National Security & Defense

China’s Children and Climate Change — the Left Is against Them Both

A father and daughter await a train in Beijing, February 2015. (Kevin Frayer/Getty)

They came for Feng Jianmei without warning. She was seven months pregnant. They kidnapped her, strapped her down, and killed her unborn child because she and her husband could not pay their fine. “They” were Chinese government officials, and their tactics were standard practice in China since the implementation of the one-child policy in 1979. Unlike so many instances of this practice, which typically occur in shadows, this one, committed in 2011, broke into international news after a photo of the distraught mother holding her dead baby was posted on a popular Chinese blog.

When China announced the end of its one-child policy last week, the general response from the mainstream media was positive, with many articles appropriately and unequivocally condemning the policy and praising its demise (though not enough stories noted that the Chinese government will continue to control the basic reproductive status of its citizens who wish to have more than two children).

But amid the general approbation, several stories in the mainstream media have partially and in some cases wholly justified the coercive and Orwellian policy, which caused millions of forced and sex-selective abortions, almost 200 million sterilizations, an epidemic of child kidnapping, and the abandonment of girl babies. Furthermore, to judge from both mainstream media sources and the most-recommended-reader views expressed at some top liberal websites, many liberals, when freed by the anonymity of Internet commentary, actually endorse China’s barbaric policies, in the name of their alleged environmental and climate benefits.

Many liberals actually endorse China’s barbaric policies, in the name of their alleged environmental and climate benefits.

A particularly egregious example was in the Los Angeles Times, which quoted Anna Smajdor, a “reproduction and childbirth ethics expert” at the University of East Anglia: “It is sensible for countries to have explicit policies on reproduction just as they do on carbon emissions and other phenomena that affect the population on a large scale. . . . Without [the one-child policy], China might have faced catastrophe.” This attempted to balance the theoretical damage from climate change and the very real and immediate damage from the one-child policy was made again and again by the policy’s supporters. A similar embarrassment could be found at the Boston Globe, where a professor of philosophy at Bowdoin College argued that “China’s One-child Policy was a good thing.”

USA Today framed the one-child policy as “an attempt to reduce the burden on resources amid the country’s rapidly expanding population.” An op-ed contributor in the New York Times joined in offering soft excuses for it, arguing that with the expense and bother of raising children, many Chinese families did not want them anyway — as if the government’s hideous deformation of family life over the past 35 years did not profoundly influence Chinese women’s view of “choice” with respect to family size.

Adding insult to injury, such violations of human rights were unnecessary to stabilize population. China’s birthrate was already falling rapidly before implementation of the one-child policy. It had dropped to 2.7 children per woman in 1978, from 5.7 just two decades earlier. As in all modernizing economies, China’s birthrates had declined dramatically without intervention. And like all totalitarian technocracies, the Chinese government, in an attempt to “manage” one problem, has created one far worse: Its population has crashed to less-than-replacement levels and its workforce is shrinking, unable to care for its growing number of elderly, as the country’s dependency ratios soar.

But even worse than the writings of liberal journalists were the comments of their readers. In one of the most popular comments left at the New York Times site in response to its initial article on the policy change, the writer tried to justify the original policy by citing climate change: “Given both the planet’s diminishing resources and the effects of global warming (directly attributable to overpopulation) China’s policy was correct, and it should have remained in place. In fact, the policy should be implemented worldwide. It is not some human ‘right’ to simply keep reproducing.” One might expect that the Times might wish to hide the fact that any of its readers would voice such embarrassing sentiments. Instead, it chose to highlight them. A Times editor designated the comment a recommended pick.

And in another popular pick, a commenter wrote: “Population control was one of the best policies China implemented. Sure, it’s authoritarian, but unmitigated population growth will basically ensure we hit the global warming tipping point and doom the planet.”

With the exception of a single comment that offered backhanded support for the policy’s removal by noting that the “only-child” children of China’s one-child policy were “probably the most self-centered people who have ever lived,” one needed to go to the 17th-most recommended comment before finding one that was unequivocally critical of China’s one-child policy — and that comment had less than one-fourth the number of reader recommendations as did the most popular comments supporting the one-child policy.

Of course, we should not hold publications responsible for the views of their worst Internet commenters. But when such egregiously horrific comments are by far the most popular with readers and are specifically highlighted by editors, it says something ominous about contemporary liberalism.

#share#Readers familiar with environmental history are aware of the litany of tales of an environmental apocalypse that never came to be, catalogued by Julian Simon and his many worthy successors. In fact, China’s population panic has its direct roots in the West, courtesy of the Club of Rome’s now discredited book The Limits to Growth, which was enormously popular with environmentalists and liberal politicians in the 1970s.

Limits provided the direct inspiration for the one-child policy. Chinese scientist and bureaucrat Song Jian encountered it on a trip to Europe in the 1970s. He returned to China and used the book’s conclusions and his own pseudoscientific mathematical models to proved that China had already “overshot” its maximum population. Ultimately he convinced the Chinese government of the necessity of a one-child policy. The rest is a grim history.

The underlying views of far too many on the environmental left are dangerous, radical, and anti-human in the purest sense of the word.

Today, in using environmental justifications to endorse the horrors of the one-child policy, American liberals are taking their lead from the Chinese government, which has in the past proven eager to justify its policies in the name of addressing climate change. Zhao Baige, a senior member of the Chinese delegation to the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, lauded the policy, asserting that it had saved the world from millions of tons of annual CO2 emissions.

As one Australian commentator noted some years ago, China is putting the ultimate tax on carbon — a 100 percent tax on carbon-based life forms, in the form of millions of Chinese babies who will never be allowed to grow, develop, and thrive, because of the immoral demands of the Chinese state.

I am often asked, as an energy-policy expert who is less skeptical of climate science than are many other conservative Republicans, why I have generally declined to join various “bipartisan” efforts to browbeat other Republicans on climate change. The Left’s reaction to the end of the one-child policy provides much of the answer. As the media articles and the comments on them reveal, the underlying views of far too many on the environmental left are dangerous, radical, and anti-human in the purest sense of the word. In the name of alleged environmental necessity, they are ready to justify, excuse, or ignore even the most brutal human-rights violations. Given the immoral lengths to which they will go to support their political views, why should I believe that they present their scientific views fairly and rigorously?

This doesn’t mean, of course, that resource scarcity, overpopulation, or even climate change are not legitimate issues for discussion and debate. Nor does it mean that most environmentalists, even privately, support such noxious views. But when large numbers of people supporting dramatic action in these areas also support policies that are intellectually discredited and morally monstrous, the most responsible, honorable course of action is not to ally with them.

It should shock the conscience that supporters of the party that declares a “war on women” are silent on China’s abortion-fueled gendercide, which has resulted in tens of millions of “missing” girls in China.

It should shock the conscience that supporters of a party that obsessively says that abortion is between a woman and her doctor are silent when the Chinese state forcibly intrudes in the most personal way into a woman’s body and demands that she not bring a wanted child into the world.

It should shock the conscience that supporters of the party that declares a ‘war on women’ are silent on China’s abortion-fueled gendercide.

And it should shock the conscience that, during Hillary Clinton’s 2009 visit to India, which had its own infamous era of forced abortions and sterilizations under the government of Indira Gandhi, the secretary of state said, “It’s rather odd to talk about climate change and what we must do to stop and prevent the ill effects without talking about population and family planning.” China’s one-child policy and India’s own experiment with forcible sterilization were two historical results of such “family planning” musings. The distance between Hillary Clinton, media commentators and commenters, and China’s horrific policies is too small to give comfort.

Of course, whatever its initial Malthusian motivations, China’s one-child policy eventually became an instrument of government power. China’s family-planning bureau brings in millions of dollars of annual fines and employs tens of thousands of people. The activist Chen Guangcheng led Chinese opposition to the one-child policy under threats and arrest before fleeing to the U.S. in 2012. “In today’s China, under the Communist rule, the government can put their hand into your body,” he said, “grab your baby out of your womb, and kill your baby in your face.”

China’s one-child policy, and its sotto voce supporters on the left, should shock the conscience. But when it comes to contemporary liberal environmentalism, nothing is really shocking anymore.


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