The Significance of China’s New Two Child Policy

China’s recent decision to expand the “allowance” of children per family from one to two has in some quarters been mistaken for a softening of the regime toward human rights, in this case the right of families to have children. However, tender pro-family feelings have nothing to do with this action taken by the nation’s rulers.

Let’s be clear about this: the Chinese government still operates on totalitarian principles, meaning it is a country whose governing class claims the right (and does not hesitate to put that right into practice) to control and regulate all aspects of the lives of its subjects. Perhaps it is becoming less correct to speak of China unqualifiedly as a communist country, given its enormous efforts in recent decades to promote an economy that to some degree operates along profit-making principles and tolerates substantial financial inequality to do so. At the same time, its recent economic successes have rested on essentially the slave labor of prisoners combined with low wages that, as prosperity causes living standards to creep up, are likely to rise enough to price China out of some of the wealthier nations’ outsourcing of labor.

boysIn fact, it is virtually impossible to understand from a Western viewpoint what exactly the Chinese have in mind for their political system, economy, or basic social structure. Nonetheless, clearly the regime’s switch after many decades from a “one child per couple” policy to one permitting a second child points to something going on that, even if not motivated by sound morality, may have socially healthy repercussions.

Of course, the immediate and primary motivation appears to be the regime’s acknowledgement of severe demographic challenges resulting from the radical curtailment of reproduction there. The looming inverted pyramid of large numbers of elderly and small numbers of working-age people that most of the West and, even more dramatically, Japan are beginning to face has much more serious repercussions for China, both because China’s population decline will be more dramatic and because, despite its economic clout, its people are still not as prosperous as those in the West. And then there is the problem of the shortage of females, which the “one child” years greatly exacerbated. Neither of these problems, however, can be quickly reversed by China’s changed policy: Instead, China can anticipate demographic challenges and disequilibrium for the foreseeable future.

Fundamentally, children are a gift; healthy societies recognize that, and therefore even moving from one “permissible” child to two may be a major game changer for China. If we can put it this way, openness, step by step, to freedom and to the more developed members of the world community offer China its best opportunity for prosperity and for a healthy society. Of course, today’s China has far to go to reach the understanding of freedom and individual liberties that have fueled the progress of the Christian-formed West up until recent times. The regime may end up choosing a less tolerant and more aggressive path in pursuit of world power. Please God the Chinese have the wisdom to avoid anything that might develop into a catastrophic world war, for example. If, rather, the Chinese rulers truly want to be a world player, they will need to understand that although world powers become so in many different ways, one requirement is a large and dynamic population. Rather than being a deficit, it is an advantage to developing a prosperous and healthy society.

Those reading this are as appalled as I am by abortion, which is contrary to the natural law and to the teaching of the Church. However, despite China’s horrendous record of forced abortions throughout the “one child” years and its refusal to repudiate abortion as a means to enforce the new “two child” policy, I am optimistic for the future of human rights in China, in part because of the growth of Christianity there. Although Christians still make up only a tiny minority of Chinese, the Church, even under legal constraints and persecution, has shown very rapid growth there, which God willing will continue.

Can we hope that in time the leaders of China will come to see Christianity not as a threat but as a wellspring of national health and perhaps greatness? In the next several years, I believe it is not only possible but even likely that China will to a large extent have become Christian without any persecution, and that it will have distanced itself further from communism, imitating instead the healthy example of a free country in terms of both religion and the marketplace. And I pray that the Chinese will come to recognize all children as a gift, culturally and economically, regardless of the religion they profess. I am even optimistic enough to hope that this realization will return to the nations of the West as well, and that the United States and Europe will abandon a mindset that tolerates abortion and embrace one that cherishes its children.

Fr. C. J. McCloskey III, S.T.D. is a Church historian and Research Fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington, DC. He is perhaps best known for guiding into the Church such luminaries as Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Lawrence Kudlow, Robert Novak, Judge Robert Bork, and Senator Sam Brownback. His articles, reviews, and doctoral thesis have been published in major Catholic and secular periodicals. He is co-author (with Russell Shaw) of Good News, Bad News: Evangelization, Conversion, and the Crisis of Faith (Ignatius Press) and the co-editor of "The Essential Belloc" (St. Benedict's Press).
Articles by Fr. McCloskey:

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  • Margaret O

    One’s reaction should surely be one of outrage! Imagine being told that one has permission to now have two children! Imagine being forced to kill one’s baby….


    I think that Americans are in danger of thinking China is behind the US and that their nation is superior. The forced abortions in China are reprehensible and I hope to God these will change. In the US there are also forced abortions but usually indirect forces such as homelessness, hunger, poverty and social isolation. When people have large families, if more than 2 or 3 children marry, then this will mean a population boom. When only some of the children from large families marry and have children, we have the spinster Aunts, bachelor Uncles and Priests, nuns and monks. Now if the Chinese thought that only some of the children from Catholic families would reproduce, that not all of these would have large families and that they would be absorbed into families and celibate communities, then they may be a lot more willing to allow Catholics to have a lot more children. This is worth thinking of.
    As for the foreign policies of the two nations, I personally am and always have been afraid of the US addiction and obsession with war and of their numerous military bases abroad. The Ukraine regime who got in illegally through a violent US backed coup may spark off WWIII, using proxy armies of terrorists and demanding they have to choose a new government of Syria is extremely likely to also lead to WWIII, the NATO bases packing up against Russia on her neighbour’s borders is also more likely to create WWIII than to prevent it. The UK government is almost as bad today.
    I am fearless with regard to Russia, NK, Iran, China and war, I am terrified of the US UK, Turkey &, Israel starting the wars. The UK and Saudi are already at war with Yemen and massassacring the Yemenese people, they have their proxy terrorists ISIS involved there too.
    Why are my fellow pro-life Catholics so silent with regard to our wars and the use of proxy terrorists and why are they so willing and ready to accept the mainstream version of everything except things that pertain directly to themselves? US citizens, your nation is the biggest threat to world peace in our world and it is behind and involved in terrorist networks all over our globe. I find Global research to be an interesting read, please step off of the beaten track and really dig out answers about why the US is waging non ending wars. The current monetary system and the hegemony of debt slavery is as closely linked to the wars and troubled areas as the red dragon is linked to the black beast.