China: a disaster in the making

China: a disaster in the making

April 24, 2022 0 By Michel Santi

China’s population will have been split in two by the end of this century. The reputable British scientific journal The Lancet foresees the number of Chinese people collapsing to 730 million, dropping from 1.4 billion today. Thanks to the Covid crisis, China’s birth rate has fallen by 30% in the last two years, which is the biggest decrease since the terrible period of the great famine that spanned the late ‘50s and early 60’s. In the world’s most populous country, only 10.6 million babies were born in 2021, which is a figure unprecedented since the Communists’ rise to power in 1949, and marriages have also fallen by 12% since 2019.

China is of course suffering head-on the consequences of its only-child policy – introduced in 1980 – that has had devastating consequences on many levels. But it is not just the crucial renewal rate of its population that has been disrupted. This measure, that has a civilisation-wide reach, has also left a deep scar on the Chinese people who have widely accepted – had it etched into their genes even – not having more than one child per family. Additionally, the explosion of the national property market and the high price of a good education have made work a losing battle. The result of all this is a situation where China’s familial structure is now known as a “4-2-1” formation, with 4 grandparents, 2 spouses, and 1 infant. It is therefore not surprising that Chinese society has adapted to this constraint and the financial burden of supporting grandparents, leading to the inevitable consequence of having only one child. The labour market indeed remains in disarray with potential employers routinely interviewing young female candidates for a job on the basis of their desire to have a child and on their relationship status, if they share their life with a partner basically. This veritable discrimination against young women in the Chinese labour force is clearly sapping their career prospects as they are accused of not being able to properly fulfil both their professional and familial responsibilities.

The extreme precariousness of China’s demography is therefore not attributable to the pandemic, but indeed to the historic propensity of the country’s leaders to control their population….which is still rife, demonstrated by the widespread, drastic, and aberrant lockdown measures that are currently in force across the country’s cities. It goes without saying that this nonsensical policy of zero-Covid is exacerbating the problem of Chinese infertility since it discourages marriage, with lockdowns being announced unilaterally as soon as one sole case surfaces in a certain area, or even one apartment block. However, China’s regime is all too engaged – ensconced even – in this policy to now recognise the absolute counterproductivity of it – and not only in terms of demographics! – and to backtrack on it. How can President Xi Jinping renounce – without admitting his own mistakes – this dogma of zero-Covid that he has made the bedrock of his policies, as he prepares to celebrate its triumph at the Party Congress in November?