Eugenics in China

Marta Russell ap888 at
Wed Feb 28 16:42:51 MST 2001

I am posting the entire article.
The history of disabled peoples' oppression is underpinned by
allowing "actions on persons" and the crucial question this
article raises for me is who decides, what actions and which
persons? Placing decisions in the hands of elite professionals,
politicians and this instance below, Communinist state of China
has resulted in death,  sterilization, physical torture,
incarceration and mind control is part of our collective hstory
as disabled people.
It is very clear that western style rights play an immense role
to give the disabled person a fighting chance.

Marta Russell wrote:
> Posting something from National Review is not my idea of a high
> time but this is a problem for the social movement called the
> disability rights movement.  How do I reconcile this
> interpretation of Marx?
> --

Eugenics Alive
soon to a country near you.

Derbyshire is also an NR contributing editor

February 27, 2001 9:10 a.m.

 The current (March 5th) print version of National Review carries
an exchange between Dinesh D'Souza, a frequent NR contributor,
and Ronald Bailey of Reason magazine, about the morality of
"genetically enhancing" human beings, most especially by way of
custom-designing our children. The exchange follows on from a
long piece by Dinesh titled "Staying Human" in our January 22nd
issue. It's a fascinating debate, on a topic we should all be
thinking about. I'm not going to get into it here; I just want to
make one point that didn't get covered in those pieces.

Here is the point: Fretting about the ethics of these issues is a
thing that only Western countries are going to do. Elsewhere,
eugenics — including "genetic enhancement" — will not be fretted
about or debated, it will just be done.

  To see what I mean, check out an article titled Popularizing
the Knowledge of Eugenics and Advocating Optimal Births
Vigorously" by Sun Dong-sheng of the Jinan Army Institute,
People's Republic of China. "An English translation of the
article can be found on the web. The translators note, in their
preface, that: "The taboo on this subject is not as strong in
East Asia as in the West. One might hypothesize that Asians, and
more particularly the populations of the Han cultural zone
(Japan, North and South Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong,
Singapore, and possibly Vietnam), take a more pragmatic, less
structured and ideological, and more far-seeing approach
(eugenics, after all, is, by definition, a long-run program) to
the development of human capital, than do Westerners."

 Sun Dong-sheng takes a quick canter through of the history of
eugenics, not omitting the disgrace which the whole subject fell
into by association with Nazi "racial science." As the
translators note, though, Dr. Sun shows no sign of feeling that
he is dealing with a "hot" or taboo topic. He just goes right on
into proposals for raising public awareness of eugenics (in
China, that is — the whole piece is intended for a Chinese
audience) and reasons for including eugenic policies as a part of
"socialist modernization."

The progress of the argument is held up for a while by some
ideological shucking and jiving the author feels obliged to
perform. From the point of view of theoretical Marxist-Leninism
and dialectical materialism, still a compulsory part of the
curriculum in Chinese schools, the entire field of genetics is a
bit suspect. In all nature-nurture debates, traditional Marxists
are the purest of pure nurturists. What's the point of having a
revolution if you can't change human nature? (Remember Lysenko?)
Dr. Sun easily negotiates his way through this little patch of
ideological white water, concluding that:

With genetics as its basis, the field of eugenics is established
on an objective, materialistic foundation.

So that's all right then, and we can move right on with:

As eugenic research becomes widespread and acquires depth, the
legal code of China will include more regulations concerning the
ways by which the idea of healthier offspring can be given reality.


Socialist modernization urgently needs a reduction or elimination
of genetic diseases and hereditary defects. Only by promoting the
births of better offspring can we improve the genetic quality of
our population…

I don't want to make too much of this document. I can't say that
I found it particularly chilling or offensive in any way; and
some of Dr. Sun's points cannot be disagreed with — e.g. his call
for an attack on China's appalling levels of pollution so that
environmentally caused birth defects can be reduced.

The significance of the article is that it is perfectly
ethics-free. There is no discussion of the morality of eugenics
and genetic engineering. It is just assumed that to "improve the
genetic quality of our population" is a thing that everybody
should support, and that the methods of doing it can safely be
left in the hands of scientists and politicians. The mentality
here is basically that of a cost accountant, arguing that a poor
country like China simply does  not need the extra burden of
"useless mouths" — the omniscient party, of  course, getting to
decide who is "useless."

You do have to make an effort to remember, reading this piece,
that communist China is a nation whose government has not
scrupled to involve itself in its citizens' most intimate family
affairs, that it has imposed a draconian policy of compulsory
family planning — including forced abortions — and that when Dr.
Sun talks about "more regulations concerning the ways by which
the idea of healthier offspring can be given reality," he means
yet more state intrusion into people's decisions about who to
marry, and whether or not to have children.

A rough kind of eugenics has, in fact, been practiced in China
for a long time. Several years ago, when I was living in that
country, I mentioned Down's Syndrome in conversation with a
Chinese colleague. She did not know the English term and I did
not know the Chinese, so we had to look it up in a  dictionary.
"Oh," she said when she got it. "That's not a problem in China.
 They don't get out of the delivery room."

As I said: While we are agonizing over the rights and wrongs of
it, elsewhere they will just be doing it.

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