The oft-repeated compliment paid to China’s leaders is that they “play the long game.” Masters of strategic thinking, the narrative goes, Beijing’s top cadres are always looking far ahead—planning, preparing, and plotting for the future. If only American politicians and businessmen could see past the next election cycle or quarterly earnings report, the Chinese wouldn’t be eating our lunch.
But then there’s the curious case of China’s impending demographic disaster: The country is getting old, and quickly, which is threatening its economic progress. The problem is nothing new. Experts have been ringing the alarm for years.
You’d expect Beijing’s officious planners to tackle this challenge the same way that they build high-speed railways or squash COVID-19 outbreaks—with the full zeal and heft of the state. Not this time. Like a deer caught in the headlights, the Communist Party has seemed paralyzed, unable to mount a response even as the aging express train runs it over.