China's One Child Policy coming home to roost: old people, in big cities, frightened of the sky


Originally published at:


Remember in China there’s no real social security/pension, parents still expect to gift the family home/business to the oldest son and live with them and look after the grand kids and be supported in their old age - not the western nuclear family … so what happens with 1 kid/family? those kids are grown, maybe moving from the country to a city where the jobs are, getting married having a kid … and both sets of grandparents expect to move in and squabble over who looks after the kids … it’s not going to end well, someone’s going to be left out in the cold.

There are a lot of cultural reasons to have more than 2 kids

On the other hand I walk around Shenzhen and there are suddenly kids everywhere - I hope they are looking forwards and training lots of extra teachers



I can’t tell if the linked Wired article really is just 3 images without text, or if the text is behind a paywall, but I googled the title to see if it was available elsewhere, and found this from 2014:

I also don’t know if that hyperlink leading to the wired article is an in-joke I’m just missing. Anywho, that appears to be where that concept came from, if anyone else was lost!


Have any of these “demographic disaster” forecasts ever come true? I’ve only heard of bad predictions, Mathus, etc. It seems that if any had come true we’d hear about it. Hell the only good prediction of any kind I can recall offhand is that the Versailles treaty “planted the seeds for future wars” and hey that one was right. But it’s got very little company, and in economics, it has almost none.

Remember when a generation of superpredators was going to send U.S. crime into the stratosphere? The crime rate promptly began a historic 25 year decline. I also recall reading a lot in the 90s about how baby boomers taking their retirement was going to destory the U.S. stock market around 2005. Never heard a word about that “problem” every since. And Japan’s long economic drought was forecast by absolutely no one, with everyone falling all over each other to guess when that economy was going to overtake the U.S. at #1.

The only thing I worry about re: China’s one-child policy is the gender imbalance it caused. I’d be more afraid of the possibility of roving mobs of incels than a less-than-ideal worker/elderly ratio.


I think that recent on the ground surveys have rather reduced the impact of the gender imbalance - essentially people have been registering boy children and leaving girl children unregistered (and as a result maybe uneducated), this has been happening in the country with local party officials quietly turning a blind eye to their neighbours.

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t an imbalance, just that it’s not as bad as has been reported


Sounds like a Wired article to me.



Welcome to the demographic transition. Every country on Earth will soon have more old people than young people, with an average age much higher than anybody has been used to before now. Humans the world over are living longer and they are having fewer children. Both of these are GOOD things, because living longer means less human misery and less premature death, and a sustainable future demands a stable, non-growing population. And we are going to have to adjust our institutions and our expectations to accommodate that new reality.

And shame on people like Mr Yi Fuxian who try to spin it as a bad thing, and on credulous bloggers who parrot his findings without thinking.


They should overthrow their capitalist government and establish one that redistributes wealth to the workers


They did try that once already… if at first you don’t succeed…?


You do realize China’s One-Child policy never applied to Japan, right? Because Japan is not China? And Japan’s falling fertility rates are not “voluntary,” but voluntary? Contraception, careers for women, and so forth?


Demographic disasters are a bit like global warming. The disaster occurs in slow motion, so it’s really easy to pretend it’s not happening. Likewise, it’s very easy to blame a lot of bad things things besides demographics/global warming because economics systems/climate change is bloody complicated and has a million moving parts.

In the end, people who are unconcerned about knocking a few percent off of annual growth/crop harvests aren’t going to panic and will likely attribute problems to a wealth of other causes, while others are going to point to bunches of economists/climatologists saying how devastating the current situation is, and how it’s only going to get worse…

In the end, people tend to adjust faster than slow moving disasters inflict damage. It’s why these are such hard sells to the general population.

For the record, I do believe we should act on global warming, and not really act on population aging outside of perhaps stealing the young people from other countries by having welcoming immigration policies. After all, we need to import care-givers since we’re unwilling to grow our own.


Isn’t China close enough to a totalitarian state that they could, I dunno, kill all the old people if it became a problem for them?

They could say “every person over 70 has volunteered for suicide within 10 years, unless they have 6 grandchildren.”

Like…if the population is compliant enough to have fewer children by command, they are compliant enough to have fewer old people the same way.


dans ce meilleur des mondes possibles, tout est au mieux


WTF? That’s hardly “the same way.”


You still need people to do the killing, which is not something that comes naturally to most people.

The Nazis managed it after a decade or so of intense propaganda depicting Jews as sub-human, which in turn depended on literally centuries of anti-semitism for its effect (and even then they did it in semi-secret on other countries’ soil).

I’m guessing Confucian respect for the elderly would be a significantly greater obstacle.




Cheers. From your link, the sky bit:

“Then there’s the issue of being afraid of the sky, which is mostly a slider bar — you should be afraid of the sky now, but you could be extremely afraid of the sky very suddenly for pretty much any unpredictable reason. Once the thing hits— there’s gonna be lots of Katrinas. If it’s a Katrina a year, we could manage it. But if it’s a Katrina a month or if it’s a Katrina a week, we’re in for it.”

Tbh, I’d disagree with this. Once it’s a Katrina a week, then we’d adapt pretty quickly (those who survive the transition…) - stop living on exposed coastlines entirely, build bunkers rather than houses, smaller population…

This is why the UK grinds to a halt for one snowy day every few winters, but Alaska just keeps plugging away - most people don’t plan properly for the rare events.


iterative design is a widely accepted technique :wink:


It is a bad thing as long as the economic model for a country is predicated on never-ending growth. Transitions are painful. And they are really painful when they are not managed or unacknowledged. China’s whole economic model is predicated on unsustainable growth rates of 8-10% (Okay I pulled that number out of my ass, but I don’t think I am really far off). Their citizens have expectations based on that and when it fails they will be pissed.

I think they have a really bad situation on their hands, so I don’t think this article is crying chicken.

If the leadership in China can successfully transition their economy to a no-growth model while keeping their citizenry happy that would be a great thing for them and the world . But it seems unlikely to me.