The Chinese Communist Party Still Controls the Family | Opinion

The results of China's seventh census revealed that the country's population has dropped precipitously. In response, the Chinese Communist Party gathered an emergency meeting of the Politburo—the party's 25 most elite decision makers—on May 31st to enact a Three Child Policy, bypassing the country and the government. Do not fall for the notion, expressed by some in the West, that, following its change to a Two Child Policy in 2015, the CCP is "relaxing" its approach to population control. Even as it recognizes the drastic decline in China's fertility rate as an existential threat to the nation (the obvious solution for which would be to drop the population control policy altogether), the CCP is determined to hold onto the policy, because rescinding it would pose an existential threat to the party's own power—a prospect that terrifies it even more.

Abolishing the "planned reproduction policy," as it's known in Chinese, would force the CCP to admit that the economic, social and human catastrophe of the One Child Policy has proved to be one of the worst purposeful errors of the 20th century. By the CCP's own statistics, the One Child Policy has resulted in the death of 360 million unborn fetuses and babies between 1979, when the policy was launched, and 2010. To achieve this staggering number, which in other contexts could be considered a genocide, the party enacted its policy with ruthless vigor and enthusiasm. Women were dragged from their homes in the middle of the night for forced abortions which could be performed at any stage of pregnancy; babies born to term were strangled or drowned; women were beaten, relatives detained and families torn apart; sterilizations were meted on both men and women for "overbirthing."

The system involved control of individual lives at a granular level that is often difficult for those not from China to comprehend. Imagine having to apply for a permit to have a child when you get married, or being required to give a deposit to ensure you will not "overbirth." Imagine having to go to a state-run clinic every three months for a pregnancy test. Worse, imagine going for a pregnancy test and finding out you are pregnant only to be immediately locked up and taken to a state-controlled clinic for an abortion you do not agree to, having your body violated and your unborn child killed. At every stage, despite the blatant injustices and violations, officials and party members profited from the One Child Policy apparatus, earning extras and gaining promotions by meeting quotas and getting bribes up and down this myriad-tentacled organism of state power.

Along with this brutal program, slogans in villages and towns provided a backdrop to the anguish of parents suffering the loss of their children. Often, the slogans were bluntly threatening: "if one person has a second child, the whole village will be sterilized." Some were disturbingly graphic: "beat it out, abort it out, drain it out, whatever you do don't let it out alive," or "if you are pregnant and want to kill yourself by overdosing or hanging, we'll give you the bottle and the rope." Sometimes the wording seemed better suited to the mafia than a purported government: "If you don't get sterilized, we'll knock your house down and take the roof tiles," or "if you don't get an abortion, we'll pull your house down and take your ox."

Chinese Lawmakers Applaud Xi Jinping
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives at The Great Hall of the People for the opening of the National People's Congress on May 22, 2020, in Beijing, China. Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images

Following decades of this barbarism, the fertility rate is now at 1.3, per CCP statistics, far below the replacement level of 2.1. China now faces an untenable labor shortage in an aging society plagued by the ills of a culture that continues to favor boys over girls in gender selection, especially when births have been strictly limited.

As ever, the Chinese people are weighing in online. When one CCP apologist wrote that "only after couples have a second child should they be allowed to use birth control," netizens began adding their ideas to the mix, speculating that couples will have to apply for permits to use birth control, or that birth control will become state regulated or even contraband. Ever able to find morbid humor in the regime that controls their lives, sometimes satire is hard to distinguish from the truth.

But despite the bleak future suggested by a declining, aging, imbalanced population, the CCP will never apologize. Admitting error opens the regime up to a citizenry that is boiling over after years of trauma—not only from the One Child Policy but for countless other atrocities—and will potentially demand retribution beyond mere financial compensation. This is what the party fears, and this is what it will avoid at all cost.

From confiscating property in the land reform era, to the political campaigns of the 1950s, to the Cultural Revolution catastrophe of the 1960s and 70s, to the June 4th massacre, to the violation of human rights on a national scale, to the violent One Child Policy to potentially violently enforced births, how long will the Chinese people have to suffer in this CCP-occupied territory?

Chen Guangcheng is a Chinese civil rights lawyer and activist and a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at The Catholic University of America.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.