PG6C. Stay Current—One Child

cover for GSS book Population Growth

Staying current for Chapter 6

{ Population Growth Contents }

2023-04-25. Hong Kong: some schools face closure as birthrate and exodus take toll. [] By Helen Davidson, The Guardian. Excerpt: Hong Kong schools are being forced to merge or prepare for closure as a decade-long decline in the birthrate and a recent exodus of residents from the city has led to a plunge in student numbers. …Hong Kong’s birthrate is one of the lowest in the world, and like several countries across east Asia is facing the demographic crisis of an ageing population. Apart from an increase measured from 2003 to 2011, the live birthrate has steadily fallen from 35 per 1,000 population in 1961 down to 5.2 per 1,000 population in 2021. Government efforts, including financial inducements and tax relief, have failed to turn the rate around….

2023-03-22. Beijing’s population falls for first time since 2003 as China battles low birthrate. [] By Helen Davidson, The Guardian. Excerpt: In 2022 there were more deaths than births in the Chinese capital, home to more than 21 million people, resulting in a natural population growth of minus 0.05 per 1,000 people. It is the first time the population has gone backwards since 2003….“Given the high living and education cost and education levels in Beijing, it is very normal that the birthrate of permanent residents is low,” said Xiujian Peng, senior research fellow at the Centre of Policy Studies at Victoria University in Australia. China’s Communist party government is striving to reverse the trend and stave off the economic impacts of an ageing population. …Last year official data showed China’s birthrate had fallen to 6.77 births per 1,000 people, the lowest on record. …“It is too difficult to marry and have children to live a stable life,” said one 42-year-old Beijing resident who came to the city from a rural family. …It is impossible to buy a house in Beijing.”….

2023-02-26. Desperate for Babies, China Races to Undo an Era of Birth Limits. Is It Too Late?. [] By Nicole Hong and Zixu Wang, The New York Times. Excerpt: In China, a country that limits most couples to three children, one province is making a bold pitch to try to get its citizens to procreate: have as many babies as you want, even if you are unmarried. The initiative, which came into effect this month, points to the renewed urgency of China’s efforts to spark a baby boom after its population shrank last year for the first time since a national famine in the 1960s. …there are plans to expand national insurance coverage for fertility treatments, including I.V.F. But the measures have been met with a wave of public skepticism, ridicule and debate, highlighting the challenges China faces as it seeks to stave off a shrinking work force that could imperil economic growth. Many young Chinese adults, who themselves were born during China’s draconian one-child policy, are pushing back on the government’s inducements to have babies in a country that is among the most expensive in the world to raise a child. To them, such incentives do little to address anxieties about supporting their aging parents and managing the rising costs of education, housing and health care….

2023-02-09. Can China Reverse Its Population Decline? Just Ask Sweden. [] By Andrew Jacobs and Francesca Paris, The New York Times. Excerpt: China’s population has begun to decline, a demographic turning point for the country that has global implications. …China joined an expanding set of nations with shrinking populations caused by years of falling fertility and often little or even negative net migration, a group that includes Italy, Greece and Russia, along with swaths of Eastern and Southern Europe and several Asian nations like South Korea and Japan. …History suggests that once a country crosses the threshold of negative population growth, there is little that its government can do to reverse it. …Two decades ago, Australia tried a “baby bonus” program that paid the equivalent of nearly 6,000 U.S. dollars a child at its peak. At the time the campaign started in 2004, the country’s fertility rate was around 1.8 children per woman. (For most developed nations, a fertility rate of 2.1 is the minimum needed for the population to remain steady without immigration.) …by 2020, six years after the program had ended, it was at 1.6 — lower than when the cash payments were first introduced….

2023-01-16. China’s Population Falls, Heralding a Demographic Crisis. [] By Alexandra Stevenson and Zixu Wang, The New York Times. Excerpt: …The world’s most populous country has reached a pivotal moment: China’s population has begun to shrink, after a steady, yearslong decline in its birthrate that experts say is irreversible. The government said on Tuesday that 9.56 million people were born in China last year, while 10.41 million people died. It was the first time deaths had outnumbered births in China since the Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong’s failed economic experiment that led to widespread famine and death in the 1960s. Chinese officials have tried for years to slow down the arrival of this moment, loosening a one-child policy and offering incentives to encourage families to have children. None of those policies worked. …Government handouts like cash for babies and tax cuts, have failed to change the underlying fact that many young Chinese people simply do not want children…. See also article in The Guardian.

2022-11-14. India faces deepening demographic divide as it prepares to overtake China as the world’s most populous country. [] By Hannah Ellis-Petersen, The Guardian. Excerpt: India is currently home to more than 1.39 billion people – four times that of the US and more than 20 times the UK – while 1.41bn live in China. But with 86,000 babies born in India every day, and 49,400 in China, India is on course to take the lead in 2023 and hit 1.65 billion people by 2060. …On 15 November the world’s population will reach a total of 8 billion people. Between now and 2050, over half of the projected increase in the global population will happen in just eight countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, the United Republic of Tanzania – and India….

2022-01-17. China’s Births Hit Historic Low, a Political Problem for Beijing. By Steven Lee Myers and Alexandra Stevenson, The New York Times. Excerpt: China announced on Monday that its birthrate plummeted for a fifth straight year in 2021, moving the world’s most populous country closer to the potentially seismic moment when its population will begin to shrink, and hastening a demographic crisis that could undermine its economy and even its political stability. The falling birthrate, coupled with the increased life expectancy that has accompanied China’s economic transformation over the last four decades, means the number of people of working age, relative to the growing number of people too old to work, has continued to decline. That could result in labor shortages, which could hamper economic growth, and reduce the tax revenue needed to support an aging society. …China’s ruling Communist Party has taken steps to address the birthrate decline, by relaxing its notorious “one child” policy, first allowing two children in 2016 and as many as three since last year. It is also offering incentives to young families and promising improvement in workplace rules and early education. None have been able to reverse a stark fact: An increasing number of Chinese women don’t want children.… []

2021-05-31. [] – China Says It Will Allow Couples to Have 3 Children, Up From 2. Source: By Sui-Lee Wee, The New York Times.  Excerpt: China said on Monday that it would allow all married couples to have three children, ending a two-child policy that has failed to raise the country’s declining birthrates and avert a demographic crisis. The announcement by the ruling Communist Party represents an acknowledgment that its limits on reproduction, the world’s toughest, have jeopardized the country’s future. The labor pool is shrinking and the population is graying, …. See also Have Three Children? No Way, Many Chinese Say. [] …Intense workplace competition, inadequate child care and widespread job discrimination against pregnant women have made childbearing an unappealing prospect for many.

2020-06-10. Two-husband strategy may be a remedy for China’s one-child policy, professor posits. By Anna Fifield, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Chinese authorities have been trying for three years to reverse the devastating imbalances of their one-child policy and coax couples to have more children. They’ve told couples that it’s their patriotic duty to have two babies. They’ve dangled tax breaks and housing subsidies. They’ve offered to make education cheaper and parental leave longer. They’ve tried to make it more difficult to get an abortion or a divorce. None of this has worked. China’s birthrate remains stubbornly low and men massively outnumber women, creating a demographic crisis that could hinder economic growth for decades to come. But now, an economics professor at Fudan University in Shanghai has come up with another — and, unsurprisingly, controversial — solution: allow women to have multiple husbands, and they will have multiple babies. …the traditional preference for sons — and the associated practice of aborting girls — means that there are about 34 million more men than women…. [] 
2018-10-23. China to Abandon Population Target as Birth Policies Loosen. By Bloomberg News. 

2018-08-11. Burying ‘One Child’ Limits, China Pushes Women to Have More Babies. By Steven Lee Myers and Olivia Mitchell Ryan, The New York Times. [] Excerpt: BEIJING — For decades, China harshly restricted the number of babies that women could have. Now it is encouraging them to have more. It is not going well. Almost three years after easing its “one child” policy and allowing couples to have two children, the government has begun to acknowledge that its efforts to raise the country’s birthrate are faltering because parents are deciding against having more children. Officials are now scrambling to devise ways to stimulate a baby boom, worried that a looming demographic crisis could imperil economic growth — and undercut the ruling Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping. It is a startling reversal for the party, which only a short time ago imposed punishing fines on most couples who had more than one child and compelled hundreds of millions of Chinese women to have abortions or undergo sterilization operations. The new campaign has raised fear that China may go from one invasive extreme to another in getting women to have more children. Some provinces are already tightening access to abortion or making it more difficult to get divorced.“To put it bluntly, the birth of a baby is not only a matter of the family itself, but also a state affair,” the official newspaper People’s Daily said in an editorial this week, prompting widespread criticism and debate online….

2015-10-29. China Ends One-Child Policy, Allowing Families Two Children. By Chris Buckley, The New York Times.  Excerpt: BEIJING — Driven by fears that an aging population could jeopardize China’s economic ascent, the Communist Party leadership ended its decades-old “one child” policy on Thursday, announcing that all married couples would be allowed to have two children. The decision was a dramatic step away from a core Communist Party position that Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader who imposed the policy in the late 1970s, once said was needed to ensure that “the fruits of economic growth are not devoured by population growth.” For China’s leaders, the controls were a triumphant demonstration of the party’s capacity to reshape even the most intimate dimensions of citizens’ lives. But they bred intense resentment over the brutal intrusions involved, including forced abortions and crippling fines, especially in the countryside. …Abolishing the one-child policy would “increase labor supply and ease pressures from an aging population,” the National Health and Family Planning Commission, which enforces the policy, said in a statement issued after the party meeting. …Yet while the decision surprised many experts and ordinary Chinese, some said it was unlikely to ignite either a baby boom or an economic one. …The initial public reaction to the party leaders’ decision was restrained, and many citizens in Beijing who were asked whether they would grasp the chance to have two children expressed reluctance or outright indifference. Some, however, were pleased….  
See also
One-Child Rule Is Gone in China, but Trauma Lingers for Many (NY Times)
Researchers react to China’s two-child policy move (Science)
End of China’s One-Child Policy Stings Its ‘Loneliest Generation’ (NY Times 2015-11-13)

2014-07-25. What Do Chinese Dumplings Have to Do With Global Warming?  Excerpt: …Chen Zemin, the world’s first and only frozen-dumpling billionaire…named his fledgling dumpling company Sanquan, which is short for the “Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China” — the 1978 gathering that marked the country’s first steps toward the open market. …When Chen founded Sanquan, fewer than one in 10 of his fellow citizens even owned a refrigerator. In the eastern megacities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, it wasn’t until the late 1980s — as electrical grids became more reliable and families had more disposable income — that refrigerators became a fixture of most homes. …in the 12 years between 1995 and 2007, China’s domestic refrigerator-ownership numbers have jumped to 95 percent from just 7 percent of urban families. …China had 250 million cubic feet of refrigerated storage capacity in 2007; by 2017, the country is on track to have 20 times that. At five billion cubic feet, China will surpass even the United States, which has led the world in cold storage ever since artificial refrigeration was invented. And even that translates to only 3.7 cubic feet of cold storage per capita, or roughly a third of what Americans currently have — meaning that the Chinese refrigeration boom is only just beginning. This is not simply transforming how Chinese people grow, distribute and consume food. It also stands to become a formidable new factor in climate change; cooling is already responsible for 15 percent of all electricity consumption worldwide, and leaks of chemical refrigerants are a major source of greenhouse-gas pollution. Of all the shifts in lifestyle that threaten the planet right now, perhaps not one is as important as the changing way that Chinese people eat…. By Nicola Twilley, The New York Times.

2013-11-15. China to Ease Longtime Policy of 1-Child Limit. Excerpt:  HONG KONG — The Chinese government will ease its one-child family restrictions and abolish “re-education through labor” camps, significantly curtailing two policies that for decades have defined the state’s power to control citizens’ lives, the Communist Party said Friday. …For decades, most urban couples have been restricted to having one child. That has been changing fitfully, with rules on the books that couples can have two children if both parents are single children. But that policy will now be further relaxed nationwide. …“This is the first time that a central document has clearly proposed allowing two children when a husband or wife is an only child,” said Wang Guangzhou, a demographer at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. …If carried through, the relaxation would be the first significant nationwide easing of family size restrictions that have been in place since the 1970s, said Wang Feng, a demographer who teaches at both the University of California, Irvine, and Fudan University in Shanghai. He estimated the policy could lead to one million to two million more births in China every year, on top of the approximately 15 million births a year now. …The one-child restrictions were introduced to deal with official fears that China’s population would devour too many resources and suffocate growth. But they have created public ire and international criticism over forced abortions, and have created a population of 1.34 billion, according to a 2010 census, that is aging relatively rapidly, even before China establishes a firm foothold in prosperity. Experts have for years urged some relaxation of the controls…. Chris Buckley, The New York Times.

2013-01-14.  Study Measures Impact of China’s One-Child Policy | Sindyan N. Bhanoo, The New York Times. Excerpt:  The Chinese policy that limits most families to having one child has had psychological fallout for the children born after it was instituted in 1979, economists report in the journal Science [L. Cameron et al, Little Emperors: Behavioral Impacts of China’s One-Child Policy,].  The researchers asked two groups of people — born just before and just after the policy was put into place — to play a set of games using real money. In a game involving trust, test subjects were paired with anonymous partners. Player One was given 100 renminbi (about $16) and invited to pass it along to Player Two. The money would then be tripled, and Player Two could pass some of it back. Players born after the one-child policy was instituted were less likely to pass money along than the older participants. The researchers concluded that the “one-child-policy” players were less trusting, less trustworthy, less competitive and more risk-averse than the older ones …. Read the full article:

2012-11-28. China considers easing family planning rules | By Michael Martina, Reuters.  Excerpt:   (Reuters) – China is considering changes to its one-child policy,… with government advisory bodies drafting proposals in the face of a rapidly ageing society in the world’s most populous nation. Proposed changes would allow for urban couples to have a second child, even if one of the parents is themselves not an only child, …. Under current rules, urban couples are permitted a second child if both parents do not have siblings. Looser restrictions on rural couples means many have more than one child. …Zhang [Weiqing, the former head of the National Population and Family Planning Commission], who serves on China’s congressional advisory body, said …”China’s population policy has always taken into account demographic changes but any fine-tuning to the policy should be gradual and consider the situation in different areas” …Critics say [the one-child policy] also has fuelled forced abortions and increased social tension stemming from an imbalance in the number of boys and girls. Though forced abortions are illegal in China, officials have long been known to compel women to have the procedures to meet birth-rate targets. This year, debate over the country’s strict family planning rules erupted after a woman in the northwestern province of Shaanxi was forced by officials to have an abortion after seven months of pregnancy. …And some say the policy is no longer necessary because the cost of raising children in an increasingly prosperous society is already holding down birth rates. …. Read the full article:

2012-04-14. Nigeria Tested by Rapid Rise in Population | by Elisabeth Rosenthal, The New York Times. Excerpt: LAGOS, Nigeria — In a quarter-century, at the rate Nigeria is growing, 300 million people — a population about as big as that of the present-day United States — will live in a country roughly the size of Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada. In this commercial hub, where the area’s population has by some estimates nearly doubled over 15 years to 21 million, living standards for many are falling…. Read the full article:

2011 April 25. IMF bombshell: Age of America nears end. By Brett Arends, MarketWatch. Excerpt: …According to the latest IMF official forecasts, China’s economy will surpass that of America in real terms in 2016 — just five years from now….
…The IMF in its analysis looks beyond exchange rates to the true, real terms picture of the economies using “purchasing power parities.” That compares what people earn and spend in real terms in their domestic economies.
Under PPP, the Chinese economy will expand from $11.2 trillion this year to $19 trillion in 2016. Meanwhile the size of the U.S. economy will rise from $15.2 trillion to $18.8 trillion. That would take America’s share of the world output down to 17.7%, the lowest in modern times. China’s would reach 18%, and rising…. 

2010 August 20, 45 Billion – Yes, Billion – Chopsticks. By Eric Burkett. Excerpt: Residents of the People’s Republic of China produce 45 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks each year, or 130 million pairs each day…
…The problem? Made from birch and poplar, China’s disposable chopsticks bring down about 100 acres of forests every day, estimates Greenpeace China. That’s 16 to 25 million trees felled each year for a single-use utensil. Across the East China Sea, Japan uses more than 20 billion disposable chopsticks annually, nearly 97 percent of which come from China.
…The government has instituted taxes on the sticks and plenty of citizens – concerned about deforestation of China’s forests – have attempted to convince their compatriots to stick with “real” chopsticks through humorous ad campaigns. Opponents of those efforts insist the chopsticks are important to the economy and argue the country’s disposable stick factories employ 100,000 in economically depressed areas…. 

2009 Dec 15, In 2025, India to Pass China in Population, U.S. Estimates. By SAM ROBERTS, NY Times. Excerpt: India will become the world’s most populous country in 2025, surpassing China, where the population will peak one year later because of declining fertility, according to United States Census Bureau projections released Tuesday.
The bureau suggests that the projected peak in China, 1.4 billion people, will be lower than previously estimated and that it will occur sooner. With the fertility rate declining to fewer than 1.6 births per woman in this decade from 2.2 in 1990, China’s overall population growth rate has slowed to 0.5 percent annually.
… China and India alone account for 37 percent of the world’s population of about 6.8 billion. Every minute, the bureau’s estimates, 250 people are born worldwide and 107 die, for an increase of more than 75 million annually….
… After China and India, the most populous countries are, in order, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Russia and Japan…. 

2009 May 28. India, Enlightened. By George Black, NRDC OnEarth. Raise a Billion People out of Poverty Without Destroying the Environment. Can It Be Done? 

2008 Summer. Global Appetites: How Better Nutrition, Sustainable Fuel Accelerated the Food Emergency. Dr. Mark Rosegrant, The Interdependent, Vol. 6 No. 2. pages 12-13. Excerpt: Some of today’s global food woes are the unintended consequences of success, according to Dr. Mark Rosegrant of the International Food Policy Research Institute. He looks at warnings over the past decade, how new prosperity brought better nutrition for millions and how the quest for alternative fuels to protect the planet actually set the stage for trouble. “Biofuels Blamed in Food Cost”… 

2008 July. Coal in China. by Richard Heinberg, MuseLetter 195. Excerpt: China is the world’s foremost coal producer and consumer, surpassing the United States by a factor of two on both scores and accounting for 40 percent of total world production. Moreover, its coal consumption has been rising rapidly, at a rate of up to ten percent per year (which translates to a doubling of demand every 7 years). While China is a significant producer of oil and natural gas, coal dominates the nation’s fossil-fuel reserve base. About 70 percent of China’s total energy is derived from coal, and about 80 percent of its electricity. The country has recently become the world’s foremost greenhouse gas emitter due to its growing, coal-fed energy appetite. … The nation’s short-term survival strategy thus centers on producing enormous quantities of coal today, and far more in the future.
However, there are signs that China’s domestic coal production growth may not be able to keep up with rising demand for much longer.
… The supply problems discussed here appear already to be manifesting. During the winter of 2007-2008, power plants in many parts of the country ran short of coal due to soaring prices and transport bottlenecks, while snow and ice storms disrupted power transmission. A People’s Daily article, quoting Zhang Guobao, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, noted that only a “fragile balance” existed in the thermal coal market despite huge and growing coal output. During that same winter, prices for internationally traded coal climbed substantially.
… China’s furious pace of economic growth, which is often touted as a sign of success, may turn out to be a fatal liability. Simply put, the nation appears to have no Plan B. No fossil fuel other than coal will be able to provide sufficient energy to sustain current economic growth rates in the years ahead, and non-fossil sources will require unprecedented and perhaps unachievable levels of investment just to make up for declines in coal production-never mind providing enough to fuel continued annual energy growth of seven to ten percent per year…. 

26 August 2007. As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes. The New York Times. By JOSEPH KAHN and JIM YARDLEY.Excerpt: BEIJING, Aug. 25 – No country in history has emerged as a major industrial power without creating a legacy of environmental damage that can take decades and big dollops of public wealth to undo. China’s cement factories… use 45 percent more power than the world average, and its steel makers use about 20 percent more. But just as the speed and scale of China’s rise as an economic power have no clear parallel in history, so its pollution problem has shattered all precedents. Environmental degradation is now so severe, with such stark domestic and international repercussions, that pollution poses not only a major long-term burden on the Chinese public but also an acute political challenge to the ruling Communist Party. …Pollution has made cancer China’s leading cause of death, the Ministry of Health says. Ambient air pollution alone is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water.
…For air quality, a major culprit is coal, on which China relies for about two-thirds of its energy needs. It has abundant supplies of coal and already burns more of it than the United States, Europe and Japan combined. But even many of its newest coal-fired power plants and industrial furnaces operate inefficiently and use pollution controls considered inadequate in the West.
…Emissions of sulfur dioxide from coal and fuel oil, which can cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases as well as acid rain, are increasing even faster than China’s economic growth…. Other major air pollutants, including ozone, an important component of smog, and smaller particulate matter, called PM 2.5, emitted when gasoline is burned, are not widely monitored in China.
…Perhaps an even more acute challenge is water. China has only one-fifth as much water per capita as the United States. But while southern China is relatively wet, the north, home to about half of China’s population, is an immense, parched region that now threatens to become the world’s biggest desert. …In many parts of China, factories and farms dump waste into surface water with few repercussions. China’s environmental monitors say that one-third of all river water, and vast sections of China’s great lakes, the Tai, Chao and Dianchi, have water rated Grade V, the most degraded level, rendering it unfit for industrial or agricultural use.
…Officials have rejected proposals to introduce surcharges on electricity and coal to reflect the true cost to the environment. The state still controls the price of fuel oil, including gasoline, subsidizing the cost of driving. 

6 April 2007. To Fortify China, Soybean Harvest Grows in Brazil. By ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO, NY Times. Excerpt: RONDONîPOLIS, Brazil – For more than 2,000 years, the Chinese have turned soybeans into tofu, a staple of the country’s diet. But as its economy grows, so does China’s appetite for pork, poultry and beef, which require higher volumes of soybeans as animal feed. Plagued by scarce water supplies, China is turning to a new trading partner 15,000 miles away – Brazil – to supply more protein-packed beans essential to a richer diet. China’s global scramble for natural resources is leading to a transformation of agricultural trading around the world. In China, vanishing cropland and diminishing water supplies are hampering the country’s ability to feed itself, and the increasing use of farmland in the United States to produce biofuels is pushing China to seek more of its staples from South America, where land is still cheap and plentiful. …The Chinese want to connect directly with Brazilian farmers, bypassing the multinational grain merchants. While they have yet to make a major purchase of cropland in Brazil, they are looking to invest in improved facilities and upgrade the antiquated rail system.
China began looking overseas for more soybean supplies in the mid-1990s, when the scope of its land and water problems became clearer. Beijing has also chosen to use more of its arable farmland to grow fruits and vegetables, crops that make better use of China’s cheap labor and scarcer water supplies to generate higher returns on the export market…. 


9 May 2005. “We Want to Push the Limits” BY CRAIG SIMONS. Newsweek. These Chinese road warriors seek fun, thrills and freedom. …Yuan Jun likes to have his foot on the gas. Wearing rose-colored glasses and a tan aviator vest; he rests one hand on the steering wheel of his Toyota Land Cruiser and holds a CB radio mike in the other. …He’s busy snapping instructions into the CB for a line of SUVs-Jeep Grand Cherokees; Isuzu Rodeos; Nissan Paladins-strung along the highway behind us. Since he bought his first car in 1991, Yuan figures he’s clocked more than 600,000 miles, …. “In the city,” he says, “everything seems the same–the same work, the same people, the same experiences. On the road, it’s all new.” That restless spirit-the urge for novel experiences, the quest for new frontiers, the possibilities for escape and renewal, even the willingness to slog through traffic to get to work–has long fueled America. Now it’s gripping China. Even 10 years ago, when the average American spent nearly an hour driving each day, the Chinese owned only 10.4 million vehicles, almost all of them in government and corporate fleets. Today that number has grown to more than 23 million. New sales surged 82 percent in 2003 and 11 percent last year, even after Beijing slapped curbs on bank loans to slow its red-hot economy. More than 40 million Chinese have driver’s licenses, and a 2003 survey by Swiss consulting firm CBC found that 40 percent of Chinese families are planning to buy new automobiles. “Cars have given people a chance to pursue freedom,” says Beijing University sociologist Xia Xue Ian. “They have opened up a space for private life.” …Beijing has pumped billions of dollars into making travel easier. The length of China’s highway network is second only to the United States and the government announced in January that it will spend $200 billion over the next 25 years to nearly triple that; total mileage is expected to surpass America’s around 2020. … A few miles up the road we pulled into a dusty Sinopec gas station and topped up with 93-octane fuel. Compared with the U.S., the price of $1.84 a gallon is low, but for most Chinese, filling up an SUV would cost at least a weeks earnings. …China’s thrill ride has obvious costs. Since 1985, the number of people killed on Chinese roads has increased fivefold: in 2003, more than 104,000 Chinese were killed in traffic accidents, more than double the U.S. total-even though the U.S. has almost nine times as many cars. Another cost is the price of oil: while Mideast instability and other factors have contributed to recent $56 per barrel prices, so has Chinese consumption-China’s oil imports doubled over the past five years, much of that to fuel the country’s transportation boom. The longer-term shifts are also ominous. According to the World Wildlife Fund, China already produces 16 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, and within 30 years it’s expected to contribute as much to climate change as the U.S., currently responsible for a quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide pollution. If every Chinese citizen consumed as much energy as Americans do, China would use all the petroleum currently produced in the world. Chinese scientists have tracked some of the 46,000 glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau with increasing alarm. Some scientists predict that rising temperatures will melt most of China’s glaciers within this century, taking with them the sources of Asia’s greatest rivers-the Yangtze, the Yellow, the Indus, the Mekong.Yuan understands the dangers, but he notes that Americans now are having more impact on the global environment. And what are they doing about it? “We want to enjoy the best life we can have,” he says. …


14 September 2004. NY Times. Rivers Run Black, and Chinese Die of Cancer As urbanites demand better air and water, China’s countryside is increasingly becoming a dumping ground. 

April 2004. Issue of The Gazette, Volume IV, Issue IV, (from Population Connection) has updates on changes to China’s One-Child Policy.

14 April 2004. Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report. Chinese Province Relaxes One-Child Policy; Divorced Couples Who Remarry Allowed Second Child in Shanghai.

12 April 2004. Social Effects of One-Child Policy Arise (From “‘One Child’ Generation Grows Up to Face Strained Family Relations.” Xinhua General News Service). A recent survey conducted by a Chinese family education research group found that overall strained family relations are one product of China’s controversial one-child policy. Chinese culture has nicknamed China’s first one child generation as “little emperors,” as these children were a main focus in the lives of their parents and grandparents. Now as these children are becoming adults and leaving home, their upbringing tends to have multigenerational affects. The survey found that as many as 60 percent of one-child couples are unable to handle parenting and have turned to their own parents for a large amount of the childcare duties. Also, the parents of this one child generation feel neglected as their grown-up children, the main focus of their lives for many years, are often too busy to spend any time with them. China has also seen a rise in marital conflict because the participants in one-child couples tend to have very strong characters and are not very capable of resolving conflict. In order to prevent this trend from trickling down to the next generation, sociologists suggest working on traits like tolerance and practicing conflict management techniques at an early age and integrating these skills into early childhood education curricula.

8 April 2004. Sex Imbalance Alarms India. (From “Sex Ratio Imbalance Alarms India.” United Press International.) In a situation similar to one that China is facing, the results of India’s 2001 census indicate an increasing shortage of girls. In 1991, just ten years before, 945 girls were being born for every 100 males. The 2001 number dropped to 927 girls for every 1000 males. This produces a shortage of 35 million girls. Traditionally a patriarchal society, India is claiming that the intense desire for boy children has lead to a pattern of selective abortions. India had previously banned both sex determination tests and selective abortions nationwide. Social activists and health officials said that, despite the regulations, female feticide is occurring all over the country. In specific regions, numbers have dropped as low as 793 females for every 1000 males. As always, any sex imbalance can lead to several possible consequences of a large male to female gap, such as an increase in crime, a decrease in women’s rights and impacts on national and international politics.