Although one always has to be wary of Chinese statistics, the news that births in China fell to 15.23 million last year, the lowest since China relaxed its one-child policy in 2014, is momentous. It marks the lowest official birth rate in China since 1961.
Concern over a shrinking work force has led the Communists to abandon measures enforced since the 1970s whereby the world’s most populous country restricted most couples to only a single offspring with a system of fines and even forced abortions for violators. Now concerns over an ageing population, gender imbalances and a shrinking workforce has pushed authorities to end the restriction, allowing all couples a second child from January 1 2016.
Last year’s birth rate was the lowest since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949. The country’s population will peak in 2029, according to the World Population Prospects 2017, published by the United Nations Population Division. But that high-point could come much sooner because of Beijing’s now optimistic assumptions; Beijing did not foresee the near-collapse of the birthrate last year.
In 2024, for the first time in at least 300 years — and maybe for the first time in recorded history — China will not be the world’s most populous society. India, when New Delhi’s population peaks in 2061, will have some 400 million more people than China.
Official Beijing offered no explanation for the falling birth rate but it is no secret that economic growth last year fell to its lowest in nearly three decades. Many couples are wary of having children because they cannot afford to pay for health care and education amid surging property prices. And, in fact, in January, a government-affiliated think tank warned that the population in the world’s second-biggest economy could start to shrink as soon as 2027.
China’s demographic path is set for decades and it will impact mightily on Beijing’s race to become the world’s dominant power, replacing the U.S.
“Mao Zedong may have played on the Third World’s racial resentments when trying to unite former colonial peoples against white imperialists, but he thought that Communism was a global phenomenon that would eventually find a home everywhere and Mao’s utopia was in the future,” according to the Hudson Institute’s Charles Horner “Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party is not global or utopian in this way; instead, it seems in thrall to an essential ‘Chinese-ness.'”
Horner sees disconcerting similarities between Xi’s China and 1930s Imperial Japan.
“Like Imperial Japan then,” Horner said, “Xi and the Party look backward to a mythologized past when a benign Emperor brought the whole world together to bask in his glory and share his munificence.”
The outside world already recognizes similarities between today’s Xi Chinping regime and the European and Japanese totalitarian regimes of the 1930s. Concentration camps, racism, eugenics, ambitions of world domination – all are embedded in Beijing’s current propaganda which goes along with a strategic plan for resurrecting the old Silk Road which once carried China’s more sophisticated manufactures west to the edges of the Greek and Roman civilization in exchange for their raw materials and articles of warfare.
The Chinese growing military threat is also accompanied by a determined effort to exert “soft power”.
The American-based Human Rights Watch found various threats to academic freedom resulting from Chinese government pressure monitoring and surveillance of students and academics from China studying on campuses around the world. Chinese diplomats have also complained to university officials about hosting speakers – such as the Dalai Lama – whom the Chinese government considers “sensitive.”