“The Coming Demographic Collapse of China” Gordon Chang

“Today, the country has a population more than four times larger than America’s. By 2100, the U.S. will probably have more people than China.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics typically releases population data for the preceding year in early March. This year, NBS delayed its announcement because the central government is scheduled next month to announce preliminary results of the 7th national census, conducted in November and December.

The image of Chinese economic and geopolitical dominance will be severely dented when Beijing releases census data. Xi Jinping may believe “the East is rising and the West is declining”—the money line from one of his speeches late last year—but that view will be exceedingly hard to maintain.

The Chinese take great pride in being part of the world’s most populous state. Beijing reported China’s population in 2019 hit 1.4 billion in 2019, up from 1.39 billion the previous year.

Chinese authorities will undoubtedly report an increase for last year as well. They are on record as believing the country’s population will continue to grow for more than a half decade.

Some are skeptical of China’s total population figures, however. Yi Fuxian of the University of Wisconsin-Madison told The National Interest that China in 2020 likely had a population of 1.26 billion. The noted demographer does not believe the number could have exceeded 1.28 billion.” Gordon Chang

Comment: Chang reminds me of the CIA annuitants and people like Andrei Amalrik (what happened to him?) who forecast the downfall of the USSR. They were treated with amused disdain at the time. Nobody wanted to hear what they said. To accept their view would have undermined the yearly campaign to obtain massive appropriations in funds from the Congress.

This piece neatly bookends TTG’s exposition the other day on the coming severe decline in east European population.

As someone observed in Comments here, there are too many people. Perhaps this development will be a good thing. pl


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47 Responses to “The Coming Demographic Collapse of China” Gordon Chang

  1. The Twisted Genius says:

    Yes, the one child policy is going to bite them in the ass. It’s not so much the declining population, but the skewed age distribution that’s going to cause problems

    • Deap says:

      Just think of China’s problems their previous nine-child free for all was going to cause. The first obvious problem, even the casual tourist could observe, was the creation of a highly-spoiled, prima donna, single child generation.

      How these Chinese snowflakes turn into adults and continue to run the “largest communist economy in the world” remains to be seen. Just like in the US. We will be learning as well – every child a wanted child. raised by doting helicopter parents who are also hitting the business world in significant numbers too.

      I long for the previous, fight for your own place in your birth order and/or the plucky orphan, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps America. We will just have to wait and see how newly defrocked and expat immigrant Prince Harry meets the new challenge.

    • Fasteddiez says:

      One, methinks, also needs to find out if the state’s willful pressure on families’ to abort girls in the long past has been somewhat offset more recently by having the boys and girls’ birth numbers being somewhat more equal. Easier to do, so it seems since stable marriages seem to be important as are Russian ones. Even if they cancel out the dearth of births, (snark). The laws of modernity could somewhat mitigate the number of newborns. The Chinese guys in Chairman Mao’s era had to get down to find a mate, short time or long time, as they say in the East.

      • The Twisted Genius says:

        Was it the state that pressured families to abort girls or the families’ desire to have a male rather than a female child if they can have only one?

        I wonder if age and sex distribution on a worldwide scale is more or less normal. Africa cancelling our Europe. India cancelling out China. Maybe even Central America cancelling out the youth shortage in the US. As a species, we may be doing just fine.

        • Deap says:

          Seems like I remember China was running as much as 20% fewer woman than men a few years back. Due to these low female numbers, China claimed it was causing two very serious problems – the high volatility of this number of men men with no women in their lives; and horrific kidnappings of women, mainly by rural farmers.

          They were encouraging Han migration to dilute the Muslim population in Xingjiang at that time with the promise you could have two children; not just one.

          Additionally, the guide related the then current “bride price” a family traditionally paid was skyrocketing to include houses, cars, TV’s and modern appliances. He said when his parents got married during the cultural revolution the bride price was just a notebook tablet – the paper kind.

          He additionally muttered these now overly pampered few available brides would sit around eating bon bons and watch soap opera all day and not want to do anything remotely expected of a married “housewife”.

          • diffcult bird says:

            “we find that during times of high marriage competition, young men are more likely to become entrepreneurs, work longer hours, save more, and amass more assets. The findings highlight the important role of biological forces in shaping human economic behavior.”


            In other words, excess men increases competition in the current generation and probably will produce more competent next generation – not necessarily a bad thing.

          • longarch says:

            From the IFPRI link:
            “we find that during times of high marriage competition, young men are more likely to become entrepreneurs, work longer hours, save more, and amass more assets. The findings highlight the important role of biological forces in shaping human economic behavior.”

            This study examined Taiwan during an unusual time in history. In the first place, Taiwanese people are unusually inclined toward commercial applications of science and technology. In the second place, the 1960s were a time of extreme economic opportunity in Taiwan. In the third place, during the 1960s, the old social pressure that forced young people to get married was still operational.

            Currently in Taiwan, few young people marry and fewer have children. Taiwan was only able to lift up a lamp of science because it had a profoundly vigorous population. Now, the reproductive aspect of that vigor appears to have waned.

        • Eric Newhill says:

          Quality over quantity, unless those born go all libtard-self-hating-reverse-racist-lemming-hysterical charge off the cliff.

          How many Africans does it take to invent a light bulb, math or a toilet? Or a even a latrine that isn’t over the drinking village water source?

          • longarch says:

            >How many Africans does it take to invent a light bulb, math or a toilet? Or a even a latrine that isn’t over the drinking village water source?

            I logged in to say this but you took the words right out of my mouth (or keyboard, as the case may be). In my opinion, Western Civilization failed to learn from Albert Schweitzer.

            >I have given my life to try to alleviate the sufferings of Africa. There is something that all white men who have lived here like I must learn and know: that these individuals are a sub-race. They have neither the intellectual, mental, or emotional abilities to equate or to share equally with white men in any function of our civilization. I have given my life to try to bring them the advantages which our civilization must offer, but I have become well aware that we must retain this status: the superior and they the inferior. For whenever a white man seeks to live among them as their equals they will either destroy him or devour him. And they will destroy all of his work. Let white men from anywhere in the world, who would come to Africa, remember that you must continually retain this status; you the master and they the inferior like children that you would help or teach. Never fraternize with them as equals. Never accept them as your social equals or they will devour you. They will destroy you.

            Albert Schweitzer, African Notebook, 1939

            Before 1965, Americans were free to state obvious truths about racial differences in IQ. Today, although they are technically free to speak, they will be unofficially harassed with frivolous lawsuits alleging racism. If civilization is to survive, the frivolous lawsuits that inhibit truth must be ended. If the lawyers are not willing to surrender voluntarily, I expect that various social activists will undertake to reform the legal profession in a non-frivolous manner.

  2. Off topic question for Col. Lang: have you seen this piece at Brookings on Yemen? Your firsthand knowledge of the area would provide great perspective.

    On the topic of the post there’s little the Chinese authorities can do about the situation. There’s not much they can do to increase the number of 20 year olds in 2040 in China at this point. They can decrease the number, however.

  3. Mark Logan says:

    His predictions seem a wee bit over-wrought to me. Economic power and prosperity stem solely from population? This would amuse a Saudi. His assertion of a “low fertility trap” is to assert a hypothesis which awaits a historical case to back it up:

    I’m not sure where the line is exactly, and it certainly will vary from place to place, but over-population is achievable.

  4. james says:

    it is informative scanning the Gordon G. Chang’s Stories in the national interest headlines.. i only scanned back at far as 2014, but essentially this person writes on china, taiwan, north korea, the usa and how the usa connects with this group of countries or areas…

    he tends to take a particular position and sticks with it.. hard to know if his position has much relevance or whether any of it is accurate either… maybe.. here is the wikipedia profile on him – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_G._Chang

    • Pat Lang says:


      Ah, a lefty hatchet job.

      • james says:

        what does a righty hatchet job look like??

        • Pat Lang says:


          When I see one I will point it out.

          • james says:

            thanks! for the record, i am not saying what he says is not true.. i have no idea… from reading the headlines to most all of his stories that he or his editor is responsible for, i would figure the sky is falling 24-7 when it comes to chinas ascendancy here…. china is going in the opposite direction of the usa at this point – that is what it looks like to me..

    • Yes, Gordon Chang is a China perma-bear. So what? That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s wrong.

  5. Jose says:

    Maybe they can start to import illegal aliens from Central America in support of Biden.

  6. Deap says:

    The following link gives one pause whether the Evergreen cargo ship now blocking the Suez Canal was really blown off course by erratic desert winds; or by the calculated winds of an international power play to disrupt the China trade, or at least make it more expensive for China goods to reach market:


    NB: Epoch Times has a notable anti-CCP bias.

  7. Yeah, Right says:

    It all comes down to this line: “Yi’s estimates look reliable.”

    If I read the article correctly then everything is extrapolated out from the observation that registered births “plummeted from 2019”.

    If you then make the assumption that this plummet continues on for the next 80 years then, yeah, sure, the US popln will overtake the Chinese popln in 2100.

    Can I point out this sentence?
    “True, Beijing scrapped the notorious one-child policy, perhaps history’s most ambitious social-engineering project, as of the beginning of 2016 and there was a spurt of births that year, but since then births have fallen every year.”

    Sounds to me that the most likely explanation for the sharp decline in 2019 is that this represents a temporary (albeit dramatic) dip caused by the change of a long-standing government policy i.e. the burst that occurred post-2016 satisfied a pent-up demand, leading to a lessening of demand in 2018-2019.

    Yi appears to be taking the low-point of 2019 as the new baseline, which may be just as inaccurate as taking the high-point of 2016-2017 as the baseline.

    The truth is more likely to lie in the middle, isn’t it?

  8. Cortes says:

    Not much sign of adherence to the single child policy among the young Chinese in Britain these days. Three seems to be quite usual, judging by my occasional sighting of primary schools coming out. Perhaps the mother country is exporting its population growth? Stealth colonisation?

  9. diffcult bird says:

    “Nowhere does Blumenthal compare China’s predicament to those of its competitors. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Italy are aging faster than China, according to UN projections, and the US is not far behind. Without Hispanic immigration (which contributes disproportionately to fertility), America’s rate of aging would be about the same as China’s.”


    The demographic picture of the U.S. is not much brighter than China’s. Gordon Chang, as usual, is exaggerating China’s problem.

  10. Eric Newhill says:

    I’ve never understood the big concern over declining birth rates. I’m not one of those that thinks humans are a virus like plague upon the earth; the sooner gone the better, but I’ve also never heard anyone make a compelling case for why more is always better.

    I get that there are economic risks associated with too few working age people supporting too many post-working age. But at what proportions does that occur? All other arguments around this topic seems, to me, to involve a heck of a lot of nuances and points of diminishing return. Instead we get binary superficial statements. somehow it is all reminiscent of peek oil theories.

    The Chinese recognized they needed to control birth rates and implemented population control policies decades ago. So I’m pretty sure that the assertion that China prides itself on being the most populated country on the planet comes with qualifications. The Chinese have always impressed me as being highly rational people who base policies on sound and thorough analysis and long term planning. Chang, on the other hand, seems to me to be another quasi-IC/think tank stooge tasked with developing anti-China pseudo-intelligence. Kind of like the neocon reshape the Middle East crowd on the late 80s and early 90s.

  11. Clueless Joe says:

    Well, I hope people are aware that if the US still experiences significant demographic growth in the next decades, it will mostly be from the immigrant population, WASP demographic growth is very limited. If USA overtakes China in population by 2100, it won’t exactly be your good old traditional USA but a very different one.

    • Deap says:

      Story of California demographics – Anglo population out-bred by newly arriving hispanic population. Anglos now a minority population group in the state. Anglo birth rate: 0.5 plus a dog; Hispanic birthrate: 5-6.

      Missing however, are any protected minority status, preferences or privileges for the endangered Anglo species in this state. Those still remain in place and accrue to the new Hispanic majority, including bi-lingual job application preferences. mono-glot Anglos need not apply.

  12. LondonBob says:

    When it comes to population it is quality not quantity. Obvious enough but it contradicts the blank slate ruling ideology, China will be just fine, we won’t be.

  13. Gordon says:

    Actually, I suspect a declining population might improve China’s economy.

    The traditional view that more people = stronger dates to the era when production was done by people and animals. It’s been sustained past its sell-by date because more people at the bottom made for more intense competition between them meaning wages were bid down which is why, even now, elite run governments in the US and UK can’t (really don’t want to) get immigration under control.

    If there are less people, wages will tend to rise as those at the bottom are paid better so creating a less stratified society in which their buying power makes for a more buoyant economy.

    If that is how is goes, China wins with just 400 million (and a much better environment).

  14. baoutsi says:

    Even if this is the case, China will not have a problem for at least a generation. China does not need more people, she needs more educated Chinese and less farmers.



  15. Eol says:

    This idea that population is central to growth and/or collapse is Malthusian and outdated. As said by previous contributors, growth is aligned to with social capital .. and that comes with intensive education to individual .. not mass numbers of farmers with a low cap to production and consumption. The article completely misses that point (and ignores that the situation is more complicated in Japan and South Korea.. which are chinas rivals and Americas allies)

  16. J says:

    Ah yes, Andrei Amalrik , the complete dissident. Sadly he succumbed in a car crash in Spain.

  17. Ed Lindgren says:

    For the last 30 years, ‘experts’ such as Gordon Chang have been predicting the inevitable collapse of China due to demographic winter, pollution, a fragile banking system, or (fill in your personal favorite here).

    David P. Goldman (aka Spengler) has written repeatedly in his columns at Asia Times Online that if America’s strategy for dealing with China is to wait for this much predicted internal collapse to occur, then America has no strategy.

    Goldman has also written that America has about ten years to get its internal act together so that it can compete with China economically. This would include greatly improving K-12 and undergraduate university education, investing in infrastructure, additional funding for research in high technology, and getting our fiscal house in order.

    Now that is a tall order for the next decade! Wonder if we are equal to the task? Naw, too busy worrying about 120 year old statues of Confederate generals and which gender pronoun to use.

    • Sam says:


      In the 80s, all the rage among the think-tankers, academia, media talking heads and government policy makers was about how Japan was going to take over as the next economic super-power.

      They had the best infrastructure. Their hybrid model of private enterprise structured as keiretsu guided by the omniscient MITI was the model for the future. There were few who noted demographics, the relative size of their banking system and inability to unlock innovation within such a hierarchical framework. Where is Japan 40 years from when the land on the Imperial Palace grounds was valued more than all the real estate in California?

      Is China already at it’s peak or is their power only going to grow over the next 40 years? Will they be able to overcome the middle-income trap like Japan did? IMO, the tides changing on China.

      Not that the tides not changing for the US. We are not growing productivity and the oligarchy is getting more powerful and entrenched. Big Government and Big Business is rather statist.

  18. Mark Logan says:

    I struggle with the image of China as an implacable enemy. Our main bitch seems to be they are dominating manufacturing. True enough, yet it wasn’t the case they came here and seized our manufacturing, we shipped it to them every time it saved someone here a nickel to do so. What would Pogo say?

    • Deap says:

      “We have met the enemy, and he is us”.

      (For those who may no longer know the lessons of Pogo – which were certainly imprinted in a prior generation’s brains.)

      Who knew as a child how political Li’l Abner was too. But I was at least sly enough to enjoy the devilish humor of MAD magazine, even at a tender young age.

    • mcohen says:


      Chinese people do not consider other races as anything other than a neighbour.Like an elephant and a giraffe.Bothe unique but forever separate.

      • Mark Logan says:

        Yes, to my eye they have been all but purely transactional in their relations with others. They don’t dream if re-making the world in their image they just want to make a buck off it.
        I suspect for the most part the Chinese are aware the ideology that shaped their state is BS, they cling to it because a powerful one-party central state provides stability. The great starvations are within living memory, the horrors of their civil wars right behind.

  19. Sam says:

    Who are the Chinese communist party’s friends around the world? States and people who genuinely like them and work with them closely?

    • Deap says:

      Uhhhhh, with 1.6 billion people (give or take) in their own backyard, they can bring enough of their own friends along with them to not need anyone else.

      But you are right, I suspect it was a huge blow when they lost Albania to the west, but NK remains firmly in their grasp. I guess Bernie Sanders can also toss in the entire state of New Hampshire too. US Academia has a very soft spot for things CCP Chinese.

      I suspect the three generation rule will take down CCP, not unlike it took down USSR- the (3) children of the (2) children of the (1) elite by the third privileged generation will go too soft to lead the mobs who want freedom.

    • Yeah, Right says:

      “States and people who genuinely like them”…

      Charles de Gaulle: “France has no friends, only interests.”

      That is true of all states, which would suggest that the idea that China’s standing in the world can be measured by how “likeable” they are is naïve.

      …”and work with them closely?”

      That much more objective.

      I’d suggest that any country that has signed up the the BRI has made the decision to work closely with China.

      Which would amount to quite a number of countries.

  20. ISL says:

    I must say balderdash to mr Chang:

    In the future it will be the number of robots not people, and there china leads by far.


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