China Observes ‘1.2 Billion Population Day’ on Wednesday
BEIJING (AP) _ The People’s Republic of China says it has too many people, and the expected birth of its 1,200,000,000th citizen is highlighting new efforts to do something about it.
Population Day comes Wednesday as officials in the world’s most populous nation devise new ways to make population control more attractive to the masses. The nation instituted a policy of limiting births in the mid-1970s and has enforced it unevenly since then.
It is also the day statisticians predicted that Chinese citizen No. 1.2 billion would be born.
``It’s still not easy to be optimistic about the population situation we are facing, and family planning work is still formidable,″ Vice Premier Zou Jiahua told reporters Tuesday.
China’s family planning program is weak in many areas, especially in the countryside, Zou acknowledged. He called population control the ``difficult and urgent duty″ of the Communist Party and all Chinese citizens.
Most Chinese couples are allowed only one child, though some rural couples are permitted two. Even though the rate of population increase has fallen to 11 percent from nearly 26 percent in 1970, there are still so many women of child bearing age that the population is growing rapidly.
Zou said China’s fast-growing wealth still leaves the average person without enough, given that the country’s population increases by 21 million people each year.
``For our country to be prosperous and our people wealthy and happy, family planning must go along with economic development,″ he said.
A nationwide campaign being launched Wednesday will try to raise awareness about the problem. The government also promises a new emphasis in family planning that uses economic incentives such as offers of technical training to persuade farmers to have smaller families.
Many farmers want more children to help in the fields and ensure support for their old age. The government wants to eliminate those reasons by raising the incomes of rural people, who make up three-fourths of the population.
Zou said the government must establish a comprehensive social security system to alleviate people’s fears.
``Only in this way will we be able to overcome the traditional thinking that favors boys but not girls,″ he said.
Rural Chinese families generally prefer boy babies because girls traditionally shift loyalties to husbands’ families when they marry.
As Chinese officials often do, Zou quoted senior leader Deng Xiaoping, 90, who is believed to be gravely ill.
``Comrade Deng Xiaoping said many times that overpopulation is our country’s biggest problem,″ he said, adding that only population control can allow China to reach the ranks of developed countries.
The estimate that the population would reach 1.2 billion Wednesday came from the State Statistics Bureau. Without the family planning policy, China would have had 1.2 billion people in 1986, officials say.
China says its population will be held under 1.3 billion by 2000 and reach 1.6 billion around 2050.