China’s 2015 Two-Child Policy & Green Commitment

 

China entered the 21st century relatively under the radar.  While the Western powers were scrambling around dealing with terrorism, China pushed forward to bolster its economy.  In 2008, Beijing stole the attention of the international media away from the terrorists with its wild display at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  Now, in 2015, China can say it endured all the doomsday predictions and is an economic superpower, to stay for the foreseeable future–with struggles along the way.

It goes without saying that China’s two main problems are population and pollution.  Mostly, though, the policies put forth by Beijing seem to hardly reflect any concern for these two issues, choosing instead to focus on the nation’s economy.  Unfortunately for the people of China, the two main problems are intertwined, with the high population being the main catalyst for outrageous pollution.  What are the main causes of China’s population-related pollution?  They are listed below:

  1. Coal burning (at least 1/3 of the problem)
  2. Industrial production
  3. Vehicle exhaust
  4. Construction sites

Most people already understand these issues; however, I want to pick at one of these polluters in particular: coal burning.  It may not be known to the rest of the world that, in China, individual homes are burning coal.  Coal is one of China’s most abundant resources and is a lot cheaper and more convenient for Chinese to keep their house warm during the winter by burning coal than by many other methods.  If you have never seen what the effects are of an entire city that burns coal during the winter, see the image below.  It is well-known to Chinese  that the worst time of the year for pollution is the winter because of this factor.

Smog-hit-Chinese-cities--010
China’s typical winter-time haze due to extra household coal burning

Two-Child Policy: A Step Forward?

Beijing’s recent decision to permit two children per household sounds like a step forward.  It sure is unusual for the oppressive type of policies the Chinese politburo is known for.  However, the reason given by the Chinese government for making this policy change wasn’t for the improvement of its citizens’ livelihood.  Instead, the officials were quoted as saying that by increasing the population, the nation could address its productivity issues.  The policy is purely economic.

Rather than investing in its people, Beijing would rather water-down their economic system with cheap labor by increasing the country’s already bloated population, thus offering the world their own citizens as some of the lowest paid and hardest working laborers with little to no benefit to the Chinese themselves.  Their pursuit of the status quo for the foreseeable future is disheartening to those that saw hope of seeing a less polluted and healthier China within this generation.  Unfortunately, we will all see a China that continues to compete for manufacturing contracts from foreign developed countries, choosing this as its main method for funding its development.  This is the path that Beijing has chosen for its people.  This is the alternative to diversifying the development scheme and refining its investment in the interest of the people’s well-being.

Bo Yang’s (柏杨) Legacy

In typical Chinese government style, Beijing is to enforce a policy that is potentially for the wrong reasons.  At 1.36 billion citizens in 2015, China’s population could continue to soar if the policy settles into the minds of the citizens.  As famous Chinese author and scholar Bo Yang (柏杨) writes, the Chinese leaders’ decision-making has a tendency to only benefit around 20-30% of the nation rather than 80-90%.  It is the reason that China continues to do harm to itself, time and again.  In his book, The Ugly Chinaman (醜陋的中人國), Mr. Bo Yang purports that China’s population is one of the worst catastrophes of China’s history and the main cause of the “Chinese tragedy.”

Returning to the main issue and possibly what Mr. Bo Yang foresaw, more households will result in more personally owned vehicles and emissions, more coal burning, more construction sites–those items that all are on the list of what causes–more pollution.  As hard as it might be to accept, it may be the best for China to sustain its one-child policy to lower its population, at least until the country has a solid green energy solution.  Beijing should let go of its dead-iron hold on the idea that it can develop through forceful means that is costing the health of everyone, not just due to pollution.  Also because of the immense amount of stress and lack of oversight that exists in the nation because of the challenges at administering such an enormous amount of people.

For those traveling to China, have a good time, but don’t expect blue skies and an avenue to yourself to walk down in the near future.

5 Comments

  1. I have heard that many families are reluctant to participate in the two-child policy change because of the costs of raising a second child. From what I understand, many believe that the policy change will have little effect on the population for at least a decade. Have you read anything similar?

    • I haven’t had a chance to read much on some scholarly writings on the issue yet, but I have read what some journalists have wrote. The only thing I know is it will be an incentive for at least some families considering there won’t be any fees for a second child like there was before. From my own relatives experience, though, if a person wants a second child badly enough, they will find a way economize their decision.

  2. The beach picture reminded me of Jones Beach in NY City.
    I enjoyed reading your well written article, even though I disagree with parts of it. I’d like to point you to a couple of books: 1. Human Action by Ludwig von Mises is the masterpiece of Free Market/Capitalist Economics, and 2. The Improving Sate of our World by Indur Goklany looks at Human Well-Being with intricate analyses of the facts.
    von Mises points out the impossibility of centrally planning – you used the term administering – a society. Even down to the size of a large village, centrally planned choices will benefit some and harm others, especially from each person’s point of view. Thinking that a two-child policy (or one-child policy) is a good directive from on high shows a major lack of humility on the part of those espousing each. I can hear your people’s complaint, “How dare you tell me how many children to have!”
    Goklany looks at the great advances in many measures of well being, such as life expectancy, infant mortality, mal-nourishment, etc. He finds that Economic and Technological advancement correlate very well with all indicators of well being. He looks at so many of the choices that people need to make: putting food on the table, putting a roof overhead, providing heat to avoid freezing to death, energy, etc.
    Societies, and the individuals in those societies, tend to concentrate on what currently is most important, and as higher priorities are met, each lower priority starts to be considered.
    The currently more developed societies had to develop all the technologies (including education) from square one. Good technologies were used until better ones were developed. Improvements were slow because there were man failures along the way.
    The flow of technology, at lower prices, from the more advanced societies to the less advanced ones has allowed the latter to start thinking about lower priorities much more quickly. So, while Los Angeles SMOG of the 50s and 60s began to be addressed long before the central government got into the act, China has the opportunity to address environmental issues at a much earlier stage in your development than we did. That’s a good thing, but things can’t be fixed all in one day. Patience can be frustrating, but it’s necessary.
    One danger is that there is a lot of misinformation available, not the least dealing with Green issues. SMOG is dangerous to people’s health, while CO2 is dangerous to people’s pocketbook, as unscrupulous demagogues try to profit from a non-problem. Here in the US, there is a move to shut down most electricity production by making coal illegal. The US government is foisting “energy poverty” upon it’s people, much as many Europeans already suffer from it, having to choose between food and heat.
    Be careful what you wish for! It is IMPOSSIBLE for wind and solar to provide sufficient energy for a modern society. If you support wind and solar, you likely will be supporting population control through tens or millions of deaths. CO2 is not the same as burning coal to keep from freezing (or trees or dung in even lesser developed countries).
    Don’t destroy your country on the say so of global lunatics and charlatans.

    • Thank you for the reading suggestions. I will look into them! As I have stated before, I am no expert in political-economy or any other field except general political science/IR. There is plenty of interesting details to digest in your note. Give me some time to take it all in.

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