If there’s one positive to squeeze from communist China’s long-repressive, downright pernicious one-child policy, it’s this: It has prompted even radical feminists to rethink the consequences of their deadly “pro-choice” philosophy.
The policy evolved in the late 1970s and early 1980s, ironically under the Deng Xiao Ping government that was a vast improvement from the nearly 30-year reign of terror by Mao Zedong. Mao turned China red in 1949. After two horrific episodes, the Great Leap Forward of the late 1950s and the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s, China was left with 60-70 million corpses. Mao’s China was responsible for more deaths than any country in the 20th century and all of history. Mao killed more than Hitler or Stalin.
And so, when Deng took over in the late 1970s, there was nowhere to go but up. And up China went, implementing crucial free-market reforms and notable improvements in human rights, planting the seeds for the thriving economic growth in the 1980s, 1990s, and still today.
Of course, there were brutal setbacks along the road, such as the June 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Even then, as the likes of President Richard Nixon (America’s foremost China expert) noted at the time, China under Mao had done far worse than Tiananmen Square. Progress was being made.
Alas, a glaring exception was the one-child policy instituted under Deng. It permits Chinese women to bring to term only one child (in urban areas) and two children (in rural areas). Women who violate the decree face severe fines, and some have endured forced sterilization.
For American feminists and liberals, this policy is a gut-check; it’s a slap at their abortion worldview. Where’s the “choice” in this coercion?
Aside from the blatant intrusion on the freedoms of pregnant women, the one-child policy has had fatal consequences for girls in China. Countless millions of Chinese families—preferring a boy over a girl—have opted to abort baby girls (when identified via ultrasound) or abandon them to orphanages once born. This has birthed a demographic nightmare in China, where the nation now faces millions of “missing girls” (some estimates claim 43 million). The impact on China and Asia and even the world are profound and yet to be realized.
To their credit, some leading “pro-choice” voices, like Hillary Clinton, have condemned the Chinese policy. Really, no one, not even the most wild-eyed feminist, can logically embrace this travesty.
And so, it was disturbing to read an Associated Press piece titled, “One-child policy a surprising boon for China girls.” The story almost cutely, coyly credits the perverse policy for supposedly helping Chinese women in education and advancement generally. The smaller pool of women, the article argues, has opened opportunities for women—that is, the women lucky enough to have not been aborted.
It’s as if the communists have created another novel way to eliminate competition.
Of course, the women who were aborted have no opportunity—none at all. The AP neglected that paradox.
The article glows: “Such gifted young women are increasingly common in China’s cities and make up the most educated generation of women in Chinese history. Never have so many been in college or graduate school, and never has their ratio to male students been more balanced.”
The article chalks up this advancement not to China’s general improvements in recent decades but to the one-child policy.
This “ratio,” the AP celebrates, redounds to all sorts of entertainment and leisure perks for China’s (living) gals. Citing a young woman named “Wang,” the article cheers: “Wang and many of her female classmates grew up with tutors and allowances, after-school classes and laptop computers. Though she is just one generation off the farm, she carries an iPad and a debit card, and shops for the latest fashions online.”
College, grad school, tutors, allowances, laptops, credit cards, iPads, latest fashions. You’ve come a long way, baby; that is, those girl babies able to come out of the womb.
I wish I could say I’m surprised by the AP piece, but I’m not. I have many times talked or emailed with liberals/progressives who do mental-moral gymnastics over China’s one-child policy. Sure, they’ll tell me, it’s wrong to force a woman to have an abortion, but, on the other hand, the world is overpopulated, especially in China, and there are too many people chewing up the world’s precious resources, especially in China, and … you get the picture.
It’s an old belief whose disciples haven’t lost the faith. It was there in Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 bestseller, The Population Bomb. It was there in the Club of Rome’s 1970s report that inspired China’s one-child policy to begin with.
With this latest creative defense, however, the AP has sunk to a new low, serving as unwitting dupes for China’s repressive communist government. The world needs to know that China’s one-child policy is not a “boon” but a human-rights abomination, especially for women.
Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.