Vice President Biden is facing criticism after telling a crowd in China that he doesn't have a problem with the country's one-child policy.
The vice president addressed the policy while answering a question about the U.S. budget deficit at a university in Chengdu on Sunday. He was trying to explain how China has a looming entitlement crisis on its hands because its strict enforcement of the one-child-per-family rule has essentially eroded the "safety net" for seniors. Fewer children means fewer people earning money and supporting retirees.
But in explaining that concept, Biden appeared to condone China's policy.
"You have no 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 the official transcript of the event. "The result being that you're in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable."
Conservative groups, and at least one GOP presidential candidate, slammed the vice president for the remark.
"Really, Mr. Vice President? You're not second-guessing a policy that has resulted in untold numbers of forced abortions, forced sterilizations, outrageous fines or even jail time for families that dare to defy the law, and a gender imbalance crisis?" the Susan B. Anthony List said on its blog.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, called China's policy "gruesome and barbaric" and questioned how Biden could have given it a pass.
"Vice President Biden's acquiescence to such a policy should shock the conscience of every American. Instead of condoning the policy, Vice President Biden should have condemned it in the strongest possible terms," he said in a statement.
Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, said in a written statement that Biden's comment "crosses the lines of ignorant and wrong."
But a spokesman for the vice president said in a statement later Tuesday that, “The Obama Administration strongly opposes all aspects of China’s coercive birth limitation policies, including forced abortion and sterilization."
"The Vice President believes such practices are repugnant. He also pointed out, in China, that the policy is, as a practical matter, unsustainable. He was arguing against the One Child Policy to a Chinese audience," the spokesman added.
China introduced the policy three decades ago to help curb population growth. It does not apply to those in rural areas, but families living in cities can be subjected to stiff fines for breaking the rule. The policy has also resulted in families choosing to have male children more frequently than female children.