Controlling the Population
Levels of Power

 
 
The Population Explosion

By the year 1981, despite the continuing disagreements among the leadership over the proper pace of economic change, a consensus had emerged that without a vigorous plan for population control, China was going to eat up whatever material gains it might achieve, just as a number of other developing nations were doing. There had been two previous censuses in the PRC, one in 1953 that showed a total Chinese population of 582.6 million, and one in 1964 that yielded a figure of 694.6 million. But neither of these had been monitored with precision, and to make intelligent plans for the future, the leadership realized, it was essential to know the precise size of China’s population and the speed of its growth. Accordingly, a target date for a full national census was set: July 1, 1982.
       The results of the census confirmed what Chinese demographers and planners had expected: China’s total population was now more than 1 billion.
[SMC, 615]
 
 
One fact emphasized by the 1982 census was the extraordinary youthfulness of China’s population. The figures showed that around 60 million Chinese women were currently in their thirties, 80 million in their twenties, and 125 million between ten and twenty — already (or soon to be) of marriageable age. ... At the same time, life expectancy was also rising dramatically. [SMC, 616]
 
 
In September 1980 Hua Guofeng, who still served as the government spokesman on some important matters, told the National People’s Congress that henceforth Chinese families must strive to limit the number of children they bear to one, and that family planning must be built into China’s long-term development strategy. Exceptions would be allowed only for “minority peoples.” ... Reinforcing Hua’s statements, the State Family Planning Commission pointed out that studies made of births during 1981 showed almost 6 million babies had been born to families who already had one child, obviously threatening the policy of one child per family. In an alarming 1.7 million cases, new babies had been born to families who already had five or more children.
 
 
As a result, the government intensified the rigor of its birth-control programs, ordering compulsory IUD insertion for women who had borne one child, and compulsory sterilization of either husband or wife after the birth of a second child. Provinces were assigned sterilization quotas, which were then passed down to the counties and municipalities for implementation, and in many cases women were coerced into having late-term abortions. Furthermore, many party administrators handed out land contracts to peasant families only if the peasants signed a second contract undertaking not to have a child while they worked the land. Such families would be fined or even forced to forfeit the land if they bore a child. There were reports of couples fleeing as local sterilization teams entered their villages, and some birth-control cadres felt so threatened that they requested armed escorts. In all, between September 1981 and December 1982, 16.4 million women underwent sterilization by tubular ligation, and 4 million men received vasectomies. ...
 
 
The state introduced severe penalties for families who violated the one-child limit. Whereas families with only one child received special economic, educational, and housing benefits, those with several children were punished with fines and the withholding of rights to housing and education. In many tragic instances, desperate families resorted to female infanticide. This practice was harshly condemned by the state, but the very harshness of the critique hinted at the scale of the problem, believed by some Western analysts of Chinese demographic data to be in the region of 200,000 female babies in a single year. Some parents used the newly available technique of amniocentesis to detect the gender of the fetus early in pregnancy, and then obtain an abortion if the tests showed the baby to be female. A number of seriously ill girls were just left to die. [SMC, 617-9]
 
 

 
The Call for Democracy
Fang Lizhi
Fang Lizhi, an astrophysicist and, for a time, vice-chancellor of the prestigious University of Science and Technology in Hefei, Anhui, emerged in the mid-1980s as one of the most outspoken exponents of radical change. ... His articulate platform for change became an inspiration for the Tiananmen prodemocracy demonstrations in the spring of 1989. After the suppression of this popular movement, Fang Lizhi was obliged to seek refuge in the American Embassy in Peking. [DC, 542]
 

Fang Lizhi Interview
with Tiziano Terzani in 1987
  
What kind of mission do you have in China?
 
Democratization. Without democracy there can be no development. Unless individual human rights are recognized there can be no true democracy. In China the very ABC of democracy is unknown. We have to educate ourselves for democracy. We have to understand that democracy isn’t something that our leaders can hand down to us. A democracy that comes from above is no democracy, it is nothing but a relaxation of control. The fight will be intense. But it cannot be avoided. ...
 

 
Deng stated in 1979 that, in conformity with the Chinese Constitution, every citizen should be guided by the Four Basic Principles: the socialist road, the people’s democratic dictatorship, leadership of the Party, and Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought.
 
Marxism is a thing of the past. It helps us to understand the problems of the last century, not those of today. The same is true in the case of physics. Newton developed his theory 300 years ago. It is still valuable, but it does not help to solve today’s problems, such as those related to computer technology. Marxism belongs to a precise epoch of civilization and that era is over. It is like old clothing that must be put aside. ...
 
 
In 1978 something similar was said when the worker Wei Jingsheng wrote on a wall in Peking, which later became known as Democracy Wall: “Without democracy, there will be no modernization!” He got 15 years in prison for it. You, Professor Fang, are still free. Is it because you are a well-known scientist, whereas Wei Jingsheng was nothing but an electrician?
 
Of course. That’s how things are in China. A worker who says something objectionable can easily be removed. Workers’ unrest does not worry the government; workers are easily dealt with. Right now there are quite a few [workers’] disturbances, but the public is not aware of them. One knows nothing of them overseas, for these people have no international contacts.
Are things different in the case of intellectuals?
 
Whenever it is students who demonstrate, the government is more concerned. It does not dare to take action as easily against students. That is why I maintain that the power of the intellectuals is relatively great. That is why I keep telling my students: he who has knowledge also has influence, and cannot be disregarded by the government. I advise my students not to say too much at first, but to study diligently. Those, however, who have successfully completed their studies must speak out. Wei Jingsheng spoke out ten years ago. Today I speak like he did. In another ten years perhaps other scholars may also speak up. People should be allowed to criticize their leaders without fear. This is a sign of democracy. ...
 
 
The campaign against “bourgeois liberalization” continues. ...
 
That campaign has shown us just how strong the resistance to the reforms is. It has shown us that we badly underestimated the strength of our opponents. We have been too optimistic. On the other hand, the campaign has convinced more and more people of the necessity of reform. We do not want a revolution, which would in the first place be very difficult to achieve, and secondly would not necessarily be a good thing. Therefore, the only option that is left for China is reform. Democracy, education and intellectual freedom are the absolute and indispensable prerequisites of this reform. Without these last — be it with or without democracy — China has no future. [DC, 542-5]
  • Is it possible to have freedom (of speech, thought, etc.) without democracy?
  • Can China’s one-party system open itself up to criticism and real reform, or would doing so inevitably lead to the destruction of the Party?
 
Explanation of Fang Lizhi’s Errors
People’s Daily, January 21, 1987

With regard to Fang Lizhi’s errors of word and deed, the relevant Party organizations have subjected him to severe criticism many times, but he has always merely feigned compliance, admitting to some mistakes on one hand and on the other continuing in his bad old ways, becoming in fact even more unbridled in his attacks on the Four Basic Principles and in his advocacy of Bourgelib (bourgeois liberalism). He has thrown Party discipline to the winds. Not to eliminate from the Party someone who has been so outspoken in his opposition is something that neither the Party nor the people can tolerate. Fang Lizhi is a middle-aged intellectual who has been nurtured by the Party. The Party had high expectations of him and had, moreover, entrusted him with an important post. He has disappointed the Party and disappointed his people, however, by falling into the muddy ditch of error, from which he is incapable of extricating himself. Now, although he has been dismissed from his post and expelled from the Party, the Party and government have arranged a position in scientific research for him, thus allowing him to bring his specialized vocational skills into play. If his actions indicate he has made a genuine change for the better, he will be welcomed back by the Party and the people.
 
Even though people like Fang are only a tiny minority within the Party, their negative example reminds us of the importance and urgent necessity of educating Party members at large to abide by the Party Regulations, and to implement Party discipline, particularly within the new historical conditions created by the policies of Reform and the Open Door to the outside world. [DC, 546]
  • Why do you think this article was published in the People’s Daily?
  • How does its treatment of Fang Lizhi differ from the approach that was typically used to deal with those who ran afoul of the Party in the past?
 
Fang Lizhi’s Departure From China
Statement by Press Secretary Fitzwater
June 25, 1990
Dr. Fang Lizhi and his wife, Li Shuxian, have left the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to proceed to the United Kingdom. The United States Government welcomes the PRC Government’s decision to facilitate the departure of Dr. Fang and his wife for reasons of Dr. Fang’s health and well-being and to permit Dr. Fang to pursue his important research in astrophysics. This humanitarian action is a farsighted, significant step that will improve the atmosphere for progress in our bilateral relations. [www.presidency...]
 
NOTE: Fang died on April 6, 2012 at his home in Tucson, AZ