China’s recent decision to phase out the agency that oversees the one-child policy has raised questions about whether the policy itself will be dropped—and whether it was a success or a failure.
Aside from the burdens only children feel when it comes to caring for their parents and parents-in-law, the long-term implications of having a country ruled by only-child emperors are hard to fathom—and, in my view, a bit terrifying.
Most China watchers seem to have always taken for granted that the policy was a necessary evil. I know that I avoided thinking too much about the inconvenient forced abortion question. But at this point, it looks like the smartest thinkers are challenging the conventional wisdom. In a recent academic paper, Chinese demographers concluded:
“The one-child policy will be added to the other deadly errors in recent Chinese history, including the famine in 1959–61 ... and the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s and early 1970s. While those grave mistakes both cost tens of millions of lives, the harms done were relatively short-lived and were corrected quickly afterward. The one-child policy, in contrast, will surpass them in impact by its role in creating a society with a seriously undermined family and kin structure, and a whole generation of future elderly and their children whose well-being will be seriously jeopardized.”
I wonder, what does it mean to have a country with no sisters, no brothers? Will those words one day be dropped from the Chinese language?