Borje Ljunggren, June 2021
In late May, the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) announced that couples would be allowed to have three children. As late as 2015, CCP finally gave up its draconic one-child policy, in force since 1979, for a two-child policy, but the number of births soon kept falling. In spite of the two-child policy the fertility rate has in the last few years actually fallen to just 1.3, well below 2.1 births per woman, the level required to maintain a stable population.
The Party is experiencing the recoil effect of its biopolitics. At the turn of the century, China’s population, according to UN World Population Prospects (2019) medium variant, will have fallen to just over 1 billion. The population in 55 countries is expected to decrease during the next few decades, but no other country, with the exception of Iran, has undergone such a rapid and compressed demographic transformation as China, with a rapidly aging population and a diminishing labor supply. The causes are deep-rooted, beyond just launching a three-child policy. The one-child policy also had a tragic impact on the nation’s gender ratio, resulting in an extreme predominance in birth rates for boys and tens of millions of “missing women.” Technological developments with robots and AI will dramatically reduce the effects of China’s declining supply of labor but is seems clear is that the country is facing unique demographic challenges, with global consequences. The shadow that China is casting is growing in complexity!