Beijing allows third child, Chinese welcome news half-heartedly

A man photographs his two sons, when the Chinese authorities have just authorized couples to have a third child, on June 1, 2021 in Beijing. NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP

The announcement, Monday, May 31, that the Chinese authorities would allow couples to have a third child did not cause real enthusiasm in the country, quite the contrary. A poll carried out on the Internet by the official China New Agency the same day is final: if 1,600 people have declared themselves interested, 28,000 have replied that they are not at all. The survey was therefore quickly removed from social networks.

Taken by the political bureau “Chaired by Xi Jinping”, say the Chinese media, the government’s decision is nevertheless considerable. In January 2014, Zhang Yimou, one of the most famous filmmakers, had to pay a fine of around 1 million euros for having three children, two more than the law allowed. ‘time.

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In 1980, the Chinese authorities had in fact prohibited Chinese couples from having more than one child. Rural households were subsequently allowed to have a second child if the first was a girl, but the measure was accompanied by very severe control of families by the all-powerful Family Planning. We can no longer count the number of women forced to abort even in the seventh month of pregnancy or of civil servants dismissed for having had two children. This policy which, according to the authorities, would have avoided 400 million births, continued until the government authorized households, in October 2015, to have a second child.

Rapid demographic decline

Yet, to the surprise of many, the measures adopted in 2015 did not trigger a baby boom. As confirmed by the 2020 census, the results of which were made public on May 10, the number of births is drastically decreasing from year to year. In 2020, the fertility rate was only 1.3 and the number of births just over 12 million, unheard of in nearly sixty years.

In 2019, 14.65 million births were registered. But since 1987, a record year, with 25.5 million births, this number has continued to decrease. If the population continues to increase, according to official statistics, it is because life expectancy is increasing. Before long, the country will have to cope with a rapid demographic decline, from 1.412 billion Chinese in 2020 to some 700 million at the end of the century, according to a study published by The Lancet end of 2020.

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There are many reasons why Chinese couples do not want a second child. “I am an only child, so is my husband. We have our four dependent parents as well as a child. How do you want us to raise other children? “, could we read, Monday, on social networks.

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