China Median Age Increasing and Halving Population by 2100

I had previously said that China’s purchasing power parity GDP was likely 30% higher than official numbers. However, purchasing power parity strength does not mean the country would or should do better with a stronger currency. The country has to import 10 million barrels per day in oil.

The previous article notes the exchange rate weakness in China. The RMB got weaker. This dropped China from $18 trillion to 16.5 trillion in GDP. It also noted that Italy and Japan are dropping in the GDP ranking.

Yes, purchasing power parity wise, China’s citizens have far more ability to buy things than officially reported. So the exchange rate could go up and China economy could still be good. However, exchange rate GDP and exchange arate are separate and more complicated things. A nations ability to buy imports like buying oil etc… Soviet Union collapse was not able to pay cash to UK for grain. Having hidden purchasing power parity economic strength now or ten years ago is irrelevent to a collapse taking out economic strength. This collapse being the population aging out and losing productivity. The after-effects of the one-child-policy means accelerated age out and drop in productivity of older workers. ten years ago everyone productive with an average age of 34, now things are at 38.7 but is going to 47 by 2040 and then 55 by 2070. Working age population shrinking 1% per year.

So they were and are stronger than they claimed but the fall could be harder and sharper. The declining countries Japan, China, Italy are the older population countries with shrinking populations. More old people in general and really old people dying. I can be very strong when I am 38 but I am less productive 55 and I am retired or very unproductive 65-70 and maybe I am dead 75-90. And I am close to useless (for economic work, having a job etc…) 5-10 years before dying in most cases.

Antiaging and aging reversal could forestall this or reverse but as of now and for the next 20 years there is no tech miracle to prevent this decline in overall productivity.

I have said for over fifteen years that China needed to pivot hard on the one child policy. They have pivoted to a kind of three child policy. However, they needed to do more giving free test tube baby (IVR) services to the 33-45 year old women who want kids but were denied under the old policy. They also need to give free daycare and education support. The policy pivot was too slow and too weak and the delay means that too many women are 40+ and beyond good odds for IVR. They needed to go over ten years ago to unlimited kids and here have money and medical to have more kids or maybe using that Commie power to force more kids.

This did not happen. Shattering my hope that they could be remotely competent. I understand why they did not do it. They did not want to admit they were wrong and all of the dynamics within the bureaucracy. They also do not trust the rural people and some ethnicities. They did not want the “wrong people” having more kids. The “right people” were too busy with the white collar lifestyle or making rational choices about forming and raising a family in the urban and social situation that exists.

China could drop below 800 million people in 2100, almost half the current population. Japan and Italy are also staring at that kind of halving.

If the leaders, government did not and do not go full bore to mitigate this then they will have a halving of the GDP or more. Half the people with the same producitivity as now per person. But if those who remain have less productivity then GDP falls more than half.

32 thoughts on “China Median Age Increasing and Halving Population by 2100”

  1. It’s not all bad.. “ Research examining the effects of different population projections on future economic growth and energy use shows that slowing population growth can significantly reduce future greenhouse gas emissions [4]. Incorporating various population projections into climate models shows that higher population growth results in higher emissions. For example, one study found that if the global population were to peak in mid-century and then shrink to 7.1 billion by 2100, carbon emissions could be as much as 41% lower than if the population continued to grow to 15 billion (Figure 1) [16]. This means that slowing population growth through rights-based innovations in reproductive health could contribute over a quarter of the emissions reductions needed by 2050 to avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change [4, 8, 16].”

    AI, androids and automation can ameliorate issues surrounding a shrinking workforce and aging population. I say let’s give population halving a chance.

  2. Western societies face similar population “crunches”, so the question is what to do about it? In Sweden, there is an extensive net of daycare centers, there is paid maternity/paternity leave, and still, the total fertility rate is below replacement rate and dropping slowly. And, the replacement rates are inflated because a large immigrant population have approximately double the total fertility rate compared to the natives. Once they have “acclimatized”, their rates will be low as well.

    So how to increase the total fertility rate?

    Well, how about reducing the tax percentage as a function of how many children you have? That way you would not encourage people to have children instead of working, or making “babyproduction” a profession by itself. Only those that have work would actually benefit from having children, and the benefit would stop when they did not work.

    • Your problem is to encourage high IQ, high Executive function people to reproduce instead of everyone of, worse, low IQ or EF people. Facilitate the formation of traditional families.

      To do this people MUST be able to pay less taxes depending on the number of children.
      The solution is a flat tax or taking in account the spouse and children in the tax burden (let’s say you pay 35% alone, you divide the income between a wife and 3 children and you just pay 7%.
      Never transfer money from the government to people, just don’t take it from them.
      Also, you must reduce or get rid completely of inheritance taxes
      Stop money printing (as rob people of the value of their savings and inflate prices of everything)

      Probably reducing the size of the government by 75-90% would also be in the cards.

      • The problem with these ideas, apparently leaning Anarchist – Libertarian-anarchist – Libertarian, is that it doesn’t take into account first-world, Fundamental Human Values.
        People, in general, are lazy, greedy, and stupid – but not evil. They come down the chute that way, and for lack of civilization, continue on that path to either poor-useless or middle-class-broken-useless or upper-class-broken.
        Civilizing people costs money, top-down money, utilities/infrastructure-that-aren’t-ever-sustainable-type money. This needs government. Many people fall through the cracks – so: do you spend $40k to $100k a year per person on giving them cushy, useless, government jobs -or- do you spend 1x to 3x that on prisons, corrective sytems, foregone economics, basic supportive services, because: hey, these people won’t just dry up and blow away from neglect (mostly self-imposed) they’ll suck it out of you, steal from you, destabilize your systems, and just basically ‘get that money another less producitve way’.
        This is an optimization problem. Value at input – invested value – return on invested.
        I like the traditional family idea – though post 60s the partriarchs broke down and fell behind economically, technologically, and culturally.
        Ward Cleaver Jr. and his ilk would have been ground up and spit out before the kids ever got to their teens in a post 90s society. That ship has sailed.
        But, I get your gist – how best to create that wealth individually, but mutually-reinforcing, while creating an incentive-based, self-perpetuating, techno-culture that ‘raises all boats’ (the only way to gradually diminish insurrection), realizing that probably less than 25% of people actually are of ‘real’ positive value.

    • I am sceptical of your notion that: immigrants can and are willing to be, in general, acclimatized (or otherwise a net economic/ cultural positive).

  3. Brian, you have argued that it’s not possible to get to a million robiraxies with LIDAR because it’s not possible to scale the LIDAR production fast enough. Is it possible to scale IVR-clinics fast enough to make a dent in Chinas demographics?

  4. Now this is Interesting.
    Given that there are siginficant industries, resources, and tech in China, with an above-average productivity and buy-in from otherwise mostly-oppressed people, how do they move forward with this apparent potential? Total openess – free market, all-or-nothing democracy? I don’t believe it. They are not the US or UK or Canada/Australia; and never will be. Their free-market zones (SEZs) are significantly successful compared to urban areas of comparable demographics (but lately?) – which doesn’t mean that China as a whole will succeed with that. What about its social credit system (SCS), so publicized 5+ years ago? So intent on penalizing the Aberrant with limited upside to incentivizing the Supplicants. Limited and undefined success or not monitored much. Could work.
    I, for one, have minimal belief that replacement population (and even post-work full support population) policies are the Most Important Thing in growing and maintaining a top country financially. If pensions are a burden, phase in high-to-100% self-directed saving plans. Medicare costs spiralling, phase in high-to-100% private insurance. Policies encouraging/ incentiving productivity/ job relevance will always out-perfrom safety-net systems. Nowadays 25-year-old work habits are often worse than 55-year-old habits/ productivity. Incentive. Transparent access to Opportunity. Entrepreneurialism. These all work in free-market as well as Authoritarianist environments. It’s the quality of the People; which means its the quality of the kids, which means its the quality of the parents and lesser degree schools and communities. My 2c.

    • “Medicare costs spiraling, phase in high-to-100% private insurance.”

      It sounds like you are a dogmatic free market enthusiast, just as useless as a dogmatic government must do everything enthusiast.

      Is there anywhere some sort of private medical insurance scheme works better than a public medical insurance scheme such as is used in every wealthy society except the US?

      For another situation where free market doesn’t work see the electricity grid.
      Read Meredith Angwin’s “Shorting the Grid” for a case where ‘deregulation’ created far more problems than it solved.

      • Of course. I was being aspirational.
        When I say ‘free-market’, I don’t mean ‘jungle rules’, as in everyone for themselves.
        There will always be a significant part of a population, with limited fault on their part, who will react so negatively, such as crime, threat to themselves or others, poor life planning, etc., where there would be common benefit to some support, even when they can’t be placed in facilities, prisons, army, government service, etc. This is unfortunate, though not a crime per se.

        I also agree with the idea that some common items, often infrastructure, will never be profitable or even self-sufficient, which isn’t to say they can’t be made more efficient, which is subject to the quantity and quality of the people and resources left over. Though, those quantities in any given country are unclear; though in the US, poor quality people, subject to mediocrity, are likely less.

        The point is that creating a competitive, pro-incentive, reasonably transparent, free-market-type (which the US is far from, but less than most) within a ‘high-trust system’ (great academic term, only 20+ years old) will almost always cascade into greater productivity, creativity, performance, etc. This will lead to more value created per person meaning less value needed to support others, which could mean less need to have replacement+ family sizes (since each fewer child, well-raised, unlike most, would have more investment).
        That being said, i’m not sure what you mean by “…any … private medical … scheme works better than a public…” Yes. Most private schemes work better. The services, people, and facilties are almost always better and more timely. They are more likely pro-active than re-active. Whether they serve all, eventually, and focus on the worst cases first, leaving all others to rot, until they become ‘worse’ cases is, of course, of lesser importance. Safety net for all is not something to apsire to, but as a last resort to diminish over time. If you’re talking about denied claims, well, who knows, there are always shysters. As a non-American, I know the misery of a ‘shared suffering’ public system, where the overwhelming numbers just mean everyone gets sicker while waiting, thus increasing their need for service. Nonsense all the way down.

      • If you actually look at “every wealthy society” you’ll find a whole range of different combinations of public and private health insurance. The claim that every wealthy society except the USA uses a public insurance is as untrue as the claim that only a private system can work.

      • Define works better.
        Because, if the market don’t deliver what you desire, it is not a failure of the market.
        It is you failure to pony up enough money or find a better way to produce what you want.
        Or, probably, the government is just screwing everything up and prevent the market from working properly.

  5. China’s measures tend to be extreme. It’s natural for a country with great geographic and ethnic variety and more than 2000 years ruled by centralized governments. If China decide to boost their birth rate, their measures might be extreme enough to help them success where others failed.

    • I wonder about this too. What if China brings in something like a 2 child policy to try to force couples to have 2 children. Is that too extreme even for China? What measures could they take to try to do that?

      One quibble with your comment about “great ethnic variety”. I would say at 91% ethnic Han Chinese, China is one of the worlds most ethnically homogenous societies.

      • Han is only a cultural identity. Even Vietnamese and Korean claimed they are “authentic” Han and Chinese was not “authentic” any more when Qing dynasty ruled China and forced Chinese to adopt some Manchu’s cultural elements.

    • The 2020 Chinese census suggests that the official population numbers were overestimated by 100 million people. Almost all are women of child bearing age.

      If that’s true, the Chinese population peaked in 2008. The population will halve by 2050.

  6. Three child policy is still a limiting policy. If anyone thinks they can have 4 or 5 kids they should damn well be allowed to and even a theoretical ban on that while trying to coerce less willing people to have kids is insane but there you have it.

    The main limitation of younger people having kids is hope for the future and I doubt the communist party can instil such hope for the future in people.

    • It does seem pointless now. But the number of people who want more than 3 children is probably so small, the different would be minuscule.

    • There are NO limits to how many children you can currently have in China as of July 2021

      In May 2021, this was loosened to a three-child limit,[5] in July 2021 all limits as well as penalties for exceeding them were removed

  7. If what Peter Zeihan is saying is correct, China may have over-estimated their population by over 100 million. And that’s not the worst part- it was all the people that would have been born under OCP- ie, the people under 35 years of age who would have had kids.
    I think the demographic cliff they are about to fall off of is going to be tremendous

    • They over-estimated their population by more than 100,000,000. The Shanghai leaks (the database leak of the name, age, address, etc. of every citizen in China) show that China’s current population is just a shade over 1billion. Their population began shrinking in 2018. Things will be rather grave from a dependency ratio standpoint by 2035-2040 which isn’t that far away.

      The effective implementation of the One Child Policy created a demographic monster the likes of which the world has literally never seen before.

      • “Literally never seen before” is a red flag for someone grossly exaggerating their position.

        Historically, there have been many societies where populations fell drastically over several generations.
        The Roman empire in the 3rd, and then 6th centuries.
        Sparta… basically for all of Spartan history.
        Athens, during the Peloponnesian wars.
        Mayan empire
        Norse Greenland

        etc. etc.

        Which is not to say that such population declines did not result in their society having tremendous problems, usually followed by either conquest or collapse.

        • I think the “monster” refers to the inhuman plan to limit number of children to one in each family. I don’t think any prior society had the technological or economical means to monitor families to that extent. China is exceptional with it’s combination of technological prowess and lack of human rights. So yes, the world has never seen this “monster” prior.

          An army could conquer a city 2000 years ago and possibly kill every inhabitant for refusing to submit without a fight. But they would not have the manpower to stay and kill every “excess” baby above some “quota”. In fact, they probably could not even count the people living in their newly conquered territory…

        • Yes, it’s an exaggeration, but normally you only see these sorts way below replacement numbers during plagues, famines, and war, environmental collapse, that sort of thing. NOT in comfortable peacetime with low death rates.

          For instance the Mayans used mercury for so many things that eventually almost everybody was suffering from chronic mercury poisoning. The Romans? They were using lead compounds as sweeteners!

          It’s possible the same thing is happening with us. Maybe hormone mimicking compounds building up in the environment, subtly disrupting sex drives. Or maybe it’s just that human instincts don’t work well with the availability of birth control. Who knows, maybe smart phones and computers are too addictive…

          But, no, it’s not remotely normal for a society to have sustained below replacement birth levels. It’s ALWAYS a sign of something pathological.

          By definition; Heading towards extinction isn’t healthy!

  8. The rise of robotics will have a significant impact on productivity over the same 20-year timeframe, making the productivity of individuals less important. A trend to lower population (in a world that just surpassed 8 billion, with an ever-growing resource-hungry middle class, and a planet faced with mass extinction and ecosystem loss) is not necessarily a bad thing.

    • This is my hope. With the onset of cognitive automation and increasing strides in other forms of automation, I don’t think any old people are going to starve unless we choose to allow it, and about one billion would be a much better sized population for this planet as long as we get there by attrition and without premature deaths.

      I also believe that life extension will somewhat mitigate depopulation, as long as it doesn’t cost more than a coffee latte at Starbucks every day. That still won’t help some countries, but, if they are “bad players,” it will be hard to be too unhappy about that, as it may prevent them from doing even worse things in the future.

      China’s depopulation has already happened, only the effects have not yet been observed. Like a tsunami after a distant earthquake, we are just seeing the water heading for shore.

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