Arguments have begun to surface in the official Communist Party neswpaper, the People's Daily, that propose controlled breeding of Chinese people through laws prohibiting persons with genetic defects, including color blindness, from marrying and having children.
On June 8, the newspaper published an article by a medical officer in Liaoning Province saying, "We have done very little to improve the quality of the population." He said "necessary laws" were required to keep those with "congential diseases" from producing children.
Another People's Daily article suggested that the right to have children be denied to "imbeciles, lunatics, hemophiliacs and those who are color blind or carry hereditary diseases."
The suggestions lack the authority of government edicts and are expected to incite resistance and debate, but they indicate the extremes to which many Chinese are willing to go to reduce a populaton nearing the billion mark, Provincial authorities threaten several economic penalties for young couples who produce more than one child. Prospective parents have confessed to fears that the single offspring allowed them may have some defect. To many Chinese determined to continue the family name, this defect may include simply being female.
Dr. Richard S. Ross, dean of the Johns Hopkins Medical School faculty, said Chinese researchers he talked to during a recent visit here were intensely interested in new techniques to detect abnormal genes.
"Since everyone can only have one child, we want to make sure that child is is a good one," a Chinese scientist told him.
China's new birth-control campaign has prompted discussions of how to keep from spoiling an only child and brought sharp criticism from officials in rural areas who have ignored the new birth restrictions.
"Each of my children is prettier than the last," the People's Daily, with great disapproval, quoted a Zhejiang Province bank officer with seven children as saying. "The more my children my wife bears, the younger she looks."
The newspaper also said Wang Danwen, one of the leading women in the Zhejiang provincial government did not apologize for having a third child and derided people who practiced birth control. The newpaper said her staff commented, "The deputy chief is allowed to have a third child. We had better follow this example and hurry up and have another child."
In an interview in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang, birth control office deputy director Zhuang Binjing said the offending officials came under heavy criticism after the People's Daily article appeared. Wang, the official who had three children, was sterilized.
Besides stimulating genetic research, the one-child-per-family rule has produced new studies in child psychology, a field neglected for years in China.
According to the pro-Peking Hong Kong newspaper Da Gong Bao, an investigation of four nursery schools in Shanghai found that 70 of the 100 pupils had no siblings. In comparsion to children with brothers and sisters, the single children were bright but also "choosey about eating and dressing, impolite to elders, careless of property, bad-tempered, willful, unhelpful, timid, selfish and unable to care for themselves," the Hong Kong newspaper said. It said "doting parents" would have to mend their ways or such traits could severely hinder China's effort to modernize.
The June 8 article calling for genetic quality control in the Chinese population was signed by Song Baicheng, chief medical officer at an anti-epidemic center in Liaoning, in northeast China. He said: "We have done a lot. . .in controlling the popualation" but "very little to improve the quality of the population. We are even prohibited this work. In fact, quantity and quality are closely related to each other. Without the guar- antee of quality, the quantity factor in giving birth to only one child is very difficult to realize. Only by simultaneouly grasping both quantity and quality can we reduce the birth rate and enhance the people's intelligence, physique and life expectancy."
Among preventative diseases, he listed "congential heart disease, cretinism, congential backwardness, congential deafness and muteness, cerebral paralysis, abnormally small or large skull, hydrocephalus (water on the brain), cracks in the vertebral column, a congential abnormal vision and other physiological defects and abormalities in children, including bisexuality."
He cited recent research on the genetic causes of some of these conditions, then added, "The use of contraceptives during pregnancy can lead to bisexuality of the baby."
Song said, "It is necessary to promulgate the necessary laws and eliminate factors that endanger the quality of the population. . .those who are suffering from congential diseases must be dissuaded from getting married and giving birth to children." He said it was necessary to "take elimination measures when abnormal babies are discovered." Zhong Huilan, said the mentally ill, hemophiliacs and the color blind were a drain on society and "from the point of view of genetics and eugenics, we should gradually reduce their number." Eugenics is the study of human improvement by genetic control.
The aborton rate in China remains high, averaging 50 to 100 percent of the number of live births in most communities visited by foreigners. Scattered reports tell of mothers coming under heavy pressure from local officials to abort a third child. The government at the same time regularly scolds officials who do not set good examples. Canton's Sourthern Daily recently scolded two officials on Hainan Island who tore up official letters reprimanding them for having three and four children.
The strict rules of the birth control campaign, and the communist role in it, could damage the party's already shaky hold on public confidence. One Chinese officer worker told of a peasant couple in his home village who had two daughters. The wife last year became pregnant again. The local officials were determined to make an example of her and demanded she abort the child.
She resisted for some time, but in her eight month she and her husband agreed to inducted early birth, on the condition that the doctors would save the child if it was a boy. It was, but the local official on the spot refused to allow it to be saved. With the husband and his mother pleading on their knees at the operating room door, the baby died.
Some days later the would be grandmother, her chance of having a grandson gone, saw the four-year-old son of one of the offending local officials playing by a pond. In a rage, she threw the child into the water then jumped in herself. Both drowned.
"But the local unit stuck to its decicision," the office worker said. "It said it had done the right thing."