One-child policy a surprising boon for China girls

That’s the headline the AP chose for their article on China’s population control policy. And this is the opening:

Tsinghua University freshman Mia Wang has confidence to spare.

Asked what her home city of Benxi in China’s far northeastern tip is famous for, she flashes a cool smile and says: “Producing excellence. Like me.”

A Communist Youth League member at one of China’s top science universities, she boasts enviable skills in calligraphy, piano, flute and ping pong.

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 and a third, surprising, factor: the one-child policy.

You have to wade through fourteen paragraphs before you’ll find any hint that maybe something might be wrong with this girl-empowering “one-child policy”:

Crediting the one-child policy with improving the lives of women is jarring, given its history and how it’s harmed women in other ways. Facing pressure to stay under population quotas, overzealous family planning officials have resorted to forced sterilizations and late-term abortions, sometimes within weeks of delivery, although such practices are illegal.

The birth limits are also often criticized for encouraging sex-selective abortions in a son-favoring society. Chinese traditionally prefer boys because they carry on the family name and are considered better earners.

With the arrival of sonogram technology in the 1980’s, some families no longer merely hoped for a boy, they were able to engineer a male heir by terminating pregnancies when the fetus was a girl.

“It is gendercide,” said Therese Hesketh, a University College London professor who has studied China’s skewed sex ratio. “I don’t understand why China doesn’t just really penalize people who’ve had sex-selective abortions and the people who do them. The law exists but nobody enforces it.”
To combat the problem, China allows families in rural areas, where son preference is strongest, to have a second child if their first is a girl. The government has also launched education campaigns promoting girls and gives cash subsidies to rural families with daughters.

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, the United Nations estimated in a report last year.

Yin Yin Nwe, UNICEF’s representative to China, puts it bluntly: The one-child policy brings many benefits for girls “but they have to be born first.”

That last line would not only have made a fitting headline for the AP’s article, but also a good stopping point. Instead, the article continues for another 24 paragraphs, highlighting the “benefits” to those who were lucky enough to make it out of the womb alive.

See also: The Global War Against Baby Girls

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