While embroiled in the most vivid display of great power rivalry since the Cold War, the U.S. and China are both also battling a largely invisible force — relentlessly unfavorable demographics that are sapping their long-term economic vitality.
Driving the news: As we have reported, the global population as a whole is aging and shrinking, but the trend is striking China especially hard just as it challenges the U.S. for long-term global primacy, according to experts and a number of recent reports.
The big picture: For four decades, China has carried out one of the longest, fastest and biggest economic transformations in history. Integral to China’s miracle has been its 1-child policy, which has constrained the size of its bulging population. But demographic experts say that, even though 2 children per family are now permitted, the policy has baked in a dire mid-century future for China.
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WNU Editor: When I was stationed and working in China in the mid-1980s I was told by a senior economic official in the Chinese government that the ideal population for China was between 500,000,000 to 600,000,000. This number came from what they believed was the population that China could sustain from its own food production and economic development, and what their impact would be on the environment. Hence the one child policy. He also told me that it would probably take a century and/or more to achieve it, and that there would be a bubble of seniors between 2030 – 2060. So what is happening now is nothing new. This Chinese demographic change was government implemented and forced upon its people. Flash forward to today, there has been a shift in thinking. But even with this shift the Chinese of today are not focused on having big families. Their focus is on their own personal prosperity, and to only have one to two kids. To put it bluntly, the era of the big Chinese family has definitely come to an end. The long term geopolitical impact of this shift will also be profound. China will not be the population giant in Asia in the next century. The country that will be is India.