Analysis: Tight lockdowns in China could exacerbate the country’s population crisis

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For generations, Chinese parents have made their children’s success one of their main goals in life – and they are known to be willing to make great sacrifices for that.

So when a Shanghai family refused to be taken from their home for government quarantine during the sixth week of lockdown In the city, a policeman alerted them to what he thought was a powerful threat to hit them: their children’s future.

“If you don’t obey the orders of the city government, you will be punished and the punishment will affect three generations in your family,” said the police officer, dressed in white protective gear, with his finger raised, speaking to the camera, on video. posted on Chinese social media.

“We are the last generation, thank you,” a young man, who is not seen in the video, firmly replied in an apparent hint that he is not planning on having children.

The video ends there, without indicating whether the family ended up being taken or not. The footage has gone viral in China, reflecting how many young Chinese are weary of mounting pressure to have children, pressure from a society and government that many say provides them with little material and emotional security needed to raise children.

“I laughed at first, but at the end I felt a great sadness. The young man is showing his resistance by giving up his reproductive rights,” commented one user on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.​

For a long time, passing on the family lineage has been a filial duty in traditional Chinese culture. However, in China today, not having children (or delaying the process) has become a form of mild resistance and silent protest against what many see as the disappointing reality they live in, with deep-rooted structural problems stemming from a system in which they have little power to change.

“It’s a tragic expression of despair of the deepest kind,” wrote on twitter Zhang Xuezhong, human rights lawyer and former law professor in Shanghai.

“We were robbed of a future worth waiting for. It is without a doubt the strongest denunciation a young person can make of the era in which he lives,” he continued.

Over the past decade, an increasing number of millennials Chinese postponed (or rejected outright) marriage and family formation facing high professional pressure, skyrocketing prices on the real estate market, rising education costs and discrimination against mothers in the workplace.

Last year, just 7.6 million Chinese couples registered to marry, down 44% from 2013 and the lowest rate in 36 years. At the same time, the country’s birth rate dropped to 7.5 births per 1,0000 people, the smallest since the founding of communist Chinawith nine provinces and regions recording negative population growth.

The Chinese government is worried. For decades, he enforced a strict one-child-per-couple policy, which forced millions of women to abort pregnancies deemed illegal by the state. However, with China’s birth rate plummeting, demographers have warned of an impending population crisis.

The government lifted the one-child policy in 2016 and further relaxed the rules last year to allow couples to have three children. Local governments launched a series of propaganda slogans and financial incentives to encourage more births. But the birth rate continues to plummet.

Some officials and political advisers seem deaf to the demands of young people. Last month, a law professor and representative of the Jinzhou Municipal People’s Congress in Hubei Province suggested that in order to promote marriage and childbearing, the media should reduce or avoid reporting on “independent women.” and about the “two wages without children” (known by the acronym DINK in English) lifestyle because they do not conform to the “core values” of the country. The suggestion brought a big negative reaction.

With the pandemic dragging on, the feeling of disenchantment among many of the country’s younger generations has only grown.

You lockdowns increasingly frequent and rigorous (and the chaos and tragedies that arose from them) made citizens realize the fragility of their rights in the face of a state apparatus that does not allow dissent and an insensitive bureaucracy trained to enact orders from the top down. , with little flexibility.

The situation is most exacerbated in Shanghai, which has been under a strict lockdown for seven weeks. In the wealthiest and most glamorous city in the country, residents have been subjected to widespread food shortages, lack of medical care and forced quarantine in makeshift and precarious facilities. At first, the authorities separated young children from their parents in isolation – and only reversed course after a strong appeal from the people.

Growing frustration and anger erupted on Chinese social media – and in some cases, censors struggle to keep up with the pace. Some residents protested from their windows, banging pots and pans and screaming their frustration. Others clashed with police and health workers on the streets, something rarely seen in a country where dissent is routinely suppressed.

Last week, public officials forced residents to hand over their keys after they were taken into quarantine so that healthcare workers could enter and clean their personal belongings with disinfectant, something done with little scientific justification or respect for property rights. toilet.

For many residents, this was the last straw. That’s when they realized that not even their homes – their private space and last resort – would be spared from the zealous enforcement of the government’s Covid zero policy. Some say their lives have become expendable in pursuit of what officials consider the “greater good.” citizens felt powerless to protect their loved ones.

For many young people, the unfolding crisis in Shanghai is triggering warning signals. If even the most developed city in China – with the largest middle-class population, supposedly most open bureaucrats and most cosmopolitan culture – cannot be spared authoritarian treatment, are other cities faring better?

“Who’s willing to have kids when things get to that point? Who dares to have children?” asked a user on Weibo.

“Your reign ends with me. And the suffering you caused ends with me too,” commented another.

The rapidly expanding anger soon caught the attention of the censors. By Thursday night (12), most of the videos had been deleted from the Chinese internet. On Weibo, several related hashtags, including “we are the last generation” and “the last generation”, were censored after attracting heated discussions.

But suppressing what young people want to say won’t help convince them to have children. On the contrary, this is likely to only increase your dissatisfaction.

Source: CNN Brasil

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