The Chinese government’s latest five-year plan proposal contains a birth policy with an emphasis on eugenics, a China scholar said this week.
China, known for its decades-long one-child policy, is now looking to counter its aging population by encouraging Chinese women to have more babies -- but only certain kinds of women.
Among the Chinese Communist Party’s goals listed in its policy blueprint for the years 2021-2025 is to “optimize its birth policy” and “improve the quality of the population.”
“I am actually very worried,” Columbia professor Leta Hong Fincher told a panel of China experts via video link at a virtual event by the Center for International and Strategic Studies (CSIS) Nov. 13.
“What caught my eye was that they actually use specific language saying that China needs to ‘upgrade population quality.’ They need to ‘optimize their birth policy.’ They even use a term … which is effectively emphasizing the role of eugenics in population planning in China,” she said.
Hong Fincher is an adjunct professor in Columbia’s department of East Asian studies and author of the book “Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China.” She was the first American to receive a PhD in Sociology from Tsinghua University, often called “the Harvard of China.”
She said that the Chinese government’s plans to control reproduction were part of the regime’s goals to maintain internal security by encouraging the growth of the Han Chinese, the dominant ethnic group in China, while systematically limiting births of an ethnic minority, the Uyghur Muslims.
“We see it happening in Xinjiang with the forced sterilization of particularly Uyghur Muslim women. And the language in the plan suggests to me that the government is going to continue with that,” she said.
“You have seen a huge reduction in birth rates in Xinjiang and, on the flip side, the government is also trying to coopt and persuade Han Chinese women who are college-educated into having more babies.”
The government of China’s Xinjiang autonomous region has acknowledged that birth rates fell by nearly a third in 2018, with much of the fall attributed to “better implementation of family planning policy.”
In June, an AP investigation found a systematic campaign by the Chinese Communist Party of pregnancy checks and forced abortions, sterilizations, and implantations of IUDs on Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.
In Xinjiang, an estimated one million Uyghurs, members of a Muslim ethnoreligious group, have been detained in re-education camps. Inside the camps, they are reportedly subjected to forced labor, torture, and political indoctrination. Outside the camps, Uyghurs are monitored by pervasive police forces and facial recognition technology.
A leaked document from a county in Xinjiang detailed the personal information of some 3,000 Uyghurs. It gave violation of birth control policies as the most common reason for their “re-education,” often alongside other reasons.
“The backdrop to all of this of course is that China’s population is severely aging. And what is interesting, worrying, to me, is that the language they have on the aging population is lumped together with the need to improve birth policy: to cultivate a higher quality population,” Hong Fincher said.
In 2019, the number of children born in China was the lowest it had been since the time of Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward campaign, the CCP’s second five-year plan from 1958 to 1962, which resulted in a famine that killed tens of millions of people.
China’s previous five-year plan, covering 2016-2020, changed the country’s one-child policy to become a two-child policy, but the birth rate continued to decline.
Chinese sources have also pointed out that the birth policies listed in the five-year plan proposal, set out at the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee meeting which concluded Oct. 29, list for the first time a goal to “develop an inclusive family planning service system.”
The Global Times, Chinese state media’s English-language newspaper, which reflects the position of Chinese authorities, interpreted this call for “inclusive family planning” as pointing toward granting same-sex couples and unmarried women rights to raise children.
The final version of the latest five-year plan will not be passed until the National People’s Congress meets in March 2021.
At the CSIS event, “Doubling Down on China, Inc.: An Initial Analysis of China’s 14th Five-Year Plan,” Hong Fincher said that the Chinese government’s plan called for the prevention of external interference in the affairs of Hong Kong and Macao, and for China to be “vigilant and control Taiwan independence and separatist activities.”
She said that the incoming U.S. president should indicate clearly that the United States will firmly support Taiwan.
“I do think that the incoming Biden administration should be wary of an overly confident China,” she said.
“The Biden administration should indicate really strongly that it is upholding human rights. It is going to hold the Chinese government accountable for human rights abuses because of what is happening in Xinjiang.”