August 17, 2009
Remember all the Malthusian scare talk of a generation ago about overpopulation? Boy, were they wrong.
The world faces a potential demographic crisis that threatens both the global economy and global stability. Too few, not too many, children are being born in many countries around the world.
Low birthrates in Europe, East Asia, and even in places like Iran have resulted in rapidly aging societies. These societies will soon find themselves unable to sustain the kind of economic growth necessary to care for their population and maintain social peace.
Officials in one unlikely country have taken notice.
That unlikely country is China, home of the infamous “one-child” policy. Officials in Shanghai, China’s largest and richest city, are urging couples to have a second child. Family planning officials literally are going door-to-door, slipping leaflets under them. Whereas in most of China a visit from such an official is often a prelude to coercion and even forced abortions, these visitors implore couples to have a second child.
Why? Not some newfound respect for life—it’s Shanghai’s deteriorating demographics. Nearly 22 percent of the population is over 60. Within 10 years, that will rise to a third. By 2050, there will be only 1.6 working-age adults to support every retiree.
As John Pomfret of the Washington Post puts it, China “is on track to become the first nation in the world to get old before it gets rich.”
According to the London Times, China is looking “nervously” at neighboring Japan, whose low birthrate and aging population are undermining its post-war economic miracle. The “age wave” produced by China’s “one-child” policy is predicted to hit China fast and with devastating impact to the economy and social stability.
It seems, though, that China—apart from what’s happening in Shanghai—has not only looked at Japan, it, like Japan, has failed to learn from its mistakes. As my colleague Anne Morse recently pointed out in a BreakPoint Online column, recent events in Shanghai do not signal a reversal of the “one-child” policy.
Ironically, only those living in Shanghai who themselves come from “one-child” families are permitted to have a second child.
For the rest, the “one-child” policy remains firmly in place. The Chinese government, like population controllers around the world, regard children as, at best, a problem to be managed and, at worst, as a threat.
In their worldview, which was shaped by the merchants of overpopulation hype in the West, fertility and prosperity are mutually exclusive. As a communist dictatorship, the Chinese government was able to act on this belief in a way that Western population controllers could only dream about.
If that sounds like a cheap shot, it isn’t. There is no shortage of quotes by those population controllers still around praising Chinese population control efforts.
Now, even the Chinese are discovering that declaring war on life and setting aside the moral order leaves you hungry and dying.
Chuck Colson’s daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.