June 9th 2012

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: Manipulating language to transform culture

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Who will lead the Nationals after the next election?

VICTORIA: Can stalling Baillieu government survive beyond one term?

WATER: Farmer anger over latest Murray-Darling Basin plan

OPINION: Doctors under fire for defending marriage

SOCIETY: World Congress of Families rejects same-sex unions

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Rural Australia, heartland of the nation

DEFENCE: Labor's defence cuts will take years to remedy

SOCIETY: UK call to protect children from internet porn

POPULATION I: Sayonara — the long goodbye to Japan

POPULATION II: China's demographic time bomb

UNITED STATES: Will opinion shift finally make abortion history?

OPINION: Bonus scheme degrades teachers' sense of team spirit

CINEMA: Compelling film's contrast of good and evil

BOOK REVIEW A sensationalist and arrogant book

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China's demographic time bomb

by Angela Schumann

News Weekly, June 9, 2012

Communist China is crippling itself with old age.

Last September, Gao Qiang, who had served two years as Party Secretary for China’s Ministry of Health, told the United States House Budget Committee that the death toll of China’s brutal one-child policy had reached 400 million — a figure greater than the entire US population of 314 million.

Implemented 30 years ago, China’s one-child policy has become a generational holocaust creating a rapidly ageing population that its economy will be unable to support.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has been complicit in China’s one-child policy for years, despite the fact that this involves forcing women, sometimes in the final stages of pregnancy, to have abortions — a coercive practice which was declared a crime against humanity by the Nuremburg war crimes tribunals.

According to the US-based Population Research Institute (PRI), the UNFPA is supported by “assorted environmental extremists and no-growth types” who seek to “promote the myth of overpopulation and to raise more money for its anti-people projects”.

PRI president Steve W. Mosher says: “The attitude of the anti-people types is arrogant and elitist. They say, in effect, to Africans, Asians and Latin Americans: ‘There are just enough of us, but there are way too many of you.’”

Chinese authorities appear to have agreed, and their economy is paying the price.

In a recent article, entitled “China’s Achilles heel”, financial magazine The Economist revealed that “China is ageing at an unprecedented pace”.

Over the past 30 years, China’s fertility rate (the average number of children a woman will have in her lifetime) has dropped from 2.6 (well above the rate required to keep a population steady) to 1.56 (well below that rate). It is projected to decline further to an alarming 1.51 in 2015-20, while America’s fertility rate is 2.08 and rising.

By 2050, China’s median age (at which half the population will be above and half below) will be 49, and in Shanghai, which has what is possibly the world’s lowest fertility rate of 0.6, more than a third of the city’s population will be over 60 by 2020.

The Economist observes: “China will have a bulge of pensioners before it has developed the means of looking after them. Unlike the rest of the developed world, China will grow old before it gets rich.”

The article describes how China now faces the “4-2-1 phenomenon”. Traditionally, in the Chinese family, sons look after their parents, which remains a necessity, as national pensions are severely underfunded. With the declining birth rate, however, each only-child is responsible for the care of two parents and four grandparents, a burden too heavy for most, which throws the older generations back onto a welfare system that is unable to support them.

There are many further social problems caused by this demographic downturn, including a disproportionately male population. Mosher notes that as most Chinese families want their one child to be a boy, they abort the baby girls. This has led to a shortage of brides, the growing demand for which is being filled by trafficking young women from across Chinese borders.

Of course, there are many wealthier countries, such as Germany and Italy, that are also facing the trouble of below-replacement birth rates. However, according to The Economist, China’s situation is unique in that the country is much poorer than the other ageing societies, and its demographic transition has been much more sudden.

“The shift spells the end of China as the world’s factory”, The Economist says, and predicts that in the coming years China will be importing workers to fill the void.

Closer to home, Daniel Flitton, of the Melbourne Age newspaper (May 2, 2012), claims that Australia is already anticipating China’s coming demand for aged care in particular, and that this is a golden opportunity to strengthen ties with China.

This demographic winter may force Chinese leaders to rethink their economic priorities, says The Economist: “They will have to decide whether to buy ‘guns or walking sticks’.”

Looking on the positive side, The Economist suggests that having fewer extended families, which often monopolise power, may lead to a more predictable legal system and even a more open political culture in China.

However, a bleaker scenario could be that of a Chinese population of predominantly elderly people with not enough relatives, aged care resources or hospital beds and of increased calls for euthanasia.

Last October, when the world’s population reached seven billion, the UNFPA used the occasion for fear-mongering.

In contrast, Mosher has said, “The world’s population has more than doubled since 1960, and humanity has never been so prosperous.”

He asks, “Is China really better off because its leadership has eliminated 400 million of the most intelligent, hard-working and entrepreneurially-minded peoples the world has ever seen?”

Children are a country’s future, and China has failed to invest. Although the blood of the people may not cry out to China’s leaders through their consciences, it will nonetheless be heard through China’s economy in the decades to come. 

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