China has come to the defense of its family-planning policy in the wake of proposals in the United States Congress to cut funds for international population programs. In a strongly worded statement released Saturday by the State Family Planning Commission, a senior Chinese official said that proposals now before Congress to reduce or eliminate US contributions to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) are ``obviously harmful to Sino-US relations.''
China is scheduled to receive as much as $10 million of aid through UNFPA programs. The aid is in jeopardy because the Reagan administration does not want to contribute to any population programs which include abortion.
``A small number of people in the United States have slandered the Chinese government . . . [in saying it is] pursuing a policy of forced abortion and female infanticide in order to control population growth,'' said Zhou Gucheng, a vice-chairman of the National People's Congress.
Chinese officials admit such cases have occurred, but they contend that the foreign press has distorted the facts. They say these ``shortcomings'' are a thing of the past and such practices ``now have been corrected.''
``Some people from the US . . . are not only wantonly damaging China's reputation, but also imposing pressure on the UNFPA, which has been successfuly implementing world population programs,'' Mr. Zhou said.
The three-page statement repeated previous assertions that China ``resolutely opposes any form of coercive practice including forced abortions,'' and that under Chinese law, killing infants is a criminal offense and strictly prohibited.
The Chinese government has said that its birth-control policy is strictly a domestic issue. But both Chinese and Western observers say the government is quite concerned that its international image has been damaged by criticism of its policies.
China has followed a policy of one child per family since 1979 and aims to hold its population to 1.2 billion by the year 2000. There are some exceptions to the one-child policy, including exemption for the country's ethnic minorities which make up 6 percent of the population.
But most Chinese couples must abide by the rule, and there have been detailed reports in the Western press claiming that local officials have resorted to forced abortions to enforce the law.
Controversy over China's birth-control policy has resulted in proposals from President Reagan and Congress that would withhold US funding for population programs in countries practicing forced abortions. The target of this congressional action is the renewal of UNFPA's $50 million program in China over the next five years.
Opposition to the China program in the House centers on an amendment to a supplemental appropriations bill scheduled for a floor vote today. The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jack Kemp (R) of New York, would make any population or family-planning organization active in China ineligible for US funds.
In the Senate, an amendment to the State Department authorization bill sponsored by Jesse Helms (R) of North Carolina seeks to deny US funds to any government -- presumably including China -- that permits abortion or involuntary sterilization.
The principal vehicle for opponents of the Kemp measure is a proposed amendment to the Senate supplemental appropriations bill sponsored by Daniel K. Inouye (D) of Hawaii. His amendment would have the effect of barring any cuts in US funding until the President determined (1) that the Chinese birth-control program is a program of ``coercive abortion,'' and, (2) that family-planning agencies working in China are aiding in the management of such programs.
But both Chinese and UN officials as well as a recent study by the US Agency for International Development have said the UN-sponsored program in China is not related to abortion. They say the program is designed to help reduce the incidence of unwanted births by improving the quality and distribution of birth-control devices, training family-planning workers, and helping with publicity, public education, and survey work.
At the press briefing Saturday, a spokesman for China's family-planning commission said that a cut in US funds would have little effect on China's birth-control programs.
``We rely mainly on our own efforts,'' said Shen Guo Xiang, who represented China at the UN population conference in Mexico City last year.
``But I think it will affect [UNFPA] population activities in other developing countries,'' he said.
Western diplomats agree with Mr. Shen, saying the UNFPA is strongly committed to its program in China and likely would cut back its programs elsewhere to make up for a shortfall in funds resulting from any congressional decision.
Shen also reported Saturday that a state survey showed that some one-quarter of pregnancies in recent years have ended in abortion. He said this figure may be ``a little bit lower than the real situation.''
According to the survey, about 60 percent of live births are a first child, about 20 percent are a second child, and 20 percent are births to mothers with more than two children, shen said.