17 January 2023
Cogito Ergo Non Serviam
China has had the largest population in the world for decades. It has been a matter of concern for Beijing for almost as long. The late Deng Xiaoping said the thing that worried him the most was making sure the economy grew fast enough to feed everyone. Consequently, he made sure the country adopted a one-child policy. That lowered the growth rate of the population; however, it also created its own problems. Now, the government is concerned that the demographic tinkering has gone too far. The one-child policy is gone. Nevertheless, it looks like China will have fewer and fewer people for the foreseeable future.
The problem at the heart of it all is the human life span and life cycle. A population problem among fruit flies can be resolved in a couple of days. A population problem among humans will take decades, perhaps even a couple of centuries, because humans live for 70 or so years. When one tampers with the birth rate, one is also affecting the fertility of the nation in 15-25 years, the economy in the same time frame, and the demands to be put on the healthcare system 50-75 years later. The example of changing course on a massive cargo ship is apt.
Culturally, the one-child policy put pressure on families to have sons rather than daughters. This happened to such a degree that female infanticide and abortion of female fetuses skewed the gender balance to a dangerous level. In some cities today, there are 25% more men than women. That makes it hard for a great many young men to marry and raise families. This is a good thing if shrinking the population is the goal. But young men without that option find ways of getting into trouble. China prizes stability above all, and these men are a threat.
Because of the drop in population overall and among females in particular, there are fewer people able to reproduce in the prime fertility years. Fewer female babies now means fewer moms in 20 years, reinforcing the population decline. To fix this would take 20 years of multiple children in a family at a minimum. That presumes it can be done at all.
A smaller cohort of working-age Chinese means less tax revenue for the government to spend on the oldsters. Every developed country is facing this problem. In the US, the baby boomers are retiring or have retired. They get Social Security and Medicare paid for by Generations X, Z and Millennials. When the working cohort is small relative to the retired cohort, there are economic and financial stresses that do not exist when the workers outnumber the retirees in massive numbers. China will have to raise taxes and cut spending to make this work. That is going to annoy just about everyone.
Finally, there are the stresses to the medical system in China that affects not just the older people but everyone. This has been brought home by Covid. Right now, the emergency rooms and hospitals are at capacity. Old people and the very youngest need medical care most statistically. Covid throws more and more people into hospital. The medical system will be less and less capable of addessing not just the needs of Covid patients but also of anyone who needs hospital care. The beds are already full.
© Copyright 2023 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.