onsdag 28. februar 2024

China’s Demographic Prospects to 2040: Opportunities, Constraints, Potential Policy Responses

Demographic constraints could complicate Beijing’s quest to mobilize political power and/or apply it abroad. At this writing the Chinese regime seems to be behaving in an increasingly ambitious and assertive fashion: the era of “hide your strength, bide your time” appears to be over. Demographic stresses could reduce social cohesion, or even contribute to social or political instability. Note the verb “could”: this is by no means a certainty. But it is a possibility that would be unwise to ignore. Dynasties in China always end. When and how the current regime will end, and whether demographic forces will play any appreciable role in its demise, will only be known in the fullness of time. 

In any event, over the next generation that regime must cope not only with the “marriage squeeze” and the “floating population” problem but with an upending of an extended family system that is as old as Chinese civilization itself. It is still difficult for us to imagine what China will look like, much less how things will work, with the rise of the “new family type.” We cannot yet dismiss out of hand the conjecture that this development could prove to be an existential, civilization-challenging event.