The world’s largest nation, with a population of more than 1.4 billion people, is facing a shrinking population for the first time in 60 years.
- China’s National Bureau of Statistics announced in a Tuesday briefing that the country’s population has decreased by 850,000 people in the past year, the first time since the Great Leap Forward that the country has faced a significant demographic decrease.
- The decrease reflects slower birth rates, following the country’s one-child policy enacted from 1980 to 2015, and the aging of the working population—1 million fewer babies were born in 2022 than in 2021.
- The demographic stress could cause significant issues going forward as an aging population is supported by a smaller population of working-age young people with fewer financial resources.
Why It’s Important
China is already facing numerous challenges with a population struggling with economic stressors, domestic political unrest, political hostility with the U.S., and an aggressive military stance in the South China Sea, against Taiwan. The economic stress of a population that is aging stands to only put more pressure on a communist government that has resorted to social credit scores and diminished foreign trade to protect itself.
Bloomberg notes that a demographic decrease will cause lower manufacturing from China in the coming decades, reduce long-term economic growth, and could spark a pension crisis.
It could increase the country’s belligerence on the national stage, similar to how Russia’s demographic collapse indirectly contributed to its launching its war in Ukraine.
Backing Up A Bit
The decline has long been expected, with UN projections suggested the decrease would happen within the coming decade, although some early projections suggest the population collapse began in 2018 or earlier. It is possible the Chinese Communist Party has been soft-peddling its census data.
“Despite the official numbers, some experts believe China’s population has been in decline for a few years—a dramatic turn in a country that once sought to control such growth through a one-child policy,” says AP.
The country is also facing the negative effect of that policy creating an imbalance in genders. There are 722 million men and 689 million women—meaning a statistically large portion of young men aren’t not getting married and having children.
The UN believes India will overtake China as the world’s most populous country in 2023.
“Please have more babies. That’s China’s message for couples after decades of limiting most families to just one child … If the experience of Japan, South Korea, and other developed nations is any guide, it’s incredibly difficult, if not impossible to radically raise birth rates, even with measures such as subsidies, free childcare, and generous parental leave allowances. There’s no reason to think the situation in China will be different,” says Bloomberg.