AP Headline: 'One-child policy a surprising boon for China girls'

August 14th, 2011 4:08 PM

Sunday, Alexa Olesen at the Associated Press wrote an item headlined "One-child policy a surprising boon for China girls." My immediate comeback: "43-60 million Chinese girls aborted because they were of the 'wrong' gender or would have violated the one-child policy were not available for comment."

While nowhere near as odious as Nick Kristof's "Mao Tse-tung wasn't all that bad; look what he did for Chinese women" conclusion at the end of a book review on Mao's murderous legacy almost six years ago, Olesen gets into the neighborhood.

Here are the first seven and two later paragraphs from her report:

A Communist Youth League member [1] at one of China's top science universities ... (Tsinghua University freshman Mia Wang) boasts enviable skills in calligraphy, piano, flute and pingpong.

Such gifted young women are increasingly common in China's cities and make up the most educated generation of women in Chinese history. Never have so many been in college or graduate school, and never has their ratio to male students been more balanced.

To thank for this, experts say, is three decades of steady Chinese economic growth, heavy government spending on education [2] and a third, surprising, factor: the one-child policy.

In 1978, women made up only 24.2 percent of the student population at Chinese colleges and universities. By 2009, nearly half of China's full-time undergraduates were women and 47 percent of graduate students were female, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. [3] [4]

In India, by comparison, women make up 37.6 percent of those enrolled at institutes of higher education, according to government statistics.

Since 1979, China's family planning rules have barred nearly all urban families from having a second child in a bid to stem population growth. With no male heir competing for resources, parents have spent more on their daughters' education and well-being, a groundbreaking shift after centuries of discrimination.

... Some demographers argue that China's fertility rate would have fallen sharply even without the one-child policy because economic growth tends to reduce family size. In that scenario, Chinese girls may have gotten more access to education anyway, though the gains may have been more gradual. [3]

... Still, 43 million girls have "disappeared" in China due to gender-selective abortion as well as neglect and inadequate access to health care and nutrition [5], the United Nations estimated in a report last year.

It remains to be seen whether the new generation of degree-wielding women can alter the balance outside the classroom. [6]


  • [1] -- It's fair to ask if Ms. "Communist Youth League" Wang and her family were offered up as interview subjects by the communist Chinese government. If they were and Olsen didn't disclose that fact, shame on Ms. Olesen and AP. It's possible that they weren't of course, but she seems an odd choice as someone supposedly "typical."
  • [2] -- Context, Ms. Olesen. The U.S. spends at least half as much or more as a percentage of GDP as do the Chinese. Though the available info on China is sketchy, the nation appeared to spend about 2.5% of GDP on education until early in the previous decade; the Chinese government claimed 3.01% in 2006, and supposedly is aiming for 4%. Education spending as a percentage of GDP in the U.S. roughly 6% ($900 billion divided by $15 trillion).
  • [3] -- Why wouldn't women's progress have been even faster (in numbers at least) if millions of potential female university attendees, instead of being aborted in the womb, had been allowed to live? It's also worth asking if admissions policies are being bent in favor of women, and whether higher education enrollment is the deciding factor in determining Chinese women's allegedly overall better educational situation.
  • [4] -- Also, an April 26, 2011 "Room for Debate" item at the New York Times observed that "many Chinese graduates are unable to capitalize on their education, while wages for low-skill workers rise." Maybe college is turning into a female dead-end on the mainland.
  • [5] -- Of the 43 million missing girls (this 2004 article estimated that the number might be 60 million by 2012-2014), I daresay almost all of them were lost to abortion, and very, very few to "inadequate access to health care and nutrition." Putting all three in the same sentence is statistical abuse. Does Ms. Olesen even know the breakdown (or care)? Additionally, unless you're going to claim and can prove that large numbers of Chinese couples deliberately withhold medical care and nutrition from their daughters in favor of their sons, on what basis would the latter two items affect girls more than boys?
  • [6] -- The real problem with "balance outside the classroom" is borne out in statistics showing that the male-female childbirth ratio is 119 boys for every 100 girls, and as high as 130 to 100 in some rural areas -- and the Chinese now say they're finally going to crack down on gender-selective abortions.

On March 31, 1933, the infamous Walter Duranty of the New York Times wrote the following concerning Stalin's collectivization efforts in the Soviet Union (carried here; I verified its accuracy against what was originally published at the Times):

... to put it brutally -- you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, and the Bolshevist leaders are just as indifferent to the casualties that may be involved in their drive towards socialization as any General during the (First) World War ...

Also to put it brutally -- The Chinese government has been just as indifferent to its tens of millions of murdered little girls as Mao was towards his countrymen in general. It is only now that they're realizing, after tens of millions of "broken eggs," that they haven't been making an omelette at all -- but perhaps the most gender-imbalanced society in human history, with a dangerous mix of tens of millions of males who have no realistic prospect of marrying.

The AP's Olesen merely refers to a "skewed sex ratio" and failed to directly address this critical issue. Maybe it doesn't matter to her, as long as Chinese babies who survive the perils of being carried to term end up (allegedly) better off.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.