China lacks the wherewithal to adjust to demographic decline

An elderly Chinese man listens to a handheld device
Zhengzhou, July 2, 2013: A new Chinese “Elderly Rights Law” obligates children to visit their aging parents – or face fines, possibly even time in jail (source: dpa)

China’s fertility rate is well below replacement level

Its population is set to peak at 1.38 billion in 2023 and shrink to 940 million by the end of the century

The country follows a broader demographic pattern in the region, its one-child policy has been only a contributing factor in the demographic drama

In contrast to Japan and other East Asian neighbors, China does not have the economic resources and social infrastructure that are necessary to deal with a rapidly aging and shrinking population.

China faces an intractable and protracted demographic crisis driven by millions of individual family planning choices made by an increasingly wealthy and urbanized population. Policies restricting births imposed by the authorities have played only a contributing role in the developing drama. Similar aging trends can be seen throughout East Asia, especially in Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong – territories that never had the types of legal restrictions imposed upon mainland Chinese couples.

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