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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: R. Ann Siracusa


World travelers are always exposed to some of the world’s pressing social issues. These problems are overwhelming and easy to ignore, and many travelers do just that. They come home with photos, souveniers, dirty clothes, weary bones, and a myriad of other things. I do that, too. But, also, I gratefully return to the United States with concerns regarding issues such as population growth, environmental degredation, loss of historical and cultural heritage, poverty, hunger, racial and religious discrimination, poor living conditions, inadequate medical treatment, etc. (Fortunately, not all of those in one trip, or I’d quite traveling.)

But I came back from China impressed with the way the Chinese handled the previously-uncontrolled population growth.

What? No, you read that correctly. Not a misprint. Thirty years ago, China couldn’t house, feed, or educate the growing population or provide adequate jobs. In 1978, China adopted a population control policy which restricts the number of children of married urban couples to one child, although it allows exemptions for rural couples, the fifty-five ethnic minorities and parents without siblings. About 36% of the population is subject to the control.

Granted, this would be huge in the United States, but as a result of the policy, overall conditions have improved significantly for the Chinese people. While, undoubtedly, there are still many problems―and we hear about them all the time in the news―the PRC is now in a position to begin to get a better handle on the issues of historic preservation, environment, and human rights. Tiny steps, but, in my opinion, steps forward nonetheless.

The Chinese I talked to favored the policy and claimed it does not punish anyone for having more than one child, but any “additional” children aren’t entitled to the benefits afforded the first child, like free education and health care. But I’ve also read articles that characterize the policy as widely-hated and claim that, at its peak, the policy resulted in forced abortions, sterilizations, and even infanticide. Whether that is true or not, it seems the culture still values male children over female.

Now the PRC is considering recinding the policy because demographers predict that in the future there will be a shrinking workforce, i.e. not enough young workers to support an aging population, which has been the case in much of Europe for quite a while. You can’t win for losing! The government has commissioned feasibility studies to determine what might happen if the policy is eliminated or redefined. We shall see.

What’s your opinion?

I’d love to hear from people who have a personal experience with this policy. In the mean time, I see a potential story line for a novel.


Sherry Gloag said...

Funny you should say that! I can almost see you writing a story round this issue. There are parts of China I would love to visit, and I don't mean the city centres.
Thanks for sharing.

Brandy B aka Brandlwyne said...

Hi. I always wondered how that all worked with China. Thanks for the info!!!


MaryG said...

I've read that now they're worried about not having enough girls to have the babies who will grow up to be part of the work force.
A novel about this would be quite interesting, Ann. Thanks for the information.

Shirley Ann said...

I actually see merit in the one child program but we've heard terrible things too. I've heard that baby girls are left at orphanages because boys are valued more. I wonder if that the reason so many Americans have adopted baby girls? I've traveled only to the area around the South China Sea but someday would love to see the great wall.

Aurora Dawn said...

My understanding of the one child per family policy is that it's lead to a lot of people choosing to have tests done to determine the sex of the baby and then aborting if it isn't a boy. If it's as widespread as I've heard, they may very well end up not having a population problem at all. Last I checked, you still need to have females in order to breed.
Very interesting blog though and as Brandy said, thanks for the information.