Making Demography Astonishing: Lessons in the Politics of Population Science
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In recent years, I have set aside the study of China’s population politics, which preoccupied me for some three decades, to work on other things. Now, however, I find myself pulled into a rather ugly, yet also revealing, dispute over China unfolding in the pages of this journal. Respectful debate of differing perspectives is always welcome, but the recent article in Demography (and a 2015 piece by the same author in Population Studies) are something else altogether. In language that both ridicules and impugns the motives of those he sets up as his opponents, the author seeks to undermine not just the arguments, but also the credibility of those with whom he disagrees. Indeed, he charges them with doing unsound science in the interest of policy advocacy, while implying that he alone conducts pure science outside of politics. Instead of seriously reading and engaging with the data and ideas, he misrepresents and distorts the work of scholars who have devoted their careers to...
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