chapter  5
27 Pages

China's Population: Resistance, Compliance, and the National Interest

WithChristopher J. Smith

Demographers in the West were convinced that drastic measures were needed to slow the growth rate of the Chinese population when the Communists took power in 1949. Mao Zedong, however, was not convinced of that; in fact he was dismissive of such advice, referring to it as "bourgeois" Malthusian propaganda. It was hoped that the Chinese people would defer childbirth by marrying later; by spacing out their offspring in intervals of at least four years; and by having fewer children overall. China's population grew by more than 75 percent between 1949 and 1978, and it was becoming clear to demographers and politicians alike that drastic measures were needed. At this time China had already begun its heralded drive toward the Four Modernizations, the goal of which was to transform China into a powerful and modern socialist society by developing four sectors of the economy: agriculture, industry, science and technology, and national defense.