Fast-moving demographic trends are not the only signs of population-planning failure. There is also the imbalance of the sexes. Due in large part to the one-child policy, China boasts, according to official 2012 statistics, what is the world’s most skewed sex ratio at birth, 117.7 males for every 100 females. As a result of abnormal birth patterns, there may be as many as 51.5 million excess males. The sex imbalance has led to increased prostitution, HIV infection, and trafficking in women.
Even demographers who think the amendment to the policy could result in as many as an extra 2 million births a year, such as Wang Feng of the University of California at Irvine, are not forecasting a full-scale boom, in part because relentless indoctrination since the end of the 1970s has changed the big-family mentality of the Chinese. Beijing’s own family-planning officials, speaking after Friday’s announcement, have said we should not expect a significant increase in births.
Many people praise China’s technocrats for their management of the country, yet accelerated demographic decline will surely rank among their worst failures. Beijing officials should have scrapped the one-child policy at least a decade ago, but their caution stopped them from adopting the commonsense solution.