China: editorial says Communist party members must have three children

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An editorial in a Chinese state-run news website has suggested Communist party members are obliged to have three children for the good of the country, as Beijing seeks to address plummeting birthrates.

The editorial, which was first published last month, went viral this week and drew sharp reaction from Chinese internet users, with millions of shares, views and comments. As the wave of reaction grew, the original article disappeared from the website.

The piece, published by a state media outlet called China Reports Network, said every member of the ruling party – of which there are about 95 million – “should shoulder the responsibility and obligation of the country’s population growth and act on the three-child policy”.

“No party member should use any excuse, objective or personal, to not marry or have children, nor can they use any excuse to have only one or two children,” it said.

The post appears to have been deleted but screenshots have been widely shared, and associated hashtags reportedly viewed millions of times.

China is facing a demographic crisis with an ageing population and declining birthrates. More than 18% of the population is aged over 60, according to the 2020 census. Figures released by the country’s national bureau of statistics in November showed there were 8.5 births per 1,000 people in 2020, the first time in decades that the figure has fallen below 10. In 1978, the figure was more than 18 per 1,000.

The CCP has implemented a range of measures in response, including relaxing long-held limits on having children, easing the costs associated with education and child rearing, subsidies for second and third children, and introducing mandatory “cooling off” periods for divorces, but they have had limited impact.

The one-child policy was formally ended in 2016, and replaced by a two-child limit on most Chinese couples, until this year when it was lifted again to three. However young Chinese people continue to say the high cost of living and pressures of long working hours are obstacles to having children.

“Although the three-child policy has come out, many people don’t have the conditions, ability, money, or time to take care of children, especially for women, who have to go home early, and this will make more companies not want to hire women!” said one commenter on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform. “Shouldn’t society be balanced in development? When does it become a mandatory rule to have three children?”

Another said: “I‘m just an ordinary person. My time, energy and money only allow me to raise a child in the future. Most party members are also ordinary people.”

Some warned that the editorial’s message could harm people’s faith in the party.

“‘Party members take the lead’ has always been our party’s fine tradition, which has withstood many tests of history,” said one commenter.

“The impact of this bad public opinion, like other public opinions, could easily change from accusations against the China Reports Network to resistance to the three-child policy and shaken trust in the government.”

The Guardian

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