China’s demographic crisis

Foreign Affairs has an article, China’s doomed fight against demographic decline:

The median age of a Chinese citizen has increased significantly since 1978, reaching 38.4 years in 2021. If the country’s fertility rates continue to decline, the median age of a person could reach over 50 by 2050.

In 2016, China’s government scrapped its one-child policy. In 2021, it began implementing policies aimed at increasing childbearing. However, these efforts are unlikely to help raise the country’s fertility rates. The ruling Communist Party’s re-embrace of gender norms is also expected to contribute to the country’s declining birth rates.

In the 1970s, China launched a population planning program aimed at discouraging couples from having more children. The number of births per woman dropped dramatically from 5.8 to 2.7 in 1978. The program’s targets encouraged authorities to adopt policies that could lead to forced abortions and sterilizations. Fines for violating the program were typically several years’ worth of salary for the average citizen.

By 2000, Chinese academics had begun to voice concerns about the long-term demographic consequences of these policies, including significant imbalances in male-female sex ratios at birth—the result of sex-selective abortions. Officials initially assumed that merely rolling back long-standing state restrictions would boost birth rates. In 2013, Beijing announced that couples would be allowed to have two children if one parent was an only child. In 2016, the one-child policy was formally scrapped in favor of a two-child policy; in 2021, it became a three-child policy.

As the results of the 2020 census trickled out last year, Beijing went into overdrive. In the summer of 2021, the Politburo adopted the three-child policy and rolled out a comprehensive pro-natalist strategy aimed at removing financial and practical barriers deterring couples from having children.

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