The Corner

China’s Running Out of People

Nick Eberstadt has a piece in the Journal (subscription only, but a teaser here) where he repeats the warnings (warnings he pioneered, I believe) about the profound problems China will be facing very soon because of its rapid drop in fertility. China’s “total fertility rate” — the number of children the average woman will have in her lifetime — is now 1.75, according to the CIA’s World Factbook, well below the 2.1 most societies need to maintain a stable population over the long term. We’ve heard all this before, of course, from NRO’s In-House Demography Bore, but Eberstadt specifically blames the Reds’ coercive one-child policy as the source of the demographic dilemma, and repealing it as the solution. He closes the piece this way:

Trusting China’s people to act in their own self-interest — not least of all, trusting their choices and preferences with respect to their own family size — may very well prove to be the key to whether China ultimately succeeds in abolishing poverty and attaining mass affluence in the decades and generations ahead.

I don’t think Nick’s right about this part. Obviously using the force of the State to tell people how many kids they can have is immoral, but ironically it didn’t make all that much difference. Maybe China’s fertility fell a little faster, a little sooner, than it would have otherwise, but most of its neighbors also have sub-replacement fertility: Burma is at 1.95 children per woman, Vietnam 1.89, South Korea 1.28, Japan 1.23, Taiwan 1.12.

The good news for us is that, even if the ChiComs take Nick’s advice and end their coercive population-control polices, they’re still going to have the huge problems Nick describes, because Chinese women are likely to have low fertility regardless of the government’s policies. That means China’s future is likely to be one of weakness and internal turmoil, not conquering Siberia, let alone invading Hawaii. Combined with the complete inability of Islam to offer a model for a functioning society in the modern world, I’d say America’s in pretty darn good geopolitical shape in the long term. In Derb-ian terms, we may be doomed, but our rivals are even more doomed than we are.

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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