He discusses the widely known graying of Japan, and then shifts his focus to the equally dramatic but less well-known graying of China, concluding, “…If you look at the demographic realities, China isn’t going to be the superpower of the 21st century, but an aging country with an enormous population and an inefficient industrial economy that is barely rich enough to pay the pensions of all the oldies running around.”
And forget the pensions. How about all the only children who are going to be slaving away to support aging parents? And what about all the young men with no women to marry? A bunch of angry young men with little or no prospect of marriage has to be one of the most unsettling demographics in China today, more than the aging. Think about China’s swelling cities, packed with young, single men who may or may not have work, whose living circumstances undoubtedly lead them to congregate with other young men (either physically or virtually). Now that sounds like trouble, although whether it will be trouble for the CCP or China’s neighbors (or both) remains to be decided.
China’s demographics, included the problem of managing urbanization at the rate China’s cities are growing, are among the many reasons why I am relatively sanguine about China as a regional power. Juggling several dozen time bombs at home, the CCP is hardly in a position to opt for too much mischief in its near abroad. That’s not to say China’s neighbors, and the US, should not be cautious about China’s intentions, but they also should not rush to assume the worst.