The Population Controllers and Their War on People
(Part II)

UNFPA Works Hand-in-Glove with Local Family Planners

On her last day in Sihui, Ms. Guy and her team set out to locate the office from which the UNFPA directs its "model family planning program." To her surprise, she was directed to the Sihui county family planning office, where she found the single UNFPA representative sitting in the midst of government family planners. The significance of this arrangement was immediately apparent: The Chinese government and the UNFPA were working hand-in-glove to enforce the one-child policy.

Thoraya Obaid ducked an invitation to testify at this same congressional hearing, lamely responding that UNFPA's China program is completely "voluntary" and does not "condone coercion." In an argument echoed by many of her camp followers, she suggested that UNFPA is a force for the good in China. In actuality, there is reason to believe that UNFPA's "model county" program may be making things worse, not better. Why? Because being designated a "model" anything in China brings with it not only increased benefits -- in Sihui's case a grant from the UNFPA -- but also increased scrutiny from the central government. Local officials in Sihui are doubtless under considerable pressure from on high to prove that the county is indeed a "model" in family planning. And how would they do so? By contracepting all women with one child, sterilizing all women with two, and aborting all women pregnant outside the plan, that's how. As one family planning victim told Ms. Guy, "Family planning policies involving coercion and force are stricter today than ever before."32

PRI and Bush Administration

Population Research Institute's investigation of China prompted the Bush administration to undertake one of its own, sending a three-member assessment team to the PRC in May 2002. The "official" nature of the visit constituted a tremendous handicap for the team, for it ensured that the Chinese state was able to monitor their comings and goings, and ensure that they did not come into direct contact with cases of coercion. Nonetheless, visiting one UNFPA "model county" the team discovered that women who have more than one child are hit with a crippling fine equivalent to two to three years income. These "social compensation fees" are deliberately set high, the team concluded, in order to force mothers to have abortions. The team also noted that UNFPA supplies computers and medical equipment to family planning offices engaged in coercive practices. "In the context of the PRC," the Bush administration concluded in a later review, "supplying equipment to the very agencies that employ coercive practices amounts to support or participation in the management of the program." Computers allow Chinese family planning officers "to establish a database record of all women of child-bearing age in an area and to trigger the issuance of 'birth-not-allowed' notices." UNFPA also helps to "propagate the government's distinction between legal births and out-of-plan births . . . [and] takes credit for posted documents that note that is forbidden 'to prevent legal births' -- thus bearing partial responsibility for disseminating the message that it is not forbidden for government employees to prevent out-of-plan births."33 On 21 July 2002 Secretary of State Colin Powell dropped the ax: "UNFPA's support of, and involvement in, China's population-planning activities allows the Chinese government to implement more effectively its program of coercive abortion. Therefore, it is not permissible to continue funding UNFPA at this time."34 The $34 million appropriated by Congress for FY 2002, he went on, will go instead to Child Survival and Health programs.

Powell called on the UNFPA to stop "support[ing] a program of coercive abortion," but the population control agency appears determined to mire itself even more deeply in the muck of China's program. The agency reacted to the cut-off in U.S. funding by expanding its program in China from 32 to 42 counties. The new, multi-million dollar deal with China will carry through 2007.

The China Model

The UNFPA's support for China's one-child policy began in 1979, the year I first arrived in China. But our reaction to the unfolding campaign could not have been more different. It took me about six months to conclude that the forced abortions and forced sterilizations I was witnessing on the local level in Guangdong were not provincial aberrations, but part of a centrally inspired campaign of coercion by design. A quarter century later, the UNFPA not only refuses to pass judgment on the coercive aspects of China's program, it denies this fundamental, observable fact about life and death in China. Why? And, even more importantly, why has it continued to praise, fund, and promote a coercive program in China despite overwhelming evidence of its compulsory character?

China's one-child policy constitutes a kind of acid test of the character of the population control movement, for it pits their beliefs against their principles. Here was a country they believed was desperately overcrowded and on the brink of disaster (it wasn't and isn't, as we shall see). Here was a country which, in solving its own "population problem," would simultaneously relieve "population pressure" throughout the globe. Or so they believed. The problem was that China's forced-pace measures violated certain fundamental principles that the movement claimed to hold dear, namely, voluntarism and human rights, specifically the right of couples to freely determine the number and spacing of their children.


The population control movement has failed this test, sacrificing their principles (and, it must be said, their humanity) on the altar of their beliefs. They fell prey to the fallacy that China must reduce its numbers at all costs, even if fundamental human rights are systematically, even brutally, violated along the way. For if they won't condemn the forced abortion of women who are nine months pregnant, then there is no birth control measure they will not praise. If they will not reject the forced sterilization of a woman who desires more children, then there is no form of involuntary contraception they will not embrace. If they do not reject China's program as a great evil, then there is no population control program, however horrific, that they will not accept as good as long as the birth rate is falling. In the end, only the numbers count.

China is often portrayed in the media as an extreme case of population control, but what does that say about the UNFPA, the IPPF, and other international organizations, which have stood shoulder to shoulder with Beijing all these years? What you see in China -- the generous foreign funding and repeated endorsements from leading elements of the population control establishment, the promotion of China's program as a model for "overpopulation countries -- suggests that, despite occasional twinges of discomfort occasioned by the more Draconian manifestations of China's policy, there is essentially no difference between thee Chinese state and its control-minded friends on population matters. They are joined at the hip.

Decrease Population

The population controllers' continued sponsorship of the "China model" also sends an unmistakable, if unspoken, signal to Third World governments. What else are they to conclude from this shameless embrace of China than:

Moderation in pursuit of family planning is not virtue. The urgency of world population problems, in the view of international agencies, demands targets and forced-pace measures to reach them.
Extremism in pursuit of population targets is no vice. Coercion will be viewed with tolerance, if not approval, by international agencies providing development assistance.
International aid for family planning and other forms of development assistance will never be called into question for being too severe, regardless of the level of human rights abuses. (And its corollary: Funding will be in jeopardy if programs are seen as either too lax or as ineffective in reducing the birth rate.)

This message -- that anything goes in the name of population control -- is underscored each time the controllers extol China's one-child policy, as Thoraya Obaid did upon taking office in January 2001. Obaid "praised that (sic) over the past 20 years, China has seen notable achievements made in population control by implementing the family planning policy. It has thereupon played an active role in curbing the population growth across the world."35 (italics added)

The only thing that really matters to the controllers, you see, is getting the birth rate down. "Just do it," as Deng Xiaoping said. And the controllers said, "Amen."


1 XlNHUA-English, Beijing, 11 April 1991, Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), Daily Report: China, no. 91-071, 12 April 1991, pp. 8-9; See also John Aird. "The China Model," PRI Review 4:4 (July-August 1994), p. 1. [Back]

2 Although Sadik did not know it at the time, the same month that she endorsed the Chinese model, Party leaders had ordered a new crackdown on out-of-plan births. Family planning officials throughout the country resorted to more direct forms of coercion, and the Chinese birth rate plummeted to unprecedented low levels. News of the crackdown finally broke in April 1993, embarrassing the UNFPA and other foreign supporters of China's "voluntary" program. Sadik, eager for the U.S. to resume funding her organization, aired the possibility of withdrawing from China. When the newly installed Clinton administration proved willing to resume US funding of the UNFPA in spite of its involvement in China's coercive program, all talk of withdrawal was dropped. See Nicholas D. Kristof, "A U.N. agency may leave China over coercive birth control," The New York Times, 15 May 1993, p. 1. [Back]

3 John Aird, "The China Model," PRI Review 4:4 (July-August 1994), p. 2. [Back]

4 John Aird, "The China Model," PRI Review 4:4 (July-August 1994), p. 2. [Back]

5 Also see Betsy Hartmann, "Population Control as Foreign Policy,' Covert Action 39 (Winter 1991-92), p. 28. [Back]

6 For example, according to Article 4 of the Tianjin Municipality Regulations of Planned Birth, which were promulgated on 15 April 1994, this major city in North China holds the heads of work units "duty-bound, authorized, and accountable" for meeting birth quotas set by their superiors. Xinnanliuxing Village of Dongpuhwa Township in Wuqing County, Tianjin, which has a population of 500, is allowed a quota of 5 children every two years. As Harry Wu comments, "If [officials] fail to [meet their quotas], they will lose their promotions and risk dismissal or punishment. This is the principal reason why Communist cadres at all levels resort to desperate, barbaric practices of forcing abortion and sterilization, and killing infants. Such a practice relates directly to the security of their jobs." See Harry Wu, "China's population policy," PRI Review 11:4 (September-October 2001), p. 7. [Back]

7 Also see Betsy Hartmann, "Population Control as Foreign Policy," Covert Action 39 (Winter 1991-92), p. 28. [Back]

8 John Aird, "The China Model," PRI Review 4:4 (July-August 1994), p. 2. [Back]

9 Donald P. Warwick, Bitter Pills: Population Policies and Their Implementation in Eight Developing Countries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), pp. 203-204; Margot Cohen, "Success brings new problems," Far Eastern Economic Review, Hong Kong, 18 April 1991, pp. 48-49; Wardah Hafidz, Adrina Taslim, and Sita Aripurnami, "Family planning in Indonesia: the case for policy reorientation," Inside Indonesia, March 1992, pp. 19-22; and Judith Banister, "Vietnam's evolving population policies," International Conference on Population, New Delhi, September 1989, (Liege: International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, 1989) pp. 156-60. [Back]

10 Donald R Warwick, The Indonesian Family Planning Program: Government Influence and Client Choice 12:3 (September 1986), pp. 453-490. [Back]

11 Cited in Tao-tai Hsia and Constance A. Johnson, "Recent legal developments in China's planned births campaign" (unpublished memorandum), 9 July 1991, p. 2. Beijing municipality includes extensive rural areas and populations. Quoted in John Aird, "The China Model," PRI Review 4:4 (July-August 1994), p. 3. [Back]

12 Damien McElroy, "China's One-Child Policy Fine Rises," The London Telegraph, 30 July 2002. [Back]

13 Donald P Warwick, "The Ethics of Population Control," Godfrey Roberts (ed), Population Policy: Contemporary Issues (New York: Praeger, 1990), p. 26. [Back]

14 See Chapter 2. [Back]

15 In December 1991 the president of Bangladesh, welcoming a family planning delegation from China headed by Peng Peiyun, the Minister of China's State Family Planning commission, praised China's success in population control and expressed the hope that Bangladesh and China could learn from each other's experiences. XINHUA English, Beijing, 9 December 1991, FBIS, no 910237, 10 December 1991, p. 20. [Back]

16 Haerbin radio, Heilongjiang Provincial Service, 20 April 1988, FBIS, No 88-82, 28 April 1988; Meng Fang and Chen Fenglan, "Heilongjiang sheng kaizhan cang wu jihua wai shengyu cun houdong qude chengxiao" (Heilongjian Province carries out activities to create villages with no unplanned births and obtains results,") Zhongguo renkou bao (China Population)(ZGRKB), Beijing, 7 October 1988, p. 2. Quoted in John Aird, "The China Model," PRI Review 4:4 (July-August 1994), p. 3. [Back]

17 Yin Su and Li Zheng, "Liaoning Kaizhan cangjian 'Jihua shengyu hege cun' quanmian quanche jibua shengyu xianxing zhengce" ("Liaoning carries out activities for establishing 'qualified family planning villages' " and "Implements the current family planning policy fully"), ZGRKB, 30 September 1988, p. 1. Quoted in John Aird, "The China Model," PRI Review 4:4 (July-August 1994), p. 3. [Back]

18 Peng Peiyun, "Guanyu 1989-nian de gongzuo" ("On the work in 1989"), ZGRKB, 24 February 1989, p. 1. Quoted in John Aird, "The China Model," PRI Review 4:4 (July-August 1994), p. 3. [Back]

19 For example, see the policy as described in a letter from a Chinese factory manager to a Chinese employee studying in the U.S. who had an unauthorized pregnancy that I quote in my article, "The long arm of 'one-child' China," The Washington Post, 10 April 1998, B4. See also my A Mother's Ordeal: One Woman's Fight Against China's One-Child Policy (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1993). [Back]

20 John Aird, "The China Model," PRI Review 4:4 (July-August 1994), p. 3. [Back]

21 Donald Warwick, pp. 197-98. [Back]

22 UBINIG, "The Price of Norplant is TK.2000! You Cannot Remove it," Issues in Reproductive and Genetic Engineering 4:1 (1991), p. 46. Cited in John Aird, "The China Model," PRI Review 4:4 (July-August 1994), p. 4. [Back]

23 "Propaganda department tightens control on press," Ming bao, Hong Kong, 15 January 1994, FBIS, no. 94-011, 18 January 1994, p. 17. [Back]

24 These arguments are still being advanced despite the continuing growth of the Chinese economy in the high single digits. China's grain production is reported to have increased by 50 percent between 1979 and 1993 while the population grew by less than 22 percent. The grain figures are given in XlNHUA-English, Beijing, 16 September 1993, FBIS, no. 94-027, p. 37. [Back]

25 The headlines come from Nicholas Eberstadt, "UNFPA: A Runaway Agency." PRI Review 12:3 (May-June 2002), p. 1. [Back]

26 John Aird, "The China Model," PRI Review 4:4 (July-August 1994), p. 4. [Back]

27 Peoples Daily, March 2001, quoted in Christopher Smith, "Judging a Civilization," PRI Review 11:4 (September-October 2001), p. 8. [Back]

28 Letter from Nafis Sadik to Mr. Bill Richardson dated 7 January 1998 and quoted in "Aiding a Holocaust: New UNFPA Program Designed to Tidy Up One-child Horror," PRI Review 7:2 (March/April 1998), p. 14. Of course, since the Founding Charter of the UNFPA says that "couples have the rights to decide the number and spacing of their children," and given that China has from the inception of the one-child policy denied that right, the only honorable course of action for the UNFPA is to withdraw from China -- but that it refuses to do. [Back]

29 Kirsten Trone, the UNFPA program director for China, quoted in "Aiding a Holocaust: New UNFPA Program Designed to Tidy Up One-child Horror, PRI Review 7:2 (March/ April 1998), p. 14. [Back]

30 Josephine Guy, "Women and Child Abuse in China," Testimony before the Committee on International Relations of the U.S. House of Representatives, 17 October 2001. See also PRI Review 11:4 (September-October 2001), p. 3. [Back]

31 See the stories of Li Aihai and Ah Fang with which this chapter begins. [Back]

32 Josephine Guy, "Women and Child Abuse in China," Testimony before the Committee on International Relations of the U.S. House of Representatives, 17 October 2001. See also PRI Review 11:4 (September-October 2001), p. 3. [Back]

33 "Analysis of Determination that Kemp-Kasten Amendment Precludes further Funding to UNFPA under Pub. Law 107-115," attachment to letter from Secretary Colin Powell to Patrick J. Leahy, Chairman Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate, 21 July 2002. [Back]

34 Letter from Secretary Colin Powell to Patrick J. Leahy, Chairman Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate, 21 July 2002. [Back]

35 Peoples Daily, March 2001, quoted in Christopher Smith, "Judging a Civilization," PRI Review 11:4 (September-October 2001), p. 8. [Back]

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