The depopulation bomb imploding in China is more powerful than ever according to shocking new figures just published by Australia’s Victoria University in Melbourne.
It just seems like last month [It was just last month, Steve — editor] that I reported for you that Chinese women seemed to be voting against strongman Xi Jinping’s return to True Communism™ with the only means available to them — their uteri. Live births were down in 2023 by another 500,000 under 2022’s dismal figure. That puts the People’s Republic fertility rate nearly at 1.0, or about half of the 2.1 required just to keep the population from shrinking.
Unchanged, as I’m sure you’ve already figured out in your head, each generation in China will be about half the size of the preceding generation. What that means down the road shocked even me, and I’ve been following this story for years.
“Our forecasts for 2022 and 2023 were already low but the real situation has turned out to be worse,” said Victoria University senior research fellow Xiujian Peng. His research, along with that of China’s Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, indicates that China’s population will shrink to 525 million people by the end of the century.
That’s barely more than a third of today’s population of over 1.4 billion. That also assumed that China’s fertility rate continues to hover at about one birth per woman of childbearing age. Practically next door, in South Korea, the fertility rate has dropped even lower, to 0.78.
One reason for the sharp decline is that China is running short of women of childbearing age, with “more than three million fewer than a year earlier,” according to the WSJ. That’s a problem with no easy fix and certainly no short- or even medium-term solution. Making a woman of childbearing age takes roughly 16 years, and that’s assuming you have a woman of childbearing age willing to put in the work — three times to make up for losses.
“Young women are now at the core of China’s demographic dilemma,” Liyan Qi reported for the WSJ [linked above]. “They are increasingly reluctant to have children—and there are fewer of them every year.”
The shortage of young women is partly a creation of China’s One Child policy, which incentivized couples to abort girl babies in favor of preferred males.
Another irony is that China’s fertility rate began to crash in 2016, the year after the otherwise autocratic Xi belatedly eliminated that disastrous One Child policy. But it seems that a generation of Chinese raised without aunts or uncles and with just one grandchild per full set of grandparents isn’t much interested in having two or three babies.
For perspective, the US is expected to top out at about 370 million in the year 2080 before gently declining to 366 million in 2100. With higher immigration, our population is expected to continue growing through the end of the century to 435 million. But even without, instead of outnumbering us by four to one as they do today, China will have maybe 40% more people than we do.
But from there, things get weird.
If the expected trends play out, at the end of this century, Nigeria will have a population greater than China’s.
My grandfather grew up in a world where China was starving. My kids are growing up in a world where an overly-confident China seeks to upend the post-WWII order. Their grandkids may know a world where China is just another large country, one among many, rather than the population colossus she is today.
China’s woes were vastly increased by China’s culture which preferred boys to girls. When your Irascible Correspondent visited China in 1997 it was clear that about 55-60% of the kids running around were boys. That was achieved by aborting, killing or giving up girl babies for foreign adoption. Parents of girl babies would leave them on the steps of police departments where they would be taken to ‘dying houses’. From there the most attractive babies would be selected out for foreign adoption and the others allowed to die.