If you want to get an idea of how well a city’s economy is doing in China, one quick way is to look for how much one-child policy propaganda there is. China’s public welfare system is lacking and, for the poor, children are usually the most reliable social security insurance (and male children are investments with greater potential returns). This is why poor villages like Chen Guangcheng’s often must resort to brutal methods like forced abortions and sterilizations in order to meet their family planning quotas.
Recently I went biking through Shandong – where Chen Guangcheng fought these practices. When going from cities to villages, there’s a pretty obvious inverse correlation between the income of local people and the number of signs urging them to only have one child (and not to abort if that one child is female). These signs range from the spray-painted and depressing to the fancy and poetic. Some are so absurd I figured they must all just be made up on the spot by desperate local officials (ie – “Plant more trees, have less children and you’ll become rich”).
Well it turns out many of these slogans come directly from the National Population and Family Planning Commission – a State Council agency. In 2007 the commission worried that many local slogans were “cold and tough, lacking humane care and people-oriented thinking” and may “lead to ambiguity.” Then there were some slogans which “have content that isn’t wrong, but are too blunt and indifferent. They not only fail to warn and educate, but also can easily lead to resentment of the masses, leading to conflicts and disputes.”
Getting them right is important because “even with today’s highly developed mass media, slogans still inspire, guide and unite the people on the principles and policies of population and family planning.”
So the commission took the liberty of putting together this list of 190 recommended slogans.
Many go beyond just birth control. They touch on issues indirectly related to the one child policy; like discouraging aborting girls, encouraging care for the elderly (implying that you won’t need a bunch of kids to take care of you when you get old) and discouraging anything that might cause birth defects (which would prompt you to have more kids).
Here are some choice translations:
16. Do everything possible to solve the population problem, focus on building a harmonious society.
30. Mother Earth is too tired. She can’t bear too many children.
34. Control the population, protect the environment and cherish the planet.
40. Advocate the scientific premarital examination and the prevention of birth defects.
55. In nature there are mountains and water. In human society there men and women – balanced and harmonious.
61. Maintain a balanced sex ratio at birth and build a socialist harmonious society.
66. It is strictly prohibited to drown, abandon or abuse baby girls. According to the law protect the rights and interests of women and children.
72. Migrant workers, do not forget family planning and health services are always with you.
78. Respecting, caring for and helping the elderly are virtues of the Chinese nation.
80. Children are the flowers of the motherland. The elderly are the wealth of society.
96. Bare fewer children and run faster toward a moderately well-off life. Build a harmonious new countryside.
104. Break the thousands of years of old feudal customs. Set up new marriage and reproduction culture.
124. Girls and boys are the hope of the nation.
146. Family planning services send sincere emotions. Law-based administration warms hearts.
155. Family is a boat, love is the sail, and reproductive health is the harbor of your happiness.
157. Contraception, informed choices, and reproductive health warm you and me.
173. Family is a boat, love is the sail. A healthy husband and wife will reach the other shore.
181. Citizens have the right to reproduction, but also the obligation to practice family planning according to law.
184. No inter-family marriage. Premarital check is essential.
I should add that the more poetic slogans aren’t even done justice through the English translation, but you get the idea.
Now, five years later, it seems these suggestions have indeed found their way down to the villages. Here’s some of what I saw on my trip:
One town even thought it prudent to add English translation themselves: