For the first time in decades the Chinese population is shrinking.
The last time that happened it was due to Mao’s Great Leap Forward famines. This time it’s due to China’s all-too-successful decades-long population control policies initiated in 1970 and finally ended in 2021. The most famous of these policies was the “one child policy,” which was in effect between 1980 and 2015.
Back in the late 60s environmentalists, especially the always-wrong Paul Ehrlich, started beating the Zero Population Growth (ZPG) drum, and countries such as China and India picked up the mantra with zeal. Those countries and others instituted policies of forced sterilization and other appalling anti-natal policies.
China has reversed course, and for a pretty obvious reason: the aging of the population.
The world’s most populous country has reached a pivotal moment: China’s population has begun to shrink, after a steady, yearslong decline in its birthrate that experts say will be irreversible.
The government said on Tuesday that 9.56 million people were born in China in 2022, while 10.41 million people died. It was the first time deaths had outnumbered births in China since the early 1960s, when the Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong’s failed economic experiment, led to widespread famine and death.
“In the long run, we are going to see a China the world has never seen,” said Wang Feng, a professor of sociology at the University of California at Irvine who specializes in demographics in China.
“It will no longer be the young, vibrant, growing population. We will start to appreciate China, in terms of its population, as an old and shrinking population.”
Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it…