the population declined for the first time since the 1960s

China is experiencing a population decline in 2022, signaling the magnitude of the demographic challenges weighing on the world’s second-largest economy, which posted weak growth of 3%.

Correspondent in Asia

The Middle Empire is shrinking. China saw its population officially plummet in 2022, for the first time since hunger the Great Leap Forward, signaling the scale of the demographic challenge weighing on the world’s second-largest economy, whose growth has fallen to 3%, figures show. , in Beijing.

The world’s most populous country lost 850,000 residents last year, as the birth rate declined, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (BNS). A total of 9.56 million Chinese came to the world, an insufficient number to compensate for the 10.41 million deaths recorded in a society stuck in aging, where new generations are reluctant to give birth. The fertility rate will drop to 1.15 children per woman in 2021.

Reject earlier than expected

This is a watershed moment for a resurgent Asian giant, whose population has grown since the Maoist-era tragedy that claimed millions of lives in the late 1950s. The decline comes earlier than official projections between 2025 and 2030, signaling an accelerating demographic challenge against the backdrop of a structural slowdown in growth and rising costs. “These are the headlines that show that the demographic crisis is much darker than one might expect“, judge Yi Fuxian, researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, spoke of “historical touch“. Demographers assess official statistics as below reality, and say that China’s population has been shrinking since 2018. The trend could worsen further in 2023 as the country faces a skyrocketing Covid epidemic, which has already caused 60,000 deaths according to authorities. but could made over a million victims according to scientific projections.

The decline is weighing on the economic and geopolitical horizons of the still developing country, which will officially lose its crown as the world’s most populous nation to India this year, projections suggest. China joins Japan, Taiwan and South Korea among Asia’s slumping nations, but reached that decisive threshold long before it reached the level of development of its neighbors, or provided a comparable social safety net. The archipelago started to shrink in 2010 already has advanced economic status, and its GDP per capita is nearly four times higher than China’s even today.

Aging threatens the economic and financial dynamics of households, which are forced to save to protect themselves from risks. “In China, the level of social protection is not high, and elderly care is a major problem as the number of elderly over 60 years has exceeded 260 million. Ordinary people should save for the future instead of consuming“Judge Chan Kung, founder of Anbound, an independent think tank, in Beijing.

Demographic anemia will also burden the workforce, leading to an increase in labor costs, which has long been one of the assets of the world’s factories to attract multinational companies, and settled in the heart of the global production chain. .

“Uncertain Dreams”

The dismal statistics also weigh on the strategic prospects of the giant, which is engaged in a long-term standoff with the United States, against a backdrop of heightened tensions in the Asia-Pacific, as well as with its Himalayan rival India. They pose a challenge to President Xi Jinping, champion “chinese dreamnational revival, while the legitimacy of the Communist Party rests on the growth of population prosperity since the opening up of the economy in the 1980s, confirms the superiority of its model in the face of Western democracies. The communist regime’s efforts to increase the birth rate, by relaxing the one-child policy, have met with reluctance from a new generation.

Demographic weights cloud economists’ projections that China will overtake America to become the world’s largest economy at the turn of the next decade. “It became an uncertain dream“Judging the former boss of an international institution, who has lived in Beijing for a long time.

This demographic stunting could also influence perceptions of China around the world, at a time when international investors are questioning their long-term presence in this market. “Western strategists tend to mistake an old, sick cat for an aggressive lion », maintaining thesis «Chinese threat“Judge Yi Fuxian. China remains an inescapable giant market, but the demographic wall reshuffles the cards, and the imagination.

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