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China's population declines for the first time since the 1960s


China has seen its population decline in 2022, signaling the scale of the demographic challenge weighing on the world's second-largest economy, which has recorded a weak 3% growth.

Correspondent in Asia

The Middle Empire is shrinking.

China saw its population officially plummet in 2022, for the first time since the Great Leap Forward famines, signaling the scale of the demographic challenge weighing on the world's second-largest economy, whose growth has fallen to 3%, figures show. unveiled this Tuesday, in Beijing.

The most populous country in the world lost 850,000 inhabitants last year, due to a declining birth rate, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (BNS).

A total of 9.56 million Chinese came into the world, an insufficient total to compensate for the 10.41 million deaths recorded in a society caught up in aging, where new generations are reluctant to give birth.

The fertility rate has dropped to 1.15 children per woman in 2021.

An earlier than expected decline

This is a pivotal moment for the resurgent Asian giant, which had seen its population grow since the Maoist-era tragedies that claimed millions of lives in the late 1950s. This decline comes earlier than the official projections which awaited it between 2025 and 2030, signaling the acceleration of the demographic challenge against a backdrop of a structural slowdown in growth and rising costs.

This is major news that indicates that the demographic crisis is much darker than expected

”, judge Yi Fuxian, researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, speaking of a “

historic inflection


The demographer judges the official statistics still below reality, and says that the Chinese population has already been shrinking since 2018. The trend could worsen further in 2023 as the country faces a meteoric epidemic of Covid, which has already caused 60,000 dead according to the authorities, but could make more than a million victims according to scientific projections.

This decline weighs on the economic and geopolitical horizon of the still developing country, which will officially lose its crown as the most populous nation in the world to India this year, according to projections.

China joins Japan, Taiwan and South Korea among declining Asian nations, but reaches that fateful threshold, long before it has reached the level of development of its neighbors, or provided itself with a safety net. social equivalent.

The Archipelago began its shrinkage in 2010 already having an advanced economy status, and its GDP per capita is almost four times higher than that of the Chinese even today.

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Aging threatens economic dynamism and household finances, which are forced to save to protect themselves against risks.

In China, the level of social protection is not high, and the care of the elderly is becoming a major problem as the number of seniors over 60 has exceeded 260 million.

Ordinary people should save for the future rather than consume

,” says Chan Kung, founder of Anbound, an independent think tank, in Beijing.

Demographic anemia will also weigh on the workforce, leading to an increase in labor costs, which was for a long time one of the assets of the Factory of the world to attract multinationals, and to settle in the heart of the chains. of global production.

"Uncertain Dream"

These grim statistics also weigh on the strategic prospects of the giant, engaged in a long-term standoff with the United States, against a backdrop of growing tensions in Asia-Pacific, as well as with its Indian rival in the Himalayas.

They pose a challenge to President Xi Jinping, cantor of a "

Chinese dream

" of national rebirth, while the legitimacy of the Communist Party has rested on the growing prosperity of the population since the economic opening of the 1980s, affirming the superiority of its model in the face of Western democracies.

The efforts of the communist regime to boost the birth rate, by relaxing the one-child policy, come up against the reluctance of the new generations.

The demographic burden is clouding economists' projections that China will overtake America to become the world's largest economy by the turn of the next decade.

It becomes an uncertain dream

”, judges a former boss of an international institution, long based in Beijing.

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This demographic stunting could also influence the perception of China around the world, at a time when international investors are questioning their long-term presence in this market.


Western strategists have tended to take a sick old cat for an aggressive lion

", feeding the thesis of the "

Chinese threat

", judges Yi Fuxian.

China remains an unavoidable juggernaut market, but the demographic wall is reshuffling the cards, and the imaginations.

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2023-01-17

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