Accommodating China: Peace, Prosperity and Population Control

Jameson Taylor
Reprint with permission

Does the end justify the means? To even ask this question is subversive; and yet, human affairs are often determined by such calculations. To put the question another way: Would it be right to sacrifice just one innocent human being if his death could secure world peace and prosperity? How about 10 innocent lives? OK…How about 300 million?

According to a Chinese White Paper issued in December 2000, “300 million births have been averted nationally” since China implemented its rigorous “one–child–one family” program in 1970. These 300 million potential and actual lives “averted” through contraception and abortion have saved China an estimated $600 billion — $2,000 per child in a country whose gross domestic product is only $3,800 per capita. Like their capitalist comrades out West, Chinese officials are banking on the assumption that economic progress is the necessary cornerstone of human happiness. For China’s family–planners, the key to economic progress consists not so much in transitioning to a market–based economy, but in controlling the country’s “excessive population growth.” “The issue of population,” concludes the White Paper, “has become the key factor and primary problem restricting China’s economic and social development.” Solving the “population problem,” assert the Chinese, will strengthen China’s economy, help eradicate poverty, save the environment, protect children’s and women’s rights, and raise literacy and education levels. The report goes so far as to proclaim that China’s current population policies have contributed to “world peace…and the promotion of human development and progress.”

Not only has public opinion in the United States accepted that the Chinese are “doing what they have to do,” but U.S. policy–makers are in substantial agreement with China’s family planners. As articulated in a 1974 interagency memorandum, “Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests,” the fate of democracy itself depends upon the ability of less developed countries (LDCs), like China, to curb population growth. Declassified in 1989, the report claims that “the political consequences of current population factors in the LDCs–rapid growth, internal migration, high percentages of young people, slow improvement in living standards, urban concentrations, and pressures for foreign migration are damaging to the internal stability and international relations of countries in whose advancement the U.S. is interested, thus creating political or even national security problems for the U.S. In a broader sense, there is a major risk of severe damage to world economic, political, and ecological systems and, as these systems begin to fail, to our humanitarian values.”

Faced with the collapse of Western civilization it is no wonder so many world leaders continue to tolerate the questionable means China has chosen to pursue its stated goal of “responsible” family planning. As one conservative commentator recently concluded, “I don’t agree with the forced abortion, but I don’t think the United States needs to interfere with what they’re [the Chinese] doing internally in this regard.” Such rhetoric sounds a bit too much like the mantra that has persuaded so many Americans that abortion should be legal: “Well, I personally would never have an abortion, but who am I to stop someone else from having one?”

Defending his remarks on a later broadcast, the same speaker concluded, “I’m a Protestant and Protestants don’t have any problem with family planning. The Chinese government is saying basically one child a family, which seems excessive perhaps but that’s their rule, and so far, its working for them. But they have a very serious problem, and you cannot imagine how many people will be out of work. You can’t imagine the mass starvation, the desperate poverty that will result if they allow population explosion uncontrolled.”

Chaos, in other words, will result if China rescinds its one–child–one–family policy. Can anyone be so naïve to think, however, that China can enforce such a draconian law without resorting to forced abortions and requiring the use of contraceptives? In defending China’s one–child–one–family policy, such advocates are implicitly excusing the criminal methods necessary to enforce this unnatural law.

World peace, economic stability, and the fate of 80 million Christians in China, we are told, require that the United States “not get involved.” Suppose, however, that world peace and prosperity does not depend upon the size of China’s population?

To begin with, is it really true that China is overpopulated? In 1999, China’s population density/per square kilometer was estimated to be 133.69. By contrast, Monaco had a population density of 16,486.67 persons per/square kilometer. Yet, no one is clamoring for a one–child–one–family policy on the French Riviera. The Holy See has a population density of 1,977.27 persons per⁄square kilometer, and the leader of that state is the staunchest opponent of abortion and contraception in the world. Research by Dr. Jacqueline Kasun has shown that humans inhabit only one to three percent of the Earth’s ice–free land area. Roger Revelle, a former director of the Harvard Center for Population Studies, estimates that only 25 percent of the Earth’s ice–free land area would be needed to feed 40 billion people–almost seven times the world’s current population. Africa alone could feed 10 billion persons.

Population growth in China has also slowed dramatically, declining from 25.83 per thousand in 1970 to 8.77 by 1999. By the early 1990s, China’s total fertility rate had fallen below replacement levels and continued to decline, reaching 1.82 in 2000 — even lower than the United States' estimated rate of 2.06. As Kasun notes, “The limitations on abundance are to be found in social and political structures of nations and the economic relations between them.” This explains why Taiwan, with a population density “five times that of China, produces 20 times as much Gross National Product than China.”

Second, studies by Chinese economists may suggest an inverse correlation between Chinese population figures and economic growth, but that does not prove that population reduction is the cause of China’s recent economic upturn. Closer to the truth is that economic decentralization (along with massive foreign investments and technology transfers facilitated by a U.S. administration motivated, at best, by short–term political gain) has fueled the rise in Chinese living standards.

Many Americans, however, also fail to see that just as population control efforts do not cause economic prosperity, free–market reforms do not necessarily translate into political liberties. In its annual human rights report, released in February 2001, the U.S. Department of State found that in spite of China’s “gradual transition from a centrally-planned economy to a market–based economy…the Government’s poor human rights record worsened.” U.S. policy–makers and investors have no guarantee that increased trade with China will do anything more than strengthen China’s oppressive regime. In light of such stark evidence, how can so–called “conservatives” continue to support Most Favored Nation status for China, not to mention recent calls for China’s entry into the G–7 economic forum?

Ronald Reagan’s policy of isolating and resisting evil empires works far better than trading with, and possibly arming, our enemies. “Quiet, deadening accommodation with totalitarian evil,” Reagan warned, would ultimately destroy freedom everywhere. Likewise, toleration of China’s coercive family–planning methods will never benefit the causes of life and liberty in either China or the United States. Not even the death of one child, much less 300 million, will ever bring about “world peace” and “human progress.”