China announced Monday that it will allow all married couples to have up to three children as the government seemingly grows increasingly worried about a declining national birthrate. But it may be too little, too late.
Critics of China’s child limits — a one-child policy was first enacted in 1980 and it was upped to two in 2015 — aren’t impressed with the latest increase. “Opening it up to three children is far from enough,” Haung Wenzheng, a demography expert with the Beijing-based Center for China and Globalization, told The New York Times. He and Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, are among those calling for the removal of any restrictions. “It should be fully liberalized, and giving birth should be strongly encouraged,” Huang said. “This should be regarded as a crisis for the survival of the Chinese nation.”
But Stuart Gietel-Basten, a professor of social science and public policy at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, told the Times that if the Chinese Communist Party were to completely roll back those restrictions, “it makes a statement on the policies” that the party itself implemented in the past, likely making it too risky for now.
Either way, it’s not clear whether Beijing’s policy changes will have an actual affect on the birthrate. “There was no baby boom” in 2015 after two children were allowed because couples were concerned about rising costs of housing and education, among other things, NBC News’ Asia correspondent Janis Mackey Frayer notes, and Reuters reports that a now-deleted state media poll on Weibo asking citizens if they were “ready” for the most recent change revealed that 29,000 out of 31,000 respondents said they would “never think of it.”