Sometimes you learn that the future is now! Thus it is with national eugenics which, whilst it once enjoyed intellectual popularity here amongst the Left, fell into disrepute when the national socialist Adolph Hitler actually put it into practice with his dreams of a new Germanic master-race. But no idea, once it is out of the bag and however bad it is, can be quite put to death, and this particular monster has arisen again, this time in China according to an article in Edge by Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist. If you have any doubts or prejudices concerning people who call themselves 'evolutionary psychologists', then this will confirm them in spades!
According to Mr. Miller:
But crucially, Comprehensive National Power also includes "biopower": creating the world's highest-quality human capital in terms of the Chinese population's genes, health, and education (see Governing China's Population by Susan Greenhalgh and Edwin Winkler).
Chinese biopower has ancient roots in the concept of "yousheng" ("good birth"—which has the same literal meaning as "eugenics"). For a thousand years, China has been ruled by a cognitive meritocracy selected through the highly competitive imperial exams. The brightest young men became the scholar-officials who ruled the masses, amassed wealth, attracted multiple wives, and had more children. The current "gaokao" exams for university admission, taken by more than 10 million young Chinese per year, are just the updated version of these imperial exams—the route to educational, occupation, financial, and marital success. With the relaxation of the one-child policy, wealthier couples can now pay a "social fostering fee" (shehui fuyangfei) to have an extra child, restoring China's traditional link between intelligence, education, wealth, and reproductive success.
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Needless to say, this goes hand-in-hand with a 1995 law which forbids people with heritable mental or physical disorders from marrying. Mr. Miller, damn his eyes, is not unsympathetic and sneers at the likely response from those existing civilisations still bearing the remnants of a Judeo-Christian tradition:
My real worry is the Western response. The most likely response, given Euro-American ideological biases, would be a bioethical panic that leads to criticism of Chinese population policy with the same self-righteous hypocrisy that we have shown in criticizing various Chinese socio-cultural policies. But the global stakes are too high for us to act that stupidly and short-sightedly. A more mature response would be based on mutual civilizational respect, asking—what can we learn from what the Chinese are doing, how can we help them, and how can they help us to keep up as they create their brave new world?
My only response to Mr. Miller is to repeat the words of a colonel of a very distinguished cavalry regiment writing his confidential report on a young subaltern: "I would hesitate to breed from this officer." Likewise, with Mr. Miller!