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Thursday, August 30, 2018

China advances in eliminating total birth control

Por Nina

Is China preparing to completely eliminate its restrictions on having as many children as they wish? More and more signs point to yes. The last one, this week, in the draft of the new Civil Code, the result of an extensive reform, the references to "family planning" have disappeared, the expression that in bureaucratic language alludes to the controversial birth controls imposed for four decades on the population of this country. The Diario de la Procuraduría, an official news platform about the National Prosecutor's Office, announced the change in its account in Chinese social networks. The draft will be examined preliminarily this week during the meeting of the executive committee of the People's National Assembly, the Chinese parliament.

The new Civil Code will come into force in 2020. If the changes announced by the platform are maintained, its introduction will definitively eliminate in the most populated country of the world a revolted system of birth control, imposed by copious fines but which has also resorted to frequency to sterilizations and forced abortions.

A highly criticized system, by experts and by advocates of reproductive rights, which has left as a legacy a rapid aging of the population and a significant imbalance, in favor of men, in the proportion by gender in births. China imposed its one-child policy on families starting in 1979 to try to limit the growth of a population that now exceeds 1.37 billion people. Although there were always exceptions, especially in the countryside and for minorities, it maintained the regulations until 2016. That year it finally allowed all Chinese married couples to have two children if they wish.

Relaxation has not had the effect that the authorities wanted. The expected birth explosion has not arrived. In 2016, immediately after the second child was allowed, 17.9 million children were born, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Only 1.3 million more than in 2015 and half of what the Government anticipated. And, after the initial euphoria, in 2017 the figure was even lower, 17.2 million new babies. Very far from the 20 million that officials calculated.

The change, says sociologist Hu Xiaojiang of Beijing Normal University, "had to be done much earlier, ten years ago. Now it is difficult to straighten out the situation. But, better late than never." According to her, even if family planning is completely eliminated, "the effect will not be very obvious. There will have to be other incentives for couples to want more children." The desire to have more offspring is limited. As it happens in many other societies, the economic cost of the education of a second child, or of a house in which at least four people fit, throws back many young couples.

Couples, in many cases, unique children themselves and to whom it has been inculcated all their life that the ideal family model was that of a father, a mother and a single creature. Some provinces have already taken measures such as extending maternity leave; others raise bonuses for each new child. Two academics have proposed the opposite solution, tax penalize those who have less than two children and allocate the proceeds to a "Maternity Fund", something that has generated intense controversy in social networks. The new Civil Code, according to the Diario de la Procuraduría, also proposes to make divorces more difficult. One of the amendments introduced establishes a deadline of one month before beginning to process a divorce request, to allow time for the couple to be reconciled.

Something that, in the Chinese Internet, has elicited numerous comments. "They want more children and fewer divorces," satirized an Internet user on Weibo, the Chinese Twitter. Another demanded that "the money from the fines charged for having more children be returned with interest." According to the newspaper, the restrictions will only be lifted "after the law comes into force, since the code is intended to regulate all aspects of private life, from contracts to business registers and marriages." Meanwhile, the authorities are only expected to submit the final draft to the vote of the Assembly in the first quarter of 2020.

The track that has given the information platform of the Office of the Prosecutor is not the only one that has circulated these last weeks. Earlier this month, the postal service issued a stamp to celebrate the next year of the Chinese horoscope, the Year of the Pig, in which a swine family appears with three piglets. A triviality? Can be. But there are precedents. In 2015, the Post already anticipated the relaxation of the one-child policy a year later. On its stamp to celebrate the Year of the Monkey, there was also a family: simian dad, simian mom, and two little primates.