Beijing Eyes Unmarried Teens as China’s Population Continues to Decline

Beijing Eyes Unmarried Teens as China’s Population Continues to Decline
Young Chinese children attend a preschool in Beijing, China, on April 26, 2012. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Jessica Mao

In the face of a sharp drop in China’s birth rate, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities have introduced a number of policies to encourage childbirth, but so far, none has worked. The desire to have babies among people of childbearing age continues to decline. However, instead of reviewing and correcting the mistakes of its ever-shifting anti-humanity policies, the CCP continues to issue bizarre edicts that the outside world cannot understand.

At the end of January, China Family Planning Association under the State Council issued “China Family Planning Association 2022 Work Highlights” (hereafter referred to as the “Work Highlights”), a document that triggered hot debates.

The report said that in 2022, “we will focus on addressing prominent reproductive health problems among adolescents, people of childbearing age, and other specific groups, and launch special campaigns to intervene in induced abortion among unmarried people, to reduce unwanted pregnancies and induced abortions among adolescents.”

The reference to “intervene in induced abortion among unmarried people” was particularly noticeable and became the top topic in internet searches.

This is not the first time the Family Planning Association has used reproductive health as a reason for its work. In January 2021, the Association’s “2021 Work Highlights” outlined the implementation of reproductive health promotion activities and pointed out that “the prominent reproductive health problems of adolescents, people of childbearing age, and other specific groups should be addressed.”

In August 2021, Wang Pei'an, Deputy Director of the Population Resources and Environment Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and Secretary of the Party Committee of the CCP’s Family Planning Association, said the growing problem of reproductive health among teenagers posed a “major threat” to the country’s population security.

After comparing the CCP Family Planning Association’s “Work Highlights” from 2021 and 2022, The Epoch Times found that the Highlights in 2021 were generalized and said, “address the outstanding problems of reproductive health among adolescents, people of childbearing age, and other specific groups of people,” while the 2022 Highlights went further by saying to intervene in “abortions among unmarried people” and “reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions among adolescents.”

This is no longer just policy propaganda, but aims to carry out special work for a designated group. Although the current “intervention” is still at the level of administrative instructions issued by Zhongnanhai to family planning departments at all levels, and has not been upgraded to a new state policy, the change has given the outside world a glimpse of the regime’s barbarity in returning to mandatory family planning.

What does the CCP’s new statement on the population mean? Zhang Tianliang, a political commentator living in the United States, told The Epoch Times that the CCP wants its citizens to have more children as the country faces a demographic crisis now. Teenagers are more likely to get pregnant if they don’t take necessary measures, and yet the policy is more about reducing the number of abortions so that the population can increase as soon as possible.

Zheng Jie, a Japanese political commentator told The Epoch Times that the “Work Highlights” used reducing unwanted teenage pregnancies and abortions and improving the reproductive health of the public as a pretext. Given the serious imbalance in population ratios, this is a signal that the CCP wants to take coercive measures to change the status quo.

It is reported that the “2022 Work Highlights” have been distributed to family planning associations in all provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities, cities with independent planning, Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, various departments of the CCP Family Planning Association, and Life Magazine.

Unmarried Pregnancies and High Abortion Rates Trouble CCP

According to a 2021 article in the Chinese Journal of Practical Gynecology and Obstetrics, induced abortions in China are characterized by three traits: a large number, a high proportion of repeat abortions, and a large proportion of young unmarried women.

The CCP Family Planning Association will intervene in abortions for unmarried women from four aspects: 1. Cooperate with relevant departments to involve schools, families, and society and train parents; 2. establish education, counseling, technical services and reproductive health service chains, carry out pre-abortion counseling and postpartum contraceptive guidance; 3. strengthen publicity and advocate all circles to pay attention to the problem of unwanted pregnancy and induced abortion; 4. conduct surveys and studies on reproductive health.

Wu Shangchun, a researcher at the Scientific Research Institute of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said in 2014 that “there are about 10 million induced abortions a year in China, up to 13 million at the peak, which is a huge number.” Childless women account for nearly half of them.

The person in charge of the Family Planning Association also said: “A number of surveys have shown that the proportion of young, unmarried, and childless women in [having] induced abortion is increasing, and the proportion of high-risk abortions within the age of 20 and [the number of ] repeat abortions has increased significantly. The number of abortions among unmarried teenagers under the age of 24 accounts for more than 40 percent of all abortions in China each year, and 19 percent of them [the women] have had multiple abortions.”

Beijing Cultural Review, a Chinese academic journal, recently published an article titled “To what Extent are Unmarried pregnancies spreading in China as Family Planning Associations Deliberately Clamp Down on Abortion?” The byline shows Li Wenzhen, School of Sociology and Population, Renmin University of China.

“How far has the trend of unmarried pregnancy in China reached that it requires direct intervention by the relevant authorities?” the author asked.

A study of seven Chinese provinces and cities by scholar Xu Li found that 16.8 percent of premarital pregnancies took place between 1987 and 1991, the article said. In 2013, the percentage of pregnancies in unmarried women was as high as 30.5 percent among all migrant couples aged 15-59. A 2011 survey found that among the new generation of migrant workers born after 1980 who are married and have children, the proportion of premarital pregnancies for the first child was as high as 42.7 percent.

People in big cities are more likely to get pregnant out of wedlock, the author added. Some studies believe that the peak age of unmarried pregnancy is about 20, while others believe that unmarried pregnancy has an obvious trend of occurring at lower ages.

Out of 396,022 live births in China, 8.96 percent were out of wedlock.

In addition, with the abortion rate rising every year, the authorities are tasting the consequences of decades of harsh family planning and forced abortions—hundreds of millions of babies lost. China’s aging population and declining fertility rate led the CCP to allow couples to have a second child in October 2015. In June 2021, it further implemented a three-child policy and introduced corresponding social services to encourage childbirth.

Although the policy has changed 180 degrees from “minimize the number of children” to “encourage more children,” it has not changed people’s waning desire to have children.

With regard to the “focus on addressing prominent reproductive health problems of adolescents, people of childbearing age, and other specific groups of people” mentioned in the “Work Highlights,” people can also see the seriousness of the situation from the so-called “valuable experience” of “intervening” in teenage abortions that the CCP’s Family Planning Association recently presented to Chinese media.

The Association claimed that its “ways with Peers” project, aimed at college and secondary school students, disseminates sexual health information among peers, says to avoid unprotected sex, and reduces unwanted pregnancy, induced abortion, and sexually transmitted diseases/AIDS infection.

By February 2022, the project had covered more than 700 universities and 10,000 middle schools across China, with more than 7 million students participating each year, according to data provided by the Association.

The evaluation of four universities in Ningbo City, Zhejiang Province showed that the rate of knowledge about contraception among college students increased from 43.2 percent to 85.2 percent, and the knowledge rate about AIDS increased from 37.8 percent to 77.6 percent. Three years after the project began, the number of abortions among unmarried young women aged 17-24 in hospitals around the four universities dropped from 35 percent to 25 percent.

In August, 2021, Wang Pei ‘an, party secretary of the Family Planning Association, even talked about improving unmarried people’s access to contraceptives, induced abortion, and reproductive health counseling and technical services.

Wide Range of Incentives

According to official data, the number of newborns in China was only 17.28 million in 2017, and was expected to drop to 10.035 million in 2020, indicating that the declining birth rate is a trend.

In August 2021, the CCP’s rubber-stamp legislature, passed a decision to revise the family planning law and advocate the three-child policy. However, the total number of newborns that year was still 10 percent lower than in 2020, and some regions even saw a decrease of 30 percent.

Faced with a severe decline in birth rate, various Chinese provinces revised their regulations in accordance with the new family planning law and introduced various incentives to encourage couples to have three children.

As of Nov. 28, 2021, more than 20 provinces had initiated or completed amendments to the law, offering measures such as extending maternity leave, adding parental leave, and issuing subsidies, according to a Xinhua report in November last year.

Because it does not involve government spending, increasing maternity leave to encourage childbirth has become mainstream. Zhejiang Province has made it clear that women who have one child will have 60 days of maternity leave, and 90 days of maternity leave when their second or third child is born. Shaanxi Province will give another half-year of “award leave” to female employees who have given birth to three children. Authorities in Shanghai, Zhejiang, Heilongjiang and other places stipulate that until a child turns 3, both husband and wife can take “parental leave” every year.

Some cities are willing to pay subsidies, such as 1,000 yuan (about $158) per child per month, for families with second or third children.

U.S.-based independent commentator Han Wu told The Epoch Times that these are still measures the CCP is taking to resolve its extremely low birth rate. They look humane on the surface, but in fact, the CCP does not respect an individual’s wishes.

Han also said that China’s population growth and demographic structure are in a huge crisis. Although the entire world faces the problem of a low percentage of people in the workforce versus total population, this problem is more prominent in China. As a country with a large population, the CCP now actively implements new policies to encourage people to have children; yet China’s birth rate continues to decrease year by year. In less than 10 or 20 years, the population problem will completely bring down the CCP. Therefore, the CCP is particularly anxious, and its new family planning policy is a major decision for the regime.

Policies to Curb High Divorce Rate

At the same time, different regions in China have reported record high divorce rates. Chinese authorities introduced a “divorce cooling-off period” that started on Jan. 1, 2021. If a couple does not go to the marriage registration authority to verify their divorce decision, their initial divorce application will be treated as withdrawn. However, this new measure has had little effect.

On the Chinese forum, a netizen predicted that the CCP will continue to make divorce more difficult and will probably enact laws to ban abortion by the end of 2022.

“The CCP will adopt these methods to deal with the high divorce rate: increase the difficulty of [getting a] divorce, extend the procedural period, and increase the cost of divorce. Yet the authorities will turn a deaf ear to the real underlying social reasons for the high divorce rate,” the author wrote.

As for the causes of the low birth rate, the author agreed with many social media blogs that high housing prices and the cost of bringing up a child are the main reasons. But the CCP definitely will not try to lower housing prices or the cost of raising a child to increase the birth rate, he said.

Japan-based commentator Zheng Jie said he was really worried about young people in China after reading the CCP’s “2022 Work Highlights” on family planning.

“This edict, first of all, emphasized that the CCP’s comprehensive leadership over the work of the Family Planning Association must be strengthened. The CCP initiated the one-child policy more than 30 years ago, which caused many family tragedies, and now there is not even a word of apology. The world has never seen such an unconscionable government before.”

Ellen Wan contributed to this report.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.