The Chinese government on Monday unveiled a new postage stamp showing a black pig and a white pig standing with three piglets. The new stamp will be released in 2019, the Year of the Pig.
The design, pictured at left, has fueled expectations of an upcoming change to the Chinese government's policy on family size.
“The stamp is the national name card, and it tells the country’s policies,” says demographer Yi Fuxian. “Two adult pigs, three little pigs - it’s a clear sign that China’s birth policy will herald a new era, with a shift from restriction to encouraging births.”
In 1979, China implemented its notorious one-child policy in an effort to cut back on population growth. The policy worked, and as of 2017 a full 16% of China’s population was over age 60 (compared to 7.4% in 1950). The move certainly helped slow population growth, but it also created a situation where there are too few working-age adults to sustain an older population with rising healthcare costs.
In 2016, the Chinese government began to allow urban couples to have two children. The change was foreshadowed with a Year of the Monkey stamp showing two baby monkeys.
The number of children born in 2016 increased by 1.3 million to hit 17.9 million. This was less than 50% of the increase predicted. In 2017, the number of births dropped to 17.23 million - much lower than the official prediction of 20+ million.
“China’s demographic dividend is dwindling, labor costs are rising, and social security pressure is large,” reports The People’s Daily. “Frankly speaking, giving birth is not merely a family’s own matter, but a big issue for the country.”
To make up for the exorbitant cost of having and raising multiple children China, the Communist government (which once forced women to abort children) is now offering mothers extended maternity leave, free baby formula, and other benefits. Regional governments in areas with the lowest fertility rates are offering families with two children special tax, housing, and education benefits.
“Judging from the new stamp design, you can tell China will definitely encourage people to have three kids in 2019,” said microblogger Sven Shi.
Others say the stamp is just a stamp. During the last Year of the Pig, in 2007, the government released a stamp showing a mother pig with five piglets.
Author's Note: This is a subtle but definite message to the Chinese people that larger families are permitted (and in China, anything not forbidden is required). This is a huge shift for China and a dangerous shift for the world.
In his 1798 essay on population growth, English scholar Thomas Robert Malthus argued that a given population will consume all available resources, checked only by war, famine, and disease. This theory appears to hold true until such population achieves a certain level of prosperity - such as the US and Japan. China has not achieved that level, and an explosion in population growth could trigger starvation and war.
Editor's note: I anticipate population wars (i.e. who will expand fastest and consume the most with their population) with China as one of the most aggressive. But India and Muslim populations are in the same boat. Muslim populations are moving into Europe and may achieve enough of a voting block to dominate in the next 30-50 years. Obviously population pressure leads to war and famine, it is a primary cause of many wars in history. China knows this, and is gambling that it will be a winner.