Last week, the Chinese government announced that the country’s population had declined for the first time in decades, setting off a cacophony of alarm bells among those concerned about China’s demographic destiny. Chinese women, by contrast, have largely ignored the hoopla. As demonstrated in numerous commentaries over traditional and social media this week, women have little interest in participating in the state’s latest pro-natalist project.
“[I]n terms of China’s population governance,” explained Yun Zhou, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s Department of Sociology, “women’s bodies and women’s reproductive labor in different ways are being utilized or co-opted as the ways in which to achieve […] the state’s demographic, political or economic growth.” But many women have had enough. Some are explicitly linking their aversion to childbearing with their poor treatment by society and the government, which Yuan Yang at The Financial Times described as a women-led “birth strike”.