Ever-eager to rattle the anti-China saber, The Economist has a new article outlining ”a deep flaw in China’s model”– demographic aging.
Of all the more challenging demographic issues China faces, the article goes so far as to call a shrinking population the country’s “Achilles’ heel.” (Hearing that, I wonder what Deng Xiaoping would think all these years later.)
If you’ve read my blog before, you know, specifically in relation to Taiwan and Japan, I find this entire ageist school of thought to be utterly useless.
For one, I believe a shrinking population to be a boon to the strain’s on the world’s resources. I also believe more intelligent uses of those resources and more cooperation among nations on issues like immigration and health care will eradicate the basis of these ageist doomsday predictions.
In specific regard to China, I find this article to be inaccurate and poorly researched.
Long have the naysayers decried China for its population policies. So The Economist’s latest call to do away with the one-child policy is far from surprising. Nevermind that the “Family Planning” policy has prevented the strain of an extra 400 million citizens in China since 1979, or that the policy now only pertains to around one-third of the population.
Over the years, we’ve heard plenty of the alleged nightmare scenarios: family planning as a human right, rises in abortions, an all-male youth, an angry/unemployed male youth, etc.
According to The Economist, the real problem is a shrinking work force and surging pool of pensioners that will “have profound financial and social consequences” and, in turn, spells “the end of China as the world’s factory.”
This is just absurd. It fails to take into account a huge number of “financial and social” realities.
Primarily, Chinese families do the one thing that American families have forgotten– save. While the average American is now in debt, the opposite is true of Chinese.
It is not only socially acceptable, but often preferred, for Chinese to live with their families until marriage– and even afterwards. Young adults live rent free. That money is put away, mostly going towards an apartment after marriage.
Some of these trends are changing. The CCP’s hopes for more domestic spending are encouraging less fiscal frugality at home. And some wealthier upper-middle class Chinese are bucking the traditional trends of living at home.
But, as costs may get squeezed, the Chinese are much more adept at caring for their elderly.
Beyond the realities of the Chinese family unit, to assume that the CCP will not dole out some of its vast foreign reserves to ease the strains of its very modest pension system seems shortsighted. After constantly decrying how paranoid Beijing is of losing its base support, I would imagine the politburo would be able to formulate a modest investment in pensions. Not to mention, solving any restructuring of the system would be relatively painless– especially in comparison to the political deadlock of American politics.
If anything, I would say the Chinese are far better prepared to deal with an aging and shrinking population than the US is prepared to deal with 30% population growth by 2050.