STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
People across China today are responding to the end of the one-child policy. It's a 35-year-old law that limits most urban residents to just one child. Most families will now be allowed to have two, which is seen as an important turning point. NPR's Anthony Kuhn has this report from Beijing.
ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Chinese who want to have more children generally welcome the announcement. But on the Internet, it's unleashed a tsunami of snark. After decades of being forced not to have children, one female netizen asked, will the government now force us to have children? One imaginary propaganda poster, done in a 1960s Maoist style, warns citizens - if you refuse to have more children, we'll artificially inseminate your whole village.
WANG FENG: These slogans really show how they're taking this new announcement. It's, you know, it's just so cynical.
KUHN: Wang Feng is a University of California, Irvine sociologist who studies China's population policies.
FENG: I think the message that people are sending out is, look, you guys - the policymakers - are so out of touch with the Chinese public.
KUHN: Wang says it's a miracle such a controversial policy could stay in place for 35 years. Wang says population control was part of the late leader Deng Xiaoping's plan to quadruple China's per capita GDP between 1980 and 2000.
FENG: Population control was made part of the political legitimacy to reduce the number of people then to increase the output, therefore to increase the per capita income.
KUHN: At the same meeting where it announced the two-child policy yesterday, the communist party also announced a new economic plan for the next five years. To help foreign audiences appreciate this Soviet-style blueprint, state media packaged it as a viral Internet video.
(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: But how do they make all the plans?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) First there's research, views collected...
KUHN: The communist party has declared the one-child policy a success. They say it brought the birthrate down, which, in turn, helped China get richer faster. But at a symposium here earlier this year, People's University sociologist Zhou Xiaozheng said, no, birthrates go down anywhere income and education levels go up.
ZHOU XIAOZHENG: (Foreign language spoken).
KUHN: "What's it got to do with family planning," he asked. "To claim credit for what was really an act of nature is ignorant, impotent, inhumane, immoral and shameless." Many liberal Chinese now see government efforts to design family and social structures as sheer folly and hubris. Nicholas Eberstadt, a demographer with the Washington, D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute explains.
NICHOLAS EBERSTADT: The idea that planners, with their limited individual knowledge, can be wiser than the collective wisdom one finds in cultures or the spontaneous wisdom that one finds generated by markups is breathtaking arrogance.
KUHN: UC, Irvine's Wang Feng says, don't worry. The two-child policy is merely a brief prelude to the final demise of China's population controls. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.