CBN Friday Special丨Did Ren Zeping open a Pandora’s box?

2022年01月14日 19:37   21世纪经济报道 21财经APP   李莹亮,见习记者张然

S: Hi everyone. Welcome to CBN Friday Special, I’m Stephanie LI.

R: And I’m ZHANG Ran. In today’s special program, we’ll be talking about the “maternity funds” suggestion made by Ren Zeping. Ren is quite a popular economist in China, isn’t he? 

S: I supposed so. Ren is the country’s highest-paid strategist and a former chief economist at Evergrande Think Tank. He has made a name for himself commenting on China’s stock market and social media topics such as the Metaverse and new energy. 

R: Actually, it’s not the first time he has waded into discussions on China’s fertility rate. This time, his suggestion has sparked public discussions on the internet. So what did Ren say?

S: Basically, Ren suggested the central bank to print more money to boost China’s birthrate. He published a report on Monday saying that China should print an additional 2 trillion yuan annually for a decade, which could help cover various costs associated with some 50 million newborns, to solve the ageing population issue and the falling birthrate.

R: That sounds... interesting to me. And I remember him saying “we must seize the time in which those born between 1975 and 1985 who can still give birth, and introduce a fertility encouragement fund,” suggesting that “don’t have too many expectations of the post-90s and post-00s generations.”

S: So the idea of urging older mums in their 30s and 40s, rather than younger ones who are still in their 20s to have more babies, have drawn huge backlash on social media. Weibo users argued that giving birth is a matter of personal choice, and money wouldn’t solve the country’s demographic crisis. Others questioned if printing trillions of yuan in maternity funds would lead to inflation and an increase in property prices. 

Hong Hao, a Chinese economist and chief strategist of BOCOM International Research Department, refuted Ren’s proposal, saying that “overseas experience has proved that printing money has nothing to do with fertility, and establishing the special fertility fund is also in vain.” 

R: But Ren still stands behind his theory. He responded on Tuesday that the additional 2 trillion yuan won’t lead to inflation, but will on the contrary help stimulate demand and stabilise growth. However, his account on Weibo was banned Wednesday for “violating relevant laws and regulations,” so did his WeChat public account.

S: I guess Ren’s suggestion could sound a bit jaw-dropping to many people. But his proposal does come from a bigger backdrop in which China struggles to shake off fears that its fertility rate has been dropping calamitously since the last national census results were published in May 2021. The statistics triggered major central government policy changes including the move from a two-child policy to a three-child policy, as well as efforts to incentivise families to raise more children. So, Ran, what do you know about the 2021 national census?

R: In short, China’s seventh national population census showed that the growth rate of the country’s population has slowed, and the total fertility rate in China has dropped to a relatively low level. 

And according to China Statistical Yearbook 2021, China’s birth rate fell below 1 percent for the first time in 2020, which means the trend of a declining birth rate continues, and China will experience zero-population growth earlier than estimated. 

Driven by a low fertility rate, the decreasing young population may exacerbate the economic slowdown. According to population development rules, an imbalance in population age structure could cause a labor shortage even in the most populous countries. 

So in order to encourage couples to have more children, several provinces and regions have announced a raft of measures, such as handing out monthly cash incentives and housing allowance to couples with multiple children, extending maternity and paternity leaves and policies for new mothers to return to work after childbirth.

S: Some Chinese companies are joining the call to boost birth rate of employees. For example, animal fodder manufacturer Dabeinong Technology became the latest Chinese firm to offer one-off payments to both male and female employees to encourage them to have more kids. Company staff will be awarded 30,000 yuan ($4,707) for the birth of their first child, 60,000 yuan for the second child and 90,000 yuan ($14,121) for the third child. 

Ctrip, the country’s biggest online travel agency, have been funding female employees up to 2 million yuan to freeze their eggs. Ctrip’s founder Liang Jianzhang has voiced his support for Ren’s proposal, and even doubled down on it, saying that there should cost 5 trillion yuan to cover the costs of infrastructures and subsidies to boost childbirth. 

R: However, we still see many young Chinese pushing back on marriage and prioritising their careers and social life over family, while most couples with children have been reluctant to have more children despite the country scrapping restrictive birth policies. 

S: That’s also a reality in China we shouldn’t look away from, and it resonates with Ren’s theory in a way. Although “baby talk” is important, the COVID-19 pandemic outbreaks across China also need our continued attention. Ran, could you give us more details? 

R: On Thursday, mainland China reported 143 new local COVID-19 cases, with the majority in Henan province and the northern port city of Tianjin. Infections in Xi’an remained in single digits, as the northwestern city entered its fourth week of lockdown. Shanghai reported two local cases yesterday, which were linked to an individual with international travel history. Approaching the Winter Olympics, Beijing health authorities yesterday banned all travels from any domestic location that spots COVID cases.

S: Last but not least, let’s take a quick look at the stock markets. Chinese stocks closed mixed on Friday with healthcare stocks rising across the board. The Shanghai Composite lost 0.96 percent, while the Shenzhen Component edged up 0.09 percent. The Hang Seng Index fell 0.19 percent as the TECH Index shed 0.48 percent. 















Executive Editor: Sonia YU

Editor: LI Yanxia

Host: Stephanie LI, ZHANG Ran

Writer: Stephanie LI, ZHANG Ran, WEN Sixian

Producer: XIANG Xiufang

Sound Editor: ZHANG Ran, Andy YUAN

Graphic Designer: ZHENG Wenjing, LIAO Wanni

Co-produced by 21st Century Business Herald Dept. of Overseas News & SFC Audio/Video Dept.

Presented by SFC

编委:  于晓娜







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