China Power

Wanted: Sister

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China Power

Wanted: Sister

A surprising social experiment suggests letting people have two kids keeps the population lower.

What could have been a more effective way of controlling China’s population than its one-child policy? Letting people have more than one child, at least according to a secret experiment, details of which are emerging now.

The Times reports that 25 years ago, the government secretly authorised a pilot project in a rural county about 900 kilometres southwest of Beijing that allowed families to have two children if they stuck to certain conditions.

The Times says the Southern Weekend newspaper in Guangzhou first broke the story, going on to say:

‘According to the paper, the population of the county has grown over the 25-year period of the scheme by 20.7 per cent, which is nearly five percentage points lower than the national average, despite families being allowed two children.’

But what’s most interesting is the fact that the experiment also helped redress the gender imbalance in the area, where the ratio was 106 males to 100 females (in line with normal levels) compared with the national average of 118 males to every 100 females.

This is critical because of the serious implications for future social stability if the imbalance is not tackled. As is outlined in a fascinating article that appeared in the New Republic a couple of years back:

‘Preliminary returns from the first generation of population-controlled kids suggest how all those unwanted men might fill up their time. Over the past decade, as the boys hit adolescence, the country’s youth crime rate more than doubled. In December [2007], Chinese Society of Juvenile Delinquency Research Deputy Secretary General Liu Guiming told a Beijing seminar that today’s teens were committing crimes “without specific motives, often without forethought.”’

Now that the cat’s out of the bag, it will be interesting to see how the government responds.