There are a lot of folks out there that seriously believe that China is not only a rising superpower, but that they will dethrone the U.S. as the global leader. While there are many home-grown reasons for why the U.S. may tumble from the throne, I’m pretty sure it won’t be because of China’s ascendance.
The chart below shows why–Demographic Winter. New population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that China’s population will peak at 1,395,015,000 in 2026 and will go into a free-fall shortly thereafter.
By 2050, China’s population will have already fallen by 100 million people. More troubling, the annual population decline will be averaging 6 million people per year with the drop accelerating by 300,000 per year.
In contrast, the U.S. population is forecast to grow continuously reaching 422,554,000 by 2050. This also means the U.S. will have a more balanced age pyramid than China. Both are good for economic growth.
Of course, forecasts can be wrong. If China’s forcast is wrong, it’s most likely because the Census Bureau is understating the demographic cliff the country is facing. I recently came across a story in The Telegraph by Xue Xinran which stated:
Today, more than half the number of divorces are between people in their twenties and thirties, most of them from the first generation of the single-child policy. Many of this generation don’t even want children. Some don’t like the idea of being ousted from their position within the family; others say they simply don’t have the time to care for a child. At least they know their limitations. In the last five years, there have been numerous cases of two and three year-olds who have suffocated to death in family cars. Why? Because their distracted parents entrusted them to the care of drivers who left them locked in airless cars while running errands. It’s hard to take in, but it’s happening.
A one-child policy is bad enough, but a no-child policy is societal suicide. This is compounded by the skewed gender imbalance towards males which means, by definition, fewer women and babies. China will simply be crushed by a dramatically aging society before it ever reaches super-power status.
That’s not to say we should ignore China. They could still wreck havoc both economically and militarily before their demographic crisis hits. In short, I’m less concerned about China overtaking us as I am worried about China taking us down with them–say via WWIII.