As China Goes Geriatric, We Have the Advantage; One-Child Policy Will Put a Brake on Communist Nation's Economic Growth

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 15, 2012 | Go to article overview

As China Goes Geriatric, We Have the Advantage; One-Child Policy Will Put a Brake on Communist Nation's Economic Growth


Byline: Susan Yoshihara, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Washington is all abuzz about China's heir apparent, Vice President Xi Jinping, arriving in town Tuesday. Even the Pentagon is rolling out the red carpet for the man who will rule the country that may soon topple U.S. primacy in Asia. Indeed, China is ramping up a military that already can harm American interests in the region.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

China's rise is about to hit a great wall. That wall is demographics. Thirty years into its coercive one-child policy, Beijing announced a contraction in its workforce this year, and the leadership is worried. China's rise may not materialize the way experts say, or even at all.

True, China's leaders have grand ambitions of making this China's century, but they also recognize that population decline and a rapidly aging society may well derail those plans. Chinese older than 65 will account for more than a quarter of the entire population by 2050, up from 8 percent today. The over-80 crowd will increase more than five times during that period. Not only is the population aging rapidly, its absolute numbers will start to fall around 2029, according to United Nations estimates.

The strategic implications are unsettling. Beijing may conclude that its ability to exercise manpower-intensive military operations is diminishing. It thus may be tempted to use force to achieve important policy objectives before the window closes.

What's more, the one-child policy has produced a decades-long crisis of sex-selective abortion and infanticide of baby girls, resulting in an unnatural surplus of men. Experts say this is making Chinese society more unstable and aggressive. It already has given rise to cross-border human trafficking with China's neighbors.

We don't know if these trends will make China more pacific or more bellicose in the long term. …

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