheng Shanxi, Jiuquan Gansu, Chengde Hebei, Enshi Hubei and affects more than 8 million people, but the fertility rates are all below 1.6. Changyang and Wufeng County in Hubei and The production and construction corps of Xinjiang, the same as before with the national implementation of the onechild policy, then let go after two births, they are not found in compensatory baby boom and fertility rebound. But once completely abolished the family planning policy, a series of serious social problems will be breaking out. It is likely to directly shake the CCP’s rule. Therefore, the CCP’s state policy will not change.
To the politicians who treat social stability as their top priority, fully launching a Twochild Policy won’t lead to a population explosion, and basically won’t change the social structure. It won’t bring sudden pressure on the political and economic level of the society, and won’t drastically reduce the revenue of the provinces from birth planning fines. The more than 100 million full-time and part-time birth planning officials will also not lose their jobs, and the relevant departments will not be affected. A huge amount of fines continue to come from villages, as farmers are the main “contributors” of this source of government revenue. The livelihood of birth planning officials remain as sturdy as iron; they are still the most “important”, largest and strongest civilian force from the grassroots level, stabilizing the rule of the CCP. To put it simple, this new policy will not affect the foundation of the rule of the CCP. Since the early 1980s, medical records and data related to birth planning have been successively classified as top state secret. Birth Planning fines collected within these 40 years have continued to be a huge mystery: the government has never publicized or traced the sources of the large amount of fines, and no auditing agency has the right to publicize the relevant financial reports. President Xi’s harsh anti-corruption campaigns these 2 years have not caught any of the “tigers” that embezzled birth planning fines and exposed them to the public through the news. In 2013, a joint petition from 14 female lawyers demanding provincial birth planning agencies to publicize the total amounts of their birth planning fines sparked off debate and support from the citizens. 22 of the 30 provinces unofficially disclosed the amount: the total
revenue created from the fines was RMB 16.8 billion, but there was no official financial report, and where the money was spent was not mentioned. The secret operations of the birth planning treasury did not lead to concern from the “Anti-corruption Leadership Groups” of any level. The Chinese media has also remained silent since birth planning information has always been classified as state secret. Merely touching upon it could lead to charges of disclosing state secrets and harsh sentences of imprisonment.
More importantly, officials that have the authority to use birth planning fines are also those who most understand the birth planning policy and how its various implementation methods have cruelly impacted civilians. Some atrocities include: secretly conducting large-scale human experiments for numerous birth control pills and tools, and the data of the resulting levels of damage inflicted on the women’s bodies. This group of officials not only participated in carrying out secret orders of birth planning, they also have on their hands a large amount of highly classified information and data. More than 20 ministry and commission representatives of the State Council are responsible for policies and matters relevant to birth planning and take orders from the Family Planning Committee on their work. In 2013, the National Health Bureau was combined with the Family Planning Committee and became the National Health and Family Planning Commission. The Head of the National Health and Family Planning Commission directly oversees the new commission, which is a merge of the two major systems in China. This demonstrates how powerful the Family Planning Committee has become. According to Article 10 of the “Measures for Administration of Collection of Social Maintenance Fees” issued by the State Council, the social maintenance fees with relevant surcharge fines shall all be turned over to the State Treasury and integrated into the local budget administration in accordance with the rules laid down by the finance department of the State Council. Every year, provincial and municipal birth planning departments have to send all the fines reaped from the people to the Central government after deducting adequate administrative and event expenses. The Central government does not have to spend a penny for the cost of obtaining a continuous and endless source of money. Gradually, the local birth planning offices become like geese that lay golden eggs: no leader in the CCP dared touch this income source, not to mention trying to sever ties with it.
Xi’s anti-corruption campaigns the last 2 years infiltrated and punished corrupt officials of various levels and classes from different fields in the Central government and local departments, but the birth planning system remains completely untouched. The petition of numerous female lawyers have no legal impact. Provinces that did not disclose the amount generated by fines not only were not punished, they were not even scolded. This shows that the enormous revenue from birth planning fines will continue to be protected by national policy and party regulations, and the people of China, especially the farmers that constitute the majority population, will continue to be overburdened by fines they cannot afford for. The highest authorities of the CCP and the top birth planning officials of different levels from different eras have followed an “interactive” model for decades: regulations are drafted by Central government and decentralization of power, local government extract money from the people and return the revenue back to the Association of China under the Commission, receive funds from the primary budget of the state. The work expenses of the Family Planning Associations on the provincial, municipal, county, district, township and town levels are counted towards the town’s birth planning budget. The Family Planning Associations have a total of 94 million full-time and parttime workers, plus over 50.87 million workers who are under the birth planning system in various departments, units and village groups (statistics from the CCP’s official website People’s Daily Online, Mar.1, 2010), amounting to a total of 150 million people working for birth planning departments. The county and township level departments in Biji City, Guizhou Province recruited 4,600 workers at a single event in 2012 for “special posts” in birth planning (new titles).
These “grassroots level” workers paid by the government know the details of every street, every village unit and every household like the back of their own hand. They monitor, contact and manage all families and households under the guise of handling birth planning matters, and report conditions to their superiors. These birth planning workers in “special posts” will be of great use if thoughts or plans for protests, demonstrations or even violent riots are uncovered. This, plus the CCP’s tens of millions of members and the traditional household registration system and residential committees formed since it established its rule, captures all activities of the people, making them unable to escape from the watchful eyes of the Central Government.
Since the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, riots broke out in many provinces, cities, counties, districts, townships and towns in China, but the longest one lasted only a few days, and the shortest a few hours before vanishing into thin air. The only movement that sustained longer was that of the overseas Chinese community in Wukan Village, Guangdong, which took place during the late years of the Hu era. It lasted about 20 days, then was silenced. Wukan is still in the same state. No group protests have been able to expand to other places and develop. The enormous web constructed by the CCP over the decades firmly captures the body (including women’s wombs) and the spirit (including individual minds) of the Chinese people. In fact, the birth planning agencies of the various administrative regions have already become the grassroots networks used by the CCP to stabilize their rule. It is not hard to see how enormous the “reservoir” formed by birth planning agencies has become, how deep the water has sunk and how many secrets have been buried inside, creating a reality that no one dares to touch upon.
The Two-Child Policy’s minor benefits will win over some victims, especially those who have long endured the oppression and have developed Stockholm Syndrome. Also mixed into the bag will be the extremely grateful victims who consider the policy an act of almost royal graciousness. They will stand by those who’ve harmed them, and look upon the government’s tyranny as a matter of course. They will have forgotten that reproductive freedom is a basic human right, a basic dignity, in which neither political parties nor family members have the right to interfere. The past 40 years of bloody repression, terror, and propaganda brainwashing have conveyed the message that to defy the will of the government is to suffer physical punishment, monetary penalties, loss of social status, and an ever-increasing fear of the shadows. In the eyes of the PRC, the people are simply reproductive machines. The people do not get any added security from family planning, nor will they receive any benefits from having a second child or refraining from it. The government only wants to limit the output in this system they’ve built.
It is time for Chinese women to shout: our womb belongs to us; the party has no right to control or manage it! The decision to give birth is for the women and their partners to make, not the Party!