When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Why China Must Finally And Fully Abandon Population Control

China has proposed making revisions to the country's policy of punishing couples who have more than one child. But instead, such population controls should be abolished entirely.

Three, a magic number
Three, a magic number
Zhang Wenjing


BEIJING Though China loosened its one-child policy late last year to allow couples to have two children if one of the parents is an only child, others who breach the regulation are still fined heavily and arbitrarily, depending on the discretion of local authorities.

The penalty, known as a "social maintenance fee," is usually calculated based on the couple's combined annual income, but in cases of bigamy or extramarital relations, the fine can be multiplied.

Earlier this year, renowned Chinese film director Zhang Yimou was fined an astronomical 7.48 million RMB, about $1.2 million, for having three children with his second wife.

Legal experts say the existing policy is plagued with loopholes and gives too much power to local authorities, and say it's a good time to consider whether the practice of punishing couples financially for choosing to have multiple children is sound policy.

The state council's legislative affairs office has received proposed policy revisions from the public health regulator, and has released the updated language for public comment. The proposed revisions include clarifying and limiting the targets for punishment as well as standardizing how the fines are imposed and restricting local government discretion.

But Zhan Zhongle, a law professor at Peking University, says the ultimate reform goal should be to abolish the levy rather than revising how it's applied.

Huge differences

Zhan says that China's principal demographic problem is not overpopulation. Instead of making modest changes to regulations, such as the fine against couples who have more than one child, China should instead fundamentally change its family-planning policy to protect the right to have children.

He says the policy against families has long fallen into a state of complete disarray. Fines vary not only in amount but also in application. Beyond that, China is a vast country, which means that economic development levels between regions vary dramatically, making it impossible to adopt a unified system that's fair to all.

Meanwhile, China's demographic situation is increasingly alarming. In addition to a dramatic sex-ratio imbalance and an aging citizenry, there is also the problem of uneven population distribution, Zhan says.

The government introduced the one-child policy in 1979 because of concerns that baby booms in the 1950s and 1960s were making the population too large. By 2010, the birth rate had fallen to 1.18 per woman, far below the 2.1 figure that experts say is necessary for a population to remain stable.

Now the country is facing a rapidly aging population, with more than 200 million people over age 60. And sociologists predict there will be 35 million Chinese men for whom there are simply no available female partners by 2020.

The social maintenance fee should be a transitional policy. Now that it has accomplished its historical mission, it should be abandoned, Zhan says.

"The Fourth Plenum of the party’s 18th Central Committee has vowed to reform the administrative approval system," he says. "Citizens should be free to decide whether they want a child, or how many, and when. These are questions that should be fully determined by the couple concerned instead of being dealt with by administrative examination and permission."

It's time the Chinese government takes a different view. The collective good will be served by vigorously developing education, science and technology rather than obsessing about population control.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

What Are Iran's Real Intentions? Watch What The Houthis Do Next

Three commercial ships traveling through the Red Sea were attacked by missiles launched by Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, while the U.S. Navy shot down three drones. Tensions that are linked to the ongoing war in Gaza conflict and that may serve as an indication as to Iran's wider intentions.

photo of Raisi of iran speaking in parliament

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Iranian parliament in Tehran.

Icana News Agency via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — It’s a parallel war that has so far claimed fewer victims and attracted less public attention than the one in Gaza. Yet it increasingly poses a serious threat of escalating at any time.

This conflict playing out in the international waters of the Red Sea, a strategic maritime route, features the U.S. Navy pitted against Yemen's Houthi rebels. But the stakes go beyond the Yemeni militants — with the latter being supported by Iran, which has a hand in virtually every hotspot in the region.

For the latest news & views from every corner of the world, Worldcrunch Today is the only truly international newsletter. Sign up here.

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the Houthis have been making headlines, despite Yemen’s distance from the Gaza front. Starting with missiles launched directed toward southern Israel, which were intercepted by U.S. forces. Then came attacks on ships belonging, or suspected of belonging, to Israeli interests.

On Sunday, no fewer than three commercial ships were targeted by ballistic missiles in the Red Sea. The missiles caused minor damage and no casualties. Meanwhile, three drones were intercepted and destroyed by the U.S. Navy, currently deployed in full force in the region.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for these attacks, stating their intention to block Israeli ships' passage for as long as there was war in Gaza. The ships targeted on Sunday were registered in Panama, but at least one of them was Israeli. In the days before, several other ships were attacked and an Israeli cargo ship carrying cars was seized, and is still being held in the Yemeni port of Hodeida.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest