China's population drops for first time since 1960s

Originally published at: China's population drops for first time since 1960s | Boing Boing


I’m sure those were huge factors but it was still kinda odd that the article didn’t even give a passing mention to the impact of the one-child policy that was in place for decades.

Edit to add: just found this chart which shows that the story is much more about a reduction in births than an increase in deaths:

Looks like the latest, dramatically steep decline started after the official end of the one-child policy in 2016 but before Covid got going in 2019. Interesting.


Yeah, China’s population graph has a narrow base, which means it has more older people no longer having kids who will be dying, while the younger generation is having less kids to make up for it.


One unintended response to the one child policy, according to my sister-in-law (who is Chinese so should have some idea) is that for cultural reasons boy’s are seen as more valuable than girls. So for the girls who survived “birth accidents” they have the option of staying in China and being treated, to a great extent, as baby factories with no prospects, or going overseas and being seen as “exotic”.

Of course this is a single data point, so don’t treat it as gospel truth


I found that odd as well. They or more precisely their government did it to themselves.

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Unfortunately that’s a very well-known consequence of the one-child policy that’s borne out in the data on the gender ratio. They’ve got the largest male-heavy gender imbalance in the world among the younger age cohorts due to selective abortions and (to a lesser extent) infanticide.


That’s another area where the Chinese authorities screwed up in terms of policy: not pushing for women’s rights and equality decades ago. Whether people have fewer children due to heavy-handed state policy or just naturally due to rising prosperity (or, in China, both), changing and challenging patriarchal norms turns out to be a must-have complement in any country.*

There seems to be no plan and, unlike in the case of Japan’s aging population crisis, no economic cushion in China. In fact, the slower economic growth in China compared to other countries only acts as a further “contraceptive” for young couples who can’t or won’t leave the country.

China makes the same mistake as Japan did (and still does) when it comes to allowing in immigrants to bolster the workforce and preserve the social security net, but without the saving grace of Japan’s more widely and evenly distributed prosperity. The government there sees it only as a labour shortage issue (and not also a social security issue) and has responded by encouraging the crony capitalist business owners to outsource work to neighbouring and poorer countries. Even if they want to change that policy it’s too late now.

It’s just been one bad choice after another by the Chinese authorities going back to Mao. Now the chickens have come home to roost sooner than anyone expected.

Here’s the main lesson for those of us in the West: for all that right-wingers extoll or envy the “benefits” of authoritarian regimes in terms of their ability to get things done quickly and efficiently (itself a myth), in reality they also tend to be more tone deaf and less responsive than liberal democracies when it comes to exactly what things should be done.

Beyond that, it turns out that women’s rights, immigration, and more equitable distribution of prosperity – all the things right-wingers everywhere fight against – are keys to avoiding these kinds of crises.

[* ETA: India isn’t doing so great on this count either]


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