Facing a future demographic crisis and aging society, China's leaders are desperately seeking to persuade couples to have more children. In 1980 the notorious "one-child policy" came into effect, mandating often brutal punishments for violators ranging from forced abortions and sterilizations to fines and demotions. Fast-forward 35 years, and a radical change of course was ordered after leaders realized an aging population and declining workforce threatened to hamstring the country's future development. In 2016, the one-child policy was officially replaced with a two-child policy and Chinese couples were urged to go forth and multiply—within limits. But the bump in the birthrate was fleeting, the AP reports.
China had an estimated fertility rate of 1.02 in 2018, among the lowest in the world. Last month, the National Bureau of Statistics said the number of new births in 2018 fell to 15.23 million in a total population of 1.395 billion—a growth rate of .381 percent and the lowest increase since 1961, resulting in 2 million fewer births than in 2017. China's population is estimated to peak at 1.442 billion in 2029 and then gradually decline. In some areas, however, local officials have continued to fine couples who violate the strict letter of the law by having more than two children. "The country is doing all it can to encourage childbirth but the local governments need money, so we end with this sort of madness," columnist Lianpeng said on the Weibo microblogging service. (Read more China stories.)