For decades, China strictly controlled how many children a family could have. Communist leaders thought this would preserve scarce resources for the country’s growing economy. Now China must increase the country’s plunging birthrate—or face economic decline and social turmoil.
In 1979, China established a one-child-per-family policy. The ensuing low birthrate quickly became a negative: No children meant no workers.
When China began allowing a second child per family in 2016, the country’s birthrate ticked up—nearly eight percent the next year.
However, the increase was only temporary. After decades, single-child homes were the norm. Chinese culture simply did not view multiple children and larger families as worth sacrificing for. (See China’s Confusion over Births.)
Many Chinese still believe the lie told them for decades by their government: Without enough resources to go around, children are too costly for families to support.
Last year, China’s birthrate fell another two percent. Many couples cited the high cost of raising children and other economic and social barriers (including what their parents and neighbors might think) as reasons not to have more offspring.
The Chinese government’s attitude toward children has been directly opposed to God’s. Psalm 127:3 calls children “a heritage from the Lord” and “the fruit of the womb a reward.”
Today, fewer than five percent of China’s people worship Jesus. Chinese beliefs—or the lack of them—may affect choices about family size and career. Without faith in a God who delights to provide for those created in His image, humans often fear the worst. They seek comfort above all else.
Many in China have lost the concept of training up generations of descendants as a joy and privilege worth deep sacrifice. Instead, they see children as little more than an economic drain and added pressure.
China’s National Health Commission plans research to “further stimulate birth potential.” So far, the group isn’t mentioning specifics. Whatever it entails, the strategy will focus first on northeastern China. This former industrial heartland has seen a major population decline. Young people and families departed for better opportunities elsewhere. In 2019, the region’s total population dropped for the seventh straight year. Last year, registered new births fell more than 15 percent.
With about 1.4 billion people, China is currently the world’s largest population. But its citizens are aging. Experts predict that China’s workforce won’t be able to support the country’s elderly in retirement. The country’s economy will likely wither. The troubles are revealing: China desperately needs Jesus—and more children.