On four hundred million

Red Chinese statistics are worthless, as intelligent statisticians know. The stupid rely on them anyway, arguing that nothing else is available. This is a typical manoeuvre of modern scientism: taking worthless information at face value, then constructing elaborate fantasies upon it. They call the result, “settled science”; then chastise the sceptics because they can produce no better statistics. In this way, any form of basic human intelligence can be condemned as “anti-scientific.”

The Communists have, eight or nine times since the Maoist revolution, completely “reformed” their statistical methodologies, starting again each time effectively from scratch. Therefore to compare their statistics over time, in order to extract trends, is, to write plainly, compulsively insane. And yet it is not clear whether false statistics are any less useful than true statistics. Which is my odd way of saying, neither is any use at all. They are just numbers. Whereas, in reality, every living person has a face and a name.

Bear this in mind, when considering the statistic I am about to provide; but not before I belabour gentle reader with further asides.

According to news reports, the Communists have just changed their “one child policy.” The source, so far as I can trace, is an item in Xinhua, their official news agency. It appeared yesterday. The totalitarian government will now allow all their female serfs to bear two (2) live children if they want. This should, by statistical principle, substantially reduce the number whose birth is prevented by contraception, abortion, and infanticide. Given known cultural propensities, it might proportionally increase, in particular, the number of female babies who escape murder.

To this day, China reporters rely, almost invariably, on their official handouts. They may, themselves, suspect they are all lies, but the modern journalist is comfortable with lies, so long as he can source them. I would want a great deal of further information before believing what they are handing on.

For one thing: this is news they have reported before, having been conned by the same sort of press releases, which seem instead to have announced only changes in the list of exceptions to that “one child policy.” This is China, after all, where in a sense nothing can be true, for like the statistics, the history itself may be rewritten day to day. Where do you start, when the past is no more predictable than the future? You start by lying.

Notwithstanding, the evidence that there has been a “one child policy” is overwhelming. And however it was actually imposed, upon whom, where, and by means of what punishments, it can be reasonably stated that, since the policy was originally announced in 1978, if not before, and as a consequence of its provisions, a very large number of Chinese children who would have enjoyed the light of day, have not.

Which takes us finally to today’s statistic. I have seen many estimates of the number of children whose birth or infancy was prevented. The lowest I have seen is four hundred million. As an old-fashioned hack, with a distaste for lying, and therefore seeking at least the possibility of truth, I would have expressed this as, “in the order of hundreds of millions.” And this in the hope that at least I was not contributing to the establishment of “four hundred million” as a journalistic cliché. Because such clichés are anodyne, helping to eliminate the pain of moral thinking. But let us grant that the (almost certainly false) number is in that plausible range.


It is a good question how to express this number in Roman numerals. I’ve never got the hang of them, over one million or so. I suspect the pagan Romans themselves, to their credit, never got the hang of them either. A million is CCCCIƆƆƆƆ, so I suppose one could copy that four hundred times. Alternatively, simply write M, four hundred thousand times, which for typographical reasons, I am loath to do. Each M equals one thousand babies. Or there is a trick with superscribed double bars, used as million multipliers, or other symbolic devices, reducing this to CD (which is four hundred) plus the selected graffito.

But the Romans, generally, did not go there. Their preference was to leave very high numbers to the gods. They nevertheless proceeded on Domesday principles, for tax gathering, and to get some idea (district by district) of quantities of people in relation to livestock, crops, supplies of honey, butter, wool, or what have you. (Bureaucracy is not a modern invention.) Yet grand totals did not much interest them (as they did, to their shame, the Emperors of China); and even with the souls of engineers, they instinctively recoiled from treating people as numbers.

As did the Hebrews, whose God — He is ours, too, incidentally — took a dark view of headcounts, even, perhaps especially, when done for “purely administrative” purposes. Gentle reader may recall, for instance, the plague that followed King David’s pioneering essay in modern statistical analysis. Too, that even before he started, his census-taker, Joab, was wary of proceeding. He would do as ordered, up to a point, but let David know that he doubted the wisdom of counting all those heads. (See I Paralipomenon in your Douay Bibles, or I Chronicles in your KJVs; about the 21st chapter.)

Satan puts many ideas into the heads of our rulers, as surely we all realize by now. The destruction of children is surely among them. The destruction of children and others by class is surely a great evil; and the collection of statistics for manipulation, by class (starting from the notion of military conscription), is what we are to guess Satan had in mind, when putting his innovative census idea into the head of King David.

The modern mind, inured to statistics, cannot get itself around this. It cannot find a “problem” with counting, per se. It is slow to grasp that the problem is instead with why we are counting. Whose purposes are we serving? What evils advancing? Do we not trust God?

Our daily number, four hundred million, which may or may not approximate to the truth, is like other large numbers, hard to comprehend. Or rather, quite impossible, for the man of eight fingers and only two thumbs. Even a millipede would have trouble with it. Other large numbers come to mind: “six million” for instance, or “one million a year,” if gentle reader smoaks my allusions.

God, I often think, does not do numbers. He leaves them to do themselves. He alone might number the hairs on your head, but I cannot imagine how He would find the number interesting. Nature may count, to give us two and not three nostrils, but seldom does she seem obsessed with exact numbers, over a dozen or so. (The millipedes are an exception: she always counts the legs.) Above this, like the Romans, or this hack, she seems content merely with orders of numbers. Which indeed is what we are dealing with here, though perhaps unnecessarily.

And God might know the exact number, of Chinese souls missing from the current account. But I do not think the number would interest Him, any more than the number of hairs missing from the bald spot on a Jesuit monsignor. For in my understanding, in general, God does not do headcounts. He does names, hearts, and immortal faces. And each means the whole world, to Him.