The man from family planning liked to prowl around the mountaintop village, looking for diapers on clotheslines and listening for the cry of a hungry newborn. One day in the spring of 2004, he presented himself at Yang Shuiying’s doorstep and commanded: “Bring out the baby.”
Yang wept and argued, but, alone with her 4-month-old daughter, she was in no position to resist the man every parent in Tianxi feared.
“I’m going to sell the baby for foreign adoption. I can get a lot of money for her,” he told the sobbing mother as he drove her with the baby to an orphanage in Zhenyuan, a nearby city in the southern province of Guizhou. In return, he promised that the family wouldn’t have to pay fines for violating one-child policy.
I have woken-up recently with thoughts of my 11 month old nephew being tossed on a fire, so I can comprehend the sense of sheer horror felt by Yang Shuiying (pictured above with two remaining daughters) and described by Barbara Demick, a journalist with an especial interest in China and Korea.
Then he warned her: “Don’t tell anyone about it.”
Yeah, that is because you had no authority to do so.
Hefty fines, as large as three years the annual salary of both parents, are imposed, but with humans having a natural inclination towards their children, Chinese couples are prepared to pay (although, those more ostentatious about it are likely to be wealthy).
But, that is not right, surely? As Demick wrote, convention wisdom was that callous Asiatic-types were routinely dumping units which result in a net loss (“baby girls” to you and me). The lucky ones were placed in orphanages where kind Westerners would be able to adopt them; the unlucky ones tossed into slop-buckets. Whilst both undoubtedly occur (the second was reported by Xue Xinran in an Economist article on gendercide, reproduced here), Yang Shuiying’s account of a dark moment of soul-eroding terror adds a new facet.
Two generations now have been subjected to China’s one-child policy since its instigation in 1979. Initially breaches were punished by forced abortions and heavy fines – which did not dissuade the United Nations Population Fund from awarding Qian Xinzhong, the then Minister for Birth its first award for “tacking rapid population growth” in 1983 – but have now been bowdlerized had the coercive element removed, and even liberalized with an additional child permitted for rural inhabitants and ethnic minorities and couples in which both are only-children.
Dissent is brewing, even amongst those affluent parents who have the means to pay fines. In 2008, one zoning-violation which did not generate mass-protests on Western streets was the planned demolition of a dīngzihù (“nail-house”, so-called because planning officials consider their demolition to be as easy as hammering in a nail, or rolling a bulldozer over Arthur Dent). Then, Yang Zhizhu, a law lecturer at the Beijing Youth Politics College, wrote in open support of the residents.
Now, Yang has refused to pay a fine imposed by Beijing authorities for his insistence in fathering a second child. He and his wife had wanted a son to compliment their daughter, although the new-arrival turned out to be another daughter. Neither husband nor wife are disappointed by little Ruonan’s sex: although Yang’s dismissal from his lecturer position and inability to obtain a permanent residency document for Ruonan have jarred a bit (although, this being China, a bung could be arranged to obtain the document).
Yang need not expect this human interest story to raise much concern amongst prominent Western ‘environmental’ campaigners because it is, well, human. One never should mistake Green Party activists or the like for environmentalists or conservationists, with the US National Parks system being closer to the spirit of the latter than is the former (although its moral founder, John Muir was none too enamoured by the humans – not just American Indians – who insisted on inhabiting them).
A characteristic smorgasbord of stupidity at the Guardian’s Comment is Free had Mary Fitzgerald, online editor of Prospect Magazine and a self-identified “eco-feminist” coo in delight at the one-child policy which, through denying women the control of the wombs, meant that there were three to four hundred millions fewer humans to worry about. Look on the bright side, at least: she simply peddles anti-human misanthropy, and not actual racism which sees the reduction of the Chinese population to be significant.
That can be seen in the outbreak of simony which sees affluent Western families clinking their coins in the plate so Third Worlders can have access to contraception.
Still, it could be worse. David Attenborough could have become patron of the Optimum Population Trust, which provides English-language apologias for the Chinese policy. Or that Jonathan Porritt is presenting Chinese babies in terms of carbon emissions.
And it definitely could not happen that Zhao Baige, the Director-General of the Family Planning Unit in Beijing could have been feted at the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change in 2009 (maybe if she had opened a tin of Coca Cola, something would have been said).
I do not know if Mary Fitzgerald is an only-child (although I would pity any younger siblings who may have been lectured about the wastefulness of mummy flushing-away the contents of their potties). What I do surmise is that she has had all the benefits of a high-quality Western education and control of the valuable commodity of written English, and now a disposable income which will allow her a comfortable dotage.
Reproduction is not a lifestyle choice. Humans have been doing it for some time. Having a sibling encourages children to think more of others (I eventually stopped rolling my baby sisters off the settee). Babies belch undigested milk and not exhaust fumes.
Yet, some people do not have a parental instinct. That is fine. Not being required to have children is a perfectly acceptable corollary of not being forcing to restrict family size. Presenting this lack of desire as a heartfelt ecological statement is, however, fraught with difficulties. For instance, who will care for such pseudo-Malthusians in their old age?
The low-paid offspring of people who do not see reproduction as immoral?