During a major address Aug. 21 in China, Biden answered a question on the U.S. deficit from a university audience by referring to the need to deal with federal entitlement programs such as Medicare, which he described as a "safety net." He also cited the communist country's lack of a "safety net."
"Your policy has been one which I fully understand -- I'm not second-guessing -- of one child per family," Biden said, according to a White House transcript. "The result being that you're in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable.
"So hopefully we can act in a way on a problem that's much less severe than yours, and maybe we can learn together from how we can do that," he said.
Biden's analysis of China's growing problems with an aging populous after more than three decades of its "one-child" policy may be on target, but his seeming indifference to a program that includes forced abortion and involuntary sterilization prompted criticism and calls for clarification.
Speaker of the House John Boehner said he was "deeply troubled" by Biden's remarks.
China's coercive policy "should not be condoned by any American official," Boehner said, according to The Washington Examiner. "No government on earth has the authority to place quotas on the value of innocent human life, or to treat life as an economic commodity that can be regulated and taken away on a whim by the state. I hope and trust ... that a correction or clarification from the White House will be forthcoming."
Chinese native Chai Ling, founder of the organization All Girls Allowed, said Biden's comments were at best "a statement of ambiguity that gives permission to China to continue its brutal and coercive birth planning policy. At worst, it is an endorsement" of the heavy-handed enforcement of the policy.
"If indeed it is the White House's position to condone the one-child policy's coercive enforcement, then our leaders are either ignorant of the cruel truth, spineless to confront the Chinese government or cold-hearted to ignore the cries of thousands of mothers who have neither choice nor life," Chai said, according to National Review Online. "But, if the vice president's statement was interpreted incorrectly, then we call on him and the White House to issue a statement clarifying their position and demanding an end to the one-child policy, not only on the grounds of its sustainability, but also on the grounds of its inhumane violation of basic women's rights."
In an open letter to Biden, Reggie Littlejohn wrote to the vice president, "To say that you 'fully understand' and yet do not 'second-guess' the One Child Policy is to turn a blind eye to the incalculable suffering caused by this policy. If you disagree, please issue a statement clarifying your remarks. Otherwise, why should we not conclude that for you, forced abortion, forced sterilization, infanticide and gendercide are acceptable forms of population control?"
Littlejohn is president of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, which -- like All Girls Allowed -- combats such ills in China as coercive abortion and sexual slavery.
China's government-mandated population control has produced a gender imbalance fueled by the use of ultrasound technology. In a culture that favors males, parents often choose abortion when they learn their unborn child is a female. Infanticide, especially of females, also has been reported. There are now 119 Chinese boys born for every 100 girls, Littlejohn said.
The Chinese policy generally limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl. Parents in cities may have second babies if the husband and wife are both only children.
Penalties for violations of China's population control policy have included fines, arrests and the destruction of homes, as well as forced abortion and sterilization.
Biden's remarks came during a speech at Sichuan University in Chengdu, which is located in southwestern China.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.
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