In regard to birth control, China faces two controversial and important issues: Is it necessary to significantly lower the birth rate? and is it possible to do so? Li Xiaoping, a researcher with the Institute of Population Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, raised the two questions, which have gained much attention, in his presentation at the recent seventh conference of the China Population Society members.
He also gave clear answers to the two questions in his thesis, entitled A Study on Expected Results of Using Specific Rewards and Social Security Measures to Reduce Planned Births in Rural Areas: It is not only very necessary, but entirely possible. However, according to him, strong will, intelligence as well extraordinary measures re required for ensuring a thorough understanding of the necessity and the possibility of realizing the goal at an earlier possible date.
Li believes that, for overpopulated countries, the primary target is to reduce the total birth rate to below the replacement rate, which, after many years of endeavor, has been achieved in China. The second target should be zero population growth, which will take some time in China.
In the process of attaining zero growth, Li identifies China’s goals for long term population size as: first, in 100 years, to strive to reduce the population to 800 million or lower, and no higher than 1 billion; second, to further reduce the population to around 300 million within two hundred years, at most 500 million. Only with a population of 300-500 million, can the quality of life and living environment be set at an ideal level, he said.
By Li’s estimates, to achieve the first century’s target, the total birth rate must be further and rapidly reduced, and maintained at a rate of 0.16 percent. If from now on, every couple were to give birth to one child, the total birth rate would quickly drop below 0.16% and keep falling. In 34 years, the rate would be 0.1%. At this rate, 100 years from now, the population would be reduced to 400 million.
“Actually, in terms of potential possibility, if within the century every term of government took population reduction as the top priority, and worked at lowering population numbers as the first and foremost investment, then China’s population could be reduced to 500 million within one hundred years,” Li said.
Of course, “even if, as of now, China was able to keep to strictly one child to a couple, then within a certain timeframe, the population would still increase by millions per annum, it would take many years to achieve zero growth.”
Every time Li Xiaoping thinks of the huge discrepancy between the United States, Canada, Australia and China in terms of population, resources and the environment, the population problem weighs on him heavily. China has 1 billion more people than the U.S., moreover, “every year, the new births equal the population of Australia, every 1.5 years new births equal the population of Canada.” “These simple numbers tell the Chinese people, if we were to try to reach the same levels as the developed countries in terms of living standard and environment quality, lowering the birth rate is a crucial step,” he stressed.
Li Xiao Ping also believes that, to most countries in the world, in order to achieve an ideal standard of living, the only way is to stem population growth or to reduce the total population. The U.S. is no exception, because in comparison to Canada and Australia, the population size of the latter makes household airplanes a possibility of the future, whereas if the size of the American population were to be maintained, insufficient air space would make it impossible. This is an example of a developed country’s potential overpopulation. If even America has a problem in this regard, let alone the population issue facing China.
(china.org.cn July 18, 2002)