We've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating in light of our post earlier this week on the Demographics of Depression: China is facing some very serious problems even as it emerges as one of the world's powerhouse economies and militaries. The problems are caused by their peculiar demographic circumstances:
While China may become the largest economy on the planet in the next few generations, it will also suffer from some catastrophic demographic problems. To control population growth over the last four decades, most couples are restricted to only one child. This has been widely enforced, to the point where the average number of children per couple has been 1.7.. But many of those couples aborted a child if it is a female, because much more importance is attached to having a male heir. Thus there are 30 million more males than females, and the number is growing. These surplus males are coming of age, and the competition for wives is causing problems. Women are taking advantage of their scarcity, but men are also going to neighboring countries to buy, or even kidnap, young women to be wives. This is causing ill will with neighbors.
The biggest problem, though, is the growing shortage of workers. As the population ages, all those one child families means there will be more elderly than the economy can effectively support. Currently there are 13 working age Chinese for every retiree. In 40 years, there will only be two for each retiree. At that point, retirees will comprise 30 percent of the population (versus 12 percent now.) Traditionally, children cared for their parents in multi-generation households. That model is dying out, and China is faced with huge pension cost increases at the same time they expect their economy to be the mightiest on the planet. But at that point, the largest single government expense will be the care of the elderly, and this will impose crushing taxes on those of working age. Many working age Chinese are worried about this, for there is no easy solution in sight.
A culture can accommodate a shortage of men by reverting to polygamy, but polyandry is not a viable solution for any society. So what does a dictatorial regime, flush with a strong industrial base, and burdened with a huge surplus of young, fighting age males, do? I'm sure that question is not far from the minds of all of China's neighbors.RLC