The Atlantic

China’s Xinjiang Policy: Less About Births, More About Control

Like the one-child policy, Beijing’s repressive actions against minority Uighur Muslims are about preserving power.
Source: Didier Ruef / LUZphoto / Redux

For years, when I was giving talks or discussing my reporting on China’s one-child policy, well-meaning audience members would inevitably ask a question that I had come to expect: “Of course forced abortions and sterilizations are bad,” they would say, “but isn’t the one-child policy good, in some ways? Doesn’t it help lift millions of people out of poverty?”

This has always been the Chinese Communist Party’s narrative. The one-child policy, it claimed, was a difficult but necessary move that was crucial for the country’s advancement. Deng Xiaoping, then China’s paramount leader, insisted in 1979 that without a drastic fall in birth rates, “we will not be able to develop our economy and raise the living standards of our people.”

Recent reports from and the noted Xinjiang scholar about forced sterilizations imposed on China’s repressed Uighur minority should quash this lingering, pernicious fig in 70 years, imperiling future growth? Why is the party telling Han Chinese to have more children, even as it sterilizes more Uighur women than the population of Hoboken, New Jersey?

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