Seeking to correct what he saw as a “deafening silence” and a “breathtaking indifference” from policy makers in Washington on the issue, Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) last week chaired a meeting of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China to hear testimony about that country’s One-Child Policy. Demography experts and human rights activists explained the destabilizing, immoral, and counterproductive effects of the Chinese Communist Party’s nation-wide policy of controlling birth rates. Congressman Smith, who has demonstrated much-needed leadership on this issue for more than a decade, began by characterizing the practice as “state sponsored violence against women and children, including and especially the girl child, [which] constitutes a massive crime against humanity.” A statement by cochairman of the special Congressional Commission Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) urged the United States to “continue to advocate for the complete elimination of the One-Child Policy.”
Among the expert witnesses testifying before the Commission was Ms. Reggie Littlejohn, a leading activist working against the Chinese policy through her group, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers. Ms. Littlejohn laid out a few reasons why the Chinese Communist Party will not, as many expect, abandon the controversial form of population control. In 2013 Chinese president Xi Jinping announced a tweak to the longstanding policy that would “allow couples to have two children if one of them is an only child.” This led many in the press to herald an end to the policy, but as Ms. Littlejohn explained, the “change” was a meaningless gesture:
The minor modification of the policy[…]: 1) did not affect a large percentage of couples in China; 2) was not subject to a timetable in which to implement it; 3) retained the dreaded “birth intervals” between children (if a woman gets pregnant before the interval has lapsed, she risks forced abortion); and 4) makes no promise to end the coercive enforcement of the Policy.
Despite the limitations of this most recent proposal, the very idea of the policy is an affront to the human rights of Chinese women. As Littlejohn summarized: “The problem with the One-Child Policy is not the number of children ‘allowed.’ Rather, it is the fact that the CCP is telling women how many children they can have and then enforcing that limit through forced abortion and forced sterilization.”
Littlejohn explained further that the CCP will likely never abolish the One-Child Policy, because it is a tool of social control and fear that allows the Party to target whomever it chooses. Not only has the Policy earned the Party as much as $314 billion in “family planning fines” since 1980 (money which mostly ends up in the pockets of government officials), but the Policy is enforced by up to 1 million family planning officials, a massive cohort that operates and oversees an “infrastructure of coercion.”
That’s why, according to Littlejohn, this inhuman policy will require outside pressure—from the United States and others—to come to an end.
Expert demographer Nicholas Eberstadt, the Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute, testified about the high social costs of the Policy. Whereas in the past Chinese men and women tended to hold to a “universal marriage norm,” the One-Child Policy has left a generation of men unable to find wives. The high social value of a son in China disinclines many couples from letting their one allowed child be a girl, so they often abort on the basis of gender. This leaves a dramatic gender imbalance (something like 114 boys for every 100 girls). In one study from 2008 cited by Dr. Eberstadt, findings suggested that about ¼ of Chinese men in their thirties, and more than 20% of those in their forties, “would be never-married by the year 2030.” Such a large proportion of single young men has deep-seated but as of yet unknowable consequences for Chinese society and politics, and the CCP has invested millions of dollars commissioning studies about this “single generation.”
But even these ominous figures rest on the assumption of near-universal marriage for those Chinese women that remained. This assumption, Eberstadt says, “is now being challenged by facts on the ground.” A two decades long “flight from marriage” has swept through East Asia and is now finally reaching mainland China; women are getting married later or not at all, and the number of those waiting out marriage entirely is only set to grow in coming years. This will exacerbate the “unmarriageable male” problem at precisely a time when China’s overall population is aging rapidly.
World-famous Chinese defector and human rights attorney Chen Guangcheng also testified before the Commission. Chen’s widely publicized escape from house arrest in China in 2012 received international media attention, but since that time he has hardly laid low. Since relocating to America with his family, Chen works tirelessly to raise awareness of the brutal One-Child Policy, and in his testimony last week he called it “genocide.” Mr. Chen recalled some of the chilling slogans propagated by the population control authorities: “We’d rather see ten more tombs than a single baby born alive” (in the eastern province of Anhui); “Anyone avoiding sterilization must be put in custody; anyone avoiding sterilization must be punished by bulldozing their house; anyone avoiding abortion shall surrender their cattle and house” (in Sichuan); and “We’d rather see a broken home than a collapsed country” (in Chen’s home province of Shandong).
Chen then went on to describe in graphic detail the techniques used by the government against women who try to give birth to unauthorized children. The details are gruesome, and you can find his full testimony here. For women in their third trimester, for instance, labor is induced and the newborn baby is either drowned in a bucket or has its neck broken by a doctor. Advocating against such a system, and on behalf of the women who are victimized by it, is what brought Chen Guangcheng under government scrutiny in the first place.
Chen made several recommendations to the Commission, including that the United States government and the international community hold tribunals to investigate these egregious human rights abuses, and that the U.S. government deny visas to CCP officials seeking entry to the country.
One figure kept coming up throughout the testimony: 400 million. The Chinese Communist Party openly boasts of having “prevented” 400 million lives through the One-Child Policy since 1980. That’s more than the combined populations of the United States and Canada. As Reggie Littlejohn put it: “This is the hallmark of Communist regimes – the peacetime killing of their own citizens.”
It is to draw attention to and eventually help stop such butchery that the Congressional Commission must continue its work. The countless girls killed before they were born, the millions of parents who will never know their child, and the generation of young men left without the possibility of marriage—all these are modern day victims of communism.