Proposal Modeled on Swift’s Modest Proposal

China has been the most highly populated country in the world for innumerable years. Its population on December 1st 2010 was approximately 1,355,033,812 (Population of China 2010 n. p.). From a head count of almost 660 million in 1961, the figure rose rapidly and crossed the one billion mark between 1981 and ’82 (Population of China 2010 n. p.).

Interestingly, the increase in population in the two decades within a 1961-1981period (approximately 340 million or 17 million per year) is more or less equal to the increase in the subsequent three decades between 1981-’82 and 2010 (approximately 355 million at only 12 million per year). It may be surmised that some measures were put into place around 1980 to control the burgeoning birth rate to over 12 million births per year.

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China had been through a traumatic lustrum immediately after its famine in 1962, in which a reported figure of 30 million citizens died of starvation. People learned by default how to manage with limited resources and it dawned upon them that their biggest problem lay in the large numbers of mouths to feed.

On their own, they started reducing the size of their hitherto huge families. Chairman Mao, leader of People’s Republic of China, latched on this trend and came out in favor of small families, particularly because China was just about finding its global feet post-famine nearing the 1970s (Li 446). However, the Chinese people’s pace of reducing family size was relatively slow.

Facing wide-ranging socio-economic problems linked with overpopulation, Chinese authorities resorted to diverse methods to keep population under control (Cook n. d.). As assessed above, “China started the one child per family policy officially in 1979” (Cook n. p.). Families were offered various incentives to limit their offspring to one.

“Stiff punishments were threatened to deter families from procreating more than one child, like fifty percent income tax, withdrawal of jobs or other benefits, forced medical termination of unauthorized pregnancies” (Cook n. p.) and other draconian measures.

“Chinese preference for male offspring showed up as a huge number of cases of female infanticide” (Cook n. p.). In a study called The Ratio of Males to Females in China, the Chinese, like Indians and many other Asians, “prefer sons to daughters outright” (Liu & Zhang n. p.).

This is an age-old custom, based on the irrefutable fact that only male offspring can carry the family name forward. Their supposedly better earning power allows them to take their parents in and care for them in their dotage or periods of poor health. Daughters are lost to their parents once wed, and will not be in a position to take their parents under their wing.

Chinese authorities anticipated and put down violent internal dissensions that followed the implementation of these highly unpopular Government policies. Specific disapproval was voiced volubly around the globe, with most developed countries, along with a few others, expressing their condemnation of Chinese birth control policies in no uncertain terms.

In a calculated move, the Chinese Government allowed only rustic couples, whose first child was a girl, to conceive a second child. What is cleverly concealed is the fate of the second fetus once an ultrasound gender check showed that the unborn baby was again a girl.

“China, however, rejoiced internally, having reduced their charted population growth by 250-300 million births post 1979” (China’s one child policy may be relaxed: Overpopulation complexity n. p.). This is a factor that has been vindicated by its pre-eminent status in the economic world today in per capita terms. It has been said that Chairman Mao did not believe in five or ten year policies. He invariably looked one full generation ahead.

Liu and Zhang (n. p.) also state that a linked study has found that China had 32 million more boys than girls under the age of 20 in 2005 and has attributed this imbalance to the one child per family policy as well as female infanticide. As part of the population under study has reached marriageable and childbearing age, this discrepancy needs to be put right urgently. The Chinese Government is still casting about to find a suitable solution.

I would like to draw attention to a solution proposed by Jonathan Swift in his highly acclaimed satire published in 1729, ‘A Modest Proposal’, as quoted infra:

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled…(Swift 53).

Swift also has another theory, stated tongue in cheek by a Frenchman, that “most children are born nine months after Lent” (54) and the market would be full of one-year olds early the next year. In an acerbic aside, the author expects the child’s parent’s to earn money by “skinning the corpse and using the skin to make attractive gloves for ladies and elaborate boots for men” (Swift 3). I find the proposals both repugnant and hideous. I believe that Swift has overshot his satirical remit at this stage.

I have an alternative and simple proposal. As soon as a Chinese woman finds herself pregnant, she should voluntarily have the gender of her child tested, on pain of ostracism. If male, than child should be marked for abortion.

Assuming an equal number of births by gender, as many as six million male children will be born every year. The inequity of 32 million cannot be wiped off in five consecutive years, by terminating all male fetuses during those five years. For instance, let us assume that all male fetuses were aborted starting in January 2011. No male child would be born till early 2016.

The male female imbalance would be set right, no doubt, but there would be no boy ready for marriage for five years starting around 2032. I therefore suggest that one out of two males be randomly aborted during the period 2011-2020, so that the imbalance is evened out in a phased manner (Population of China 2010 n. p.).

Aborted fetuses are treated as excreta and cremated without further ado. In my opinion, this is an unnecessary waste of food. In my opinion, these fetuses could well be eaten as delicacies. ‘Embryo Dumplings’ as an item on a menu, whether at home or in an eatery, sounds delicious.

Such nourishment might not be the elixir of life, but will certainly contribute to extending youthfulness while retarding the ageing process, if only in China. Perhaps other countries might follow suit. Moreover, it would add a small bit to that country’s stockpile of eatables, providing ‘food’ to the population at large.

Works Cited

China’s one child policy may be relaxed: Overpopulation complexity: Peak Oil news & message boards; Sep. 2010; Web. 1 Dec. 2010; http://peakoil.com/generalideas/chinas-one-child-policy-may-be-relaxed-overpopulation-complexity.

Cook, Jamie. Population Control and Consequences in China, 1999; Web. 1 Dec. 2010 http://maps.unomaha.edu/peterson/funda/sidebar/chinapop.html.

Li, Gucheng. A glossary of political terms of the People’s Republic of China. Chinese University Press, 1995

Liu, Tao, and Xing-yi Zhang. Ration of males to females in China. 2009. Web 1Dec. 2010. http://www.bmj.com/content/338/bmj.b483.full

Population of China 2010; True Knowledge. n. d.; web. 1 Dec. 2010 http://www.trueknowledge.com/q/population_of_china_2010.

Swift, Jonathan. A Modest Proposal and Other Satirical Works. US: Courier Dover Publications, 1996.

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