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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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Population (representational Image), Pixabay

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)

Next Story

High-Speed Railways, Thailand to Sign Pact with China

“Beijing claims it is committed to working with other countries to foster environment-friendly and sound development, but the practice so far has raised some serious concerns,” said Yaqui Wang, HRW's China researcher.

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Thai officials gather near a model of a high-speed rail during the ground-breaking ceremony of the Bangkok-Nong Khai railway project, in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, Dec. 21, 2017. RFA

Thailand, China and Laos will sign a memorandum of cooperation on a new bridge for a railway across the Mekong River during Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s Beijing visit this week, a Thai foreign ministry official said Tuesday.

The bridge would link Thailand’s northeastern Nong Khai province with the Laotian capital Vientiane, Thai officials told BenarNews, in what analysts believe will reinforce China’s ambitions to build a high-speed railway network in Southeast Asia, stretching through Malaysia and feeding into Singapore.

Prayuth, who is scheduled to be in the Chinese capital on April 26-27, is expected to sign the trilateral pact on the sidelines of a conference of world leaders on China’s massive One Belt, One Road (OBOR) infrastructure initiative, Busadee Santipitaks, spokeswoman for the ministry of foreign affairs, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

“Thailand, Laos PDR and China will sign a three-nation memorandum of cooperation to build a bridge for a high-speed railway at Thai-Lao border,” Busadee said.

Thai officials did not respond to BenarNews emails requesting more details on the memorandum.

China, which aims to increase its footprint in Southeast Asia through OBOR, has managed to push ahead with its strategy to build a trans-Asian railway network.

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The second phase linking Nakhon Ratchasima to Laos is awaiting approval, officials told BenarNews. Pixabay

Last month, Laotian officials announced that a 414-km (257-mile) high-speed railway linking Vientiane with Kunming city, capital of China’s southwestern province of Yunnan, was almost half-complete and on track to be in service by December 2021. Construction for that project began four years ago.

Under China’s planned 3,000-km (1,875-mile) pan-Asian railway network, Chinese rail lines will extend farther south – all the way to the tip of the Malay Peninsula, linking Beijing to Singapore, one of Washington’s closest allies in the region and a strategic gateway to the Strait of Malacca.

China’s OBOR initiative has drawn criticism, including from Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad, who told reporters last month that the Philippines should be wary of Beijing’s “debt-trap diplomacy” that includes extending excessive credit with the alleged intention of extracting economic or political concessions from the debtor country.

Economists contend that the initiative forces emerging economies to take on unsustainable levels of debt to fund Beijing-backed projects, highlighting such concerns after a Chinese state-owned company took over the majority stake in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port after Colombo struggled to repay its loans from China.

Thailand officially kicked off its high-speed railway project in December 2017 when Prayuth and Chinese officials led a ground-breaking ceremony for a 3.5-km (2-mile) segment of the rail in the northeast province of Nakhon Ratchasima.

The junta-led government under Prayuth has approved a 179-billion baht (U.S. $5.8 billion) budget for the first phase of the 253-km (158-mile) railway linking Nakhon Ratchasima with Bangkok.

The second phase linking Nakhon Ratchasima to Laos is awaiting approval, officials told BenarNews.

OBOR, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature policy, is an estimated U.S. $1 trillion-plus initiative that stretches across 70 countries. It aims to weave a network of railways, ports and bridges, linking China with Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia.

Prayuth’s Beijing visit would include a roundtable meeting with leaders of 38 countries during which he is expected to express the commitment of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to support China’s OBOR projects, Thai government spokesman Lt. Gen. Weerachon Sukhonthapatipak told BenarNews.

“First, we stress Thailand’s role as the ASEAN chair in supporting and committing to China’s attempt to link sub-regions and regions,” he said.

Prayuth, as current chairman of the 10-member ASEAN, will meet Xi and other Chinese officials, including Prime Minister Li Kequiang and Deputy Prime Minister Han Zheng to discuss ways to bolster bilateral relationship and economic cooperation, Weerachon said.

Prayuth will be accompanied by his deputy, Somkid Jatusripitak, the minister of transport and the minister of foreign affairs, he said.

China has ranked as Thailand’s largest trading partner since 2012, buying about U.S. $30 billion of Thai products last year, according to the Thai Ministry of Commerce.

Respect human rights, HRW tells Beijing

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China, which aims to increase its footprint in Southeast Asia through OBOR, has managed to push ahead with its strategy to build a trans-Asian railway network. Pixabay

Meanwhile, in a statement issued on Sunday, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Beijing to ensure that the OBOR initiative would be respectful of the human rights of people living in areas near the infrastructure projects.

Under OBOR, Beijing should set out requirements to enable consultation with groups of people potentially affected by proposed projects, ensuring that affected communities can openly express their views without fear of reprisal, HRW said in a statement.

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“Beijing claims it is committed to working with other countries to foster environment-friendly and sound development, but the practice so far has raised some serious concerns,” said Yaqui Wang, HRW’s China researcher.

“Criticisms of some Belt and Road projects – such as lack of transparency, disregard of community concerns, and threats of environmental degradation – suggest a superficial commitment,” Wang said. (RFA)