Easing Beijing’s old one-child policy still means state intrusion and won’t halt China’s demographic crisis
By Mei Fong
Yicheng is a dusty little region in China’s coal belt, with appalling smog levels even by Chinese standards. The pall extends all the way up to the hills, where people dwell in quaint, hobbit-like caves, growing soot-covered crops of sunflowers. It is, by any measure, a quiet backwater, but it has suddenly assumed national importance with China’s recent announcement of new family policies.
For three decades, Yicheng and several other rural counties have served as experimental zones where residents were allowed to have two children with relatively few conditions—an exception to the one-child diktat established in 1980. With Beijing now prepared to accept a less restrictive two-child standard for the whole country, the lessons from Yicheng are clear: The new policy will still require state intrusion into the most private realm of citizens’ lives—and it is unlikely to halt China’s looming demographic crisis.