An important piece of subtext for the radical COVID control policies we’re seeing on display in Shanghai and elsewhere in Communist China.
China’s leaders have said that the country, unlike most of the rest of the world, cannot afford to live with the virus because it has a large and vulnerable aging population.
China’s birth rate is down to 1.6. At 10.48 births per 1,000 people, it’s below America’s, 11.8. And while you might be inclined to blame the Communist dictatorship’s One Child Policy, the PRC trashed the OCP precisely because the regime is worried about its declining birth rate. The PRC’s poor birth rate has its origins in its poor marriage rate. China’s marriage rate sank down to 7.2 per 1,000 people. And the average number conceals the full scope of the bad news. While the national rate was 7.2, in Shanghai it was 4.4. Meanwhile divorces in Beijing hit 39%
China’s median age is at 38.4. That’s about Japan’s median age when its house of cards began to fall. The PRC’s boom was powered by a population in its twenties. By the oughts, it entered the low 30s. It’s now sliding inevitably closer to the big four zero. By 2040, China’s median age will be 46.
Marriage licenses have fallen to a 13-year low and the birth rate has hit a 43-year low. With only 12 million babies born in 2020, the old mathematical joke about the Marching Chinese now falls flat. Like the rest of Asia, China is aging, and its workforce is falling by 0.5% a year.
And the news is only going to get worse.
Xi believes that China’s Communist regime is different even as demographics are undoing his mandate of heaven. While this century has been heralded as belonging to China, studies suggest that China’s population will drop by 50% by 2100. While 732 million may be nothing to sneer at, much of that will consist of its rapidly aging elderly population.
By 2050, 336 million Chinese elderly will form a bloc larger than that of the United States. If the birth and marriage rates keep dropping, a Communist gerontocracy will preside over failing dams, mega-cities, and a shrinking empire of senior citizens and single career women as the “barbarians” in the Muslim hinterlands with stronger birth rates sweep in.
It’s a given that Xi and his regime don’t give a damn about the rural or working-class elderly. But Xi is pushing 70. At 68, he was supposed to hit the party’s retirement age, but that’s a longstanding joke.
Eleven members of the Politburo (not including Xi) will have reached retirement age by the party congress next autumn, including two members of the party’s top policy-making body, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee: Hán Zhèng 韩正 (currently 67) and Lì Zhànshū 栗战书 (71). Han and Li are closely aligned with Xi; Li worked in a locality near Xi in Hebei Province in the 1980s and Han worked under Xi when the latter was Party Secretary of Shanghai.
We have our own gerontocracy, but so does the CCP.