China touts policy as 1.3 billionth citizen born

BEIJING – Greeted by national television coverage of his first bath, a boy born Thursday was declared China’s 1.3 billionth citizen in a blaze of publicity to promote the government’s controversial “one child” birth limits.

The eight-pound infant was presented with a certificate of his status following his birth at 12:02 a.m. at Beijing Maternity Hospital. State TV’s evening news showed his mother, Lan Hui, a 31-year-old employee of Shell China, receiving a bouquet of flowers and the newborn getting a bath and a massage.

“The family planning policy of the past 30 years has effectively controlled the over-rapid increase of China’s population,” the official China Daily newspaper said.

The government says that without the policy, China would have at least 200 million more mouths to feed, straining farm, water and other resources. But critics say the plan has led to forced abortions and other abuses.

Foreign experts say China’s true population could be hundreds of millions above 1.3 billion because many rural families have unreported children. The one-child limit is also frequently ignored by urban couples who can afford the fines or are desperate for a son to carry on the family name and care for them in old age.

China says the birth limits have reduced the number of children per couple from about 5.8 children in the 1970s to 1.8 children now.

Government figures say 119 boys are born in China for every 100 girls, a gap blamed largely on parents aborting female fetuses so they can try again for a boy. Worldwide, fewer than 110 boys are born for every 100 girls.

Officials say China could have as many as 40 million men who can’t find spouses by 2020 – just as China’s 1.3 billionth citizen is coming of age.

Associated Press

Holding China’s 1.3 billionth citizen chairwoman of the All-China Women’s Federation, Gu Xiulian, congratulates the mother at Beijing Maternity Hospital in Beijing on Thursday.

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