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Population Control for both China and India can be better achieved by Empowering Women, says acclaimed Journalist

Chinese and Indian societies, both of which are patriarchal, must realise that marriage and giving birth to babies (preferably male) is not the sole purpose of women

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Jaipur, Jan 27, 2017: Population control, a vital goal for both China and India, can be better achieved by empowering women instead of coercive methods like Beijing’s “one-child” drive, says acclaimed journalist Mei Fong who has extensively studied the policy and its deleterious demographic and economic effects.

“Chinese and Indian societies, both of which are patriarchal, must realise that marriage and giving birth to babies (preferably male) is not the sole purpose of women, nor desirable early.

“Allowing women choice as to their education, jobs and methods of contraception is more viable for controlling population, rather than forced and ‘quick-fix’ methods like sterilisation, abortions and quotas,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning Malayasian Chinese-American journalist told IANS in an interview.

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Fong, who covered China for the Wall Street Journal and has authored “One Child: The Past and Future of China’s Most Radical Experiment” (One World/Pan Macmillan, 2016), listed the several severe and unwelcome outcomes of the policy, begun in 1979 as China under Deng Xiaoping tried to accelerate economically.

“It has led to a severe gender imbalance… there are many ‘villages of bachelors’ across China, there is lack of care for the elderly, and a falling birth rate, which will impact on the workforce China needs to remain a low-cost global manufacturing hub,” said Fong, who addressed a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2017.

Then the “Little Emperors”, or boys who were born under the policy — with Chinese no less keen than Indians on a male child — have a different mindset, she said. “They have received so much adoration… this can stifle innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Their parents, keen to get them a good match, have got them apartments to increase their attraction, leading to an artificial high in urban estate prices throughout China, she added.

On the other hand, though the lesser number of women are eagerly sought after, this has not made a difference in their status.

“The laws of economics do not work in a patriarchal system… women are more valuable, but not valued. They have been commodified and this fuels sex trafficking.”

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Though Chinese authorities had relaxed the policy as her book was getting ready in 2015 and now had a two-children norm, “women’s fertility was not a tap that could be turned off and on” and it was going to take long for the adverse effects to be mitigated, Fong told IANS.

It has led to a “strange role reversal” where the Chinese are going to America for babies, since it has better medical facilities and allows surrogate parenting.

She also cited the traumatic and bizarre circumstances that she had come across while researching the book, including a woman who was one of the “population police” reporting illicit pregnancies and involved in almost 1,500 forcible abortions including third in late stages of pregnancy, but herself having only a daughter and needing to adopt a son.

“This woman now lives abroad in hiding and her favourite pastime is giving candy to children,” she said.

She also recounted the case of a Chinese company once making furniture but now not finding it viable and switching to making full-size sex dolls. “They ship them out in coffin-like boxes… it is creepy,” she said.

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Fong also told IANS that there were many other “explosive stories” of traumatic experiences of the one-child policy, which she faulted as being based on a “faulty mindset” of all men deciding a policy for women, and going on so long without a course correction.

“They thought women’s fertility was a machine that could be speeded up or down… whether more humane policies, though taking a little longer, but less coercive, would have achieved the same purpose with lesser side-effects,” she said, adding the worst is that is that it was not the policy, but relaxing of socialist controls, that led to China’s economic boom.

“Government social policies can work. The problem is when fast results are sought,” said Fong. (IANS)

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This Way China Can Help India In The Terms of Artificial Intelligence

China giving a hand to India for leap in Artificial Intelligence

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Robot along with human
Artificial Intelligence. Pixabay

Tech honchos in Silicon Valley are deeply worried at China’s rapid progress in harnessing Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology that has shown encouraging results in changing the way we work and live.

According to Eric Schmidt, former chairman of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, China will overtake the US in AI by 2025.

Measured by start-up financing deals and dollars from venture capitalists, the United States’ AI start-up ecosystem currently dominates — followed by China, says a recent Accenture analysis titled “Rewire for Growth”.

When it comes to India, the number of AI start-ups has increased since 2011 at a compounded annual growth rate of 86 per cent.

Robots
Artificial Intelligence Robot. Pixabay

But the size of funding till date is substantially smaller in India than in the US and China, reflecting the limited success of India’s AI start-ups in achieving scale so far, the report noted.

“According to our analysis, AI has the potential to add $957 billion, or 15 per cent of current gross value added, to India’s economy in 2035,” said Accenture.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi now wants that AI technology should be “Made in India” and “Made to Work for India” but despite promising starts, the country’s policy initiatives are not comprehensive yet and lag other G20 countries.

China, on the other hand, today harbours one of the biggest clusters of AI scientists.

Also Read: Artificial Intelligence May Aid Solving ‘Global Hunger’

According to The Economist, China’s State Council has issued an ambitious policy blueprint, calling for the country to become “the world’s primary AI innovation centre” by 2030.

“China’s AI programme is highly structured and driven ‘top down’ whereas India’s approach is more ‘organic’ — at least till this point — driven largely by the private sector and driven by their unique needs for AI,” said Dr Prashant Pradhan, Chief Technology Officer, IBM India/South Asia.

These represent very different approaches to “getting ready” for AI.

“China’s approach carefully manages investment, infrastructure, focus verticals and training. This has benefits in speed of execution and outcomes — especially when there is clarity on the priority areas of application,” Pradhan told IANS.

Advances in AI largely happen in an open, peer-reviewed community with free exchange of ideas. “Over time, there may be more coordinated government investment — especially in resource-constrained environments,” Pradhan noted.

When it comes to funding, Machine Learning (ML), recommendation engines and computer vision are the most popular segments of AI, accounting for almost 80 per cent of total funding globally.

“Big industry players that have the financial strength and business experience to invest in AI research and development (R&D) typically lead the strategic charge on global competitiveness for their country,” the Accenture analysis stressed.

Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple are spearheading AI innovations in the US, and Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu are funding the AI research in China.

In line with the global trends, the digital platform companies are becoming the driving force of AI innovations in India too.

According to Rajesh Janey, Managing Director and President, India Enterprise, Dell EMC, the country is entering an era of monumental technological change, rich with opportunity.

India's PM with China's President
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping

“Globally, businesses plan to triple their investments in advanced AI within five years. India too will see the same enthusiasm, with investments in AI jumping from 31 per cent to 89 per cent in the same time-frame,” Janey told IANS.

AI will improve our interaction with technology, understand the abundance of data and rely on the predictions to automate excessively complex or mundane tasks, said Shaakun Khanna, Senior Director, HCM Strategy and Transformation, Asia Pacific at Oracle.

In February, Modi inaugurated the Wadhwani Institute of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Mumbai’s Kalina campus — reported to be the first AI research lab in the country.

Also Read: India Urges China to Open Markets For Trade

US-based philanthropist brothers Romesh Wadhwani and Sunil Wadhwani have established the institute and want it to become like San Francisco-based non-profit “OpenAI” that has SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk as one of its co-founders.

In order to become a true AI powerhouse, it is high time that New Delhi makes Beijing a bigger partner in fuelling AI research at home.

According to Accenture, AI research has been motivated by societal needs in India so far and the first step now is to create a comprehensive, long-term vision and road-map for AI.

“The national AI plan with clear milestones should be set as a priority. Here, India can follow the lead of China which has laid out clear targets for AI development in phases, initially by 2020 and going forward by 2030,” it added.

The first critical thing is to understand the role AI is likely to play across multiple professions. “Targeted augmentation in every field will be the key to success for the country to have an AI-ready workforce,” Pradhan stressed.  IANS