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  • China's population is shrinking

  • That's bad news for the Chinese Communist Party

  • Can they solve the problem

  • By forcing people to have babies?

  • Welcome to China Uncensored. I'm Chris Chappell.

  • Last week, the Financial Times  came out with an explosive report.  

  • It said China's population had declined  for the first time in five decades.

  • This would be the first time the population  has decreased since the Great Leap Forward.  

  • That wasMao Zedong's disastrous  economic policy in the late 1950s  

  • that caused the deaths of  tens of millions of people.”

  • Now the idea that China's population has  fallen for the first time in 50 years  

  • doesn't sound controversialBut we're talking about China,  

  • where anything can become a state secret if  the Chinese Communist Party is paranoid enough.

  • Population growth? State secret.

  • Real GDP numbers? State secret.

  • Chinese leader Xi Jinping's favorite  breakfast food? Definitely state secret.

  • According to the Financial Times, China's  population fell below 1.4 billion in 2020.  

  • Those population numbers come from  China's latest 10-year census,  

  • which hasn't been publicly released  yet. The Financial Times got their  

  • scoop from anonymous sources claiming  to befamiliar with the research.”

  • They added thatThe figure was considered  very sensitive and would not be released until  

  • multiple government departments had reachedconsensus on the data and its implications.”

  • Well after the Financial Times ran this storyChinese government departments reached a consensus  

  • on the data. And their consensus was that the  Financial Times is a big, fat lying liar who lies.

  • China's National Bureau of  Statistics came out with a  

  • one-line statement saying that  China's population grew in 2020.

  • And Chinese state-run media were quick to publish  

  • multiple articles denying  the Financial Times report.

  • Of course, the actual population  data still hasn't been released yet,  

  • even though the census was supposed  to be published last month. Look,  

  • Chinese statistics are an art, not a scienceAnd everyone knows you can't rush art.

  • Especially now that they have to  fudge the numbers all over again  

  • to refute that Financial Times report.

  • You know what else is an art? Reading  between the lines of Chinese propaganda.  

  • This Global Times article seems to indicate  that the census really did find that China's  

  • population was below 1.4 billion. But  they blamed that on a “statistical error.”

  • According to the Global Times,  

  • China's population didn't really drop, it was  just never 1.4 billion in the first place.

  • This is actually plausible. Some experts  have said for years that China's population  

  • estimates are inflated. One of the reasons  is that local governments are incentivized  

  • to inflate their population numbers to get  more resources from the central government.

  • That's a sign of a really functional system.

  • But the Global Times also said that China's  

  • population is likely to start  to decline as early as 2022.

  • Which is pretty interesting. Because previous  government estimates said that China's  

  • population would start to decline after 2027  or 2029. Suddenly moving that up to next year  

  • shows this is a bigger problem  than the Party previously admitted.

  • So it's quite possible China's  population is already declining.  

  • It's just too politically sensitive to say it now.

  • But why are these population  statistics so politically sensitive?  

  • I'll tell you after the break.

  • Welcome back.

  • One of the big dangers for the Chinese Communist  Party is that just as they get strong enough to  

  • become the dominant global power, their internal  problems will trigger a crisis. And China's  

  • population decline is a big crisis. One that's due  to the Chinese Communist Party's one-child policy.

  • The first problem is that China now  has too many men and not enough women.  

  • The common statistic is that there are more  than 30 million more men than women in China.

  • That leads to things like sex trafficking  women from North Korea and Myanmar.  

  • We've talked about that before on the show.

  • The second problem is that China is getting old,  

  • fast. China's working age population  has been falling since 2011.

  • If this keeps going, China won't have enough  workers to support its aging population.  

  • And with China's inadequate  pension and healthcare system,  

  • that's putting more pressure on  younger people to support older adults.

  • It's also a big problem for China's economy, which  has been built on having a huge supply of workers.

  • We've talked before about the  disasters of the one-child  

  • policy, from the hundreds of millions  of forced abortions and sterilizations,  

  • to the massive fines that were used  to make money for local governments.

  • And the tragic thing is, it turns out the  one-child policy was probably unnecessary.  

  • China's birthrate had already been falling  for a decade before the one-child policy.

  • But the Chinese Communist Party went ahead  with the one-child policy anyway, creating  

  • an authoritarian social engineering project  that screwed up their population for decades.

  • Birthrates started falling so fast that in 2016,  

  • the Party changed their one-child  policy to a two-child policy.

  • Now this doesn't mean there was more freedomIt just meant that people were allowed to have  

  • two kids instead of one. You still had tofor example, get a permit to have a kid.

  • The massive bureaucracy created by the  one-child policy was still there. For example,  

  • the military, the police, and other state-owned  enterprises all have family planning units.

  • These family planning units do things like  monitor their female employees' menstrual cycles.  

  • And you thought your HR department was bad.

  • But while the two-child policy resulted in  an initial bump in the number of babies,  

  • ultimately it hasn't worked. In 2019, China's  birthrate sank to the lowest level on record.

  • It turns out that if you spend 35  years implementing a one-child policy,  

  • a generation of only children don't really  want to have more than one child themselves.  

  • Especially because raising a kid  is getting more and more expensive.

  • The Chinese Communist Party knows this is  a problem. Which is why they're starting  

  • to act like your mother when she asks you  why she doesn't have grandchildren yet.

  • Earlier this year, the People's  Bank of China released a report  

  • calling for the central government  tofully liberalize and encourage  

  • childbirth,” meaning abandon restrictions  on how many children people can have.

  • Now this doesn't mean there will be more  freedom. This is the Chinese Communist Party.  

  • They're going to use the full power of the  state to make sure people do what they want.

  • Does this mean that the Chinese Communist  Party will force people to have babies?

  • Should we get ready for China's baby quotas?

  • I'll tell you more after the break.

  • Welcome back. Could the Chinese  Communist Party make people have babies?  

  • Well, they're definitely going to try.

  • I'm not saying China's going to go full Handmaid's  Tale. They just don't have enough women for that.

  • But the Party is already pivoting to  “encouragepeople to have more children.

  • Earlier this year, Chinese premier Li Keqiang  

  • talked about working to achieve  anappropriatefertility level.

  • Li didn't say exactly what appropriate  fertility levels were, but here's a hint.

  • State propaganda slogans are telling  couples tohave children for the country.”

  • Yes, lie back and think of ChinaThat's probably not going to work.

  • There are other ideas that might work better.  

  • Measures now being discussed range  from extending maternity leave  

  • to encouraging people to have a second child  with straight cash incentives or tax breaks.”

  • But possibly not. Similar  policies have been tried in Japan,  

  • Taiwan, and South Korea  after their birthrates fell.  

  • Things like baby bonuses, new parental leave  policies, and expanded preschool availability.

  • And they didn't work.

  • But if incentives don't work, the  Chinese Communist Party can use  

  • propaganda and social pressure. One example  of this is theleftover womencampaign.

  • That's a propaganda campaign aimed at shaming  educated women into getting married earlier,  

  • by trying to convince them that if they're  over 27 and unmarried, no one will want them.

  • And it's worked, in the sense that it's  given Chinese women in their mid-20s  

  • crippling anxiety about their futures.

  • But it's clear that this type of campaign will  continue. There have been recent proposals  

  • thatThe government should create a 'good  matchmaking environment and encourage women aged  

  • between 21 and 29 to give birth during  this optimal reproductive period.'”

  • Are we sure that these guys should be  creating a good matchmaking environment?

  • What are they going to do, make  a communist version of Tinder?

  • But don't worry, because it's not just about  matchmaking. It's also about getting married  

  • younger. There have been proposals that the  government should lower the marriage age to 18.

  • But what happens if propaganda  and social pressure,  

  • not to mention the matchmaking prowess  of the Politburo, still isn't enough?

  • Remember what I said earlier about  how the one-child policy created  

  • a massive family planning bureaucracy in China?

  • Well some expertsfear that officials will  reorient the gigantic family-planning bureaucracy,  

  • which enforced restrictions through forced  abortions, sterilizations and steep fines,  

  • toward pushing women to have children.”

  • Hey, the Chinese Communist Party loves  quotas. The two-child policy could turn  

  • into a requirement instead of  a restriction. Problem solved.

  • I'm not saying this is going to happen  immediately. But if other policies  

  • don't “persuadepeople to have enough  children, this will happen eventually.

  • And that's because this is how the  Chinese Communist Party functions.  

  • They govern through mass political campaigns that  depend on local officials filling their quotas.

  • And they already have the  family planning system in place.  

  • Instead of monitoring employees' menstrual cycles  to make sure they don't get pregnant, state-owned  

  • companies could monitor employees' menstrual  cycles to make sure they do get pregnant.

  • Instead of fining people  who have too many children,  

  • local governments could fine people  who don't have enough children.

  • Instead of forced abortions, the  Communist Party could limit birth control.  

  • Actually, they already did that once, under Mao.

  • Which led to a population explosionwhich led to the one-child policy,  

  • which led to the population decline, which...hmmm.  

  • It's almost like giant authoritarian  social engineering policies don't work.

  • But I wouldn't want you to think that everyone  would be forced to have more kids under the  

  • Chinese Communist Party's pro-natal policyEthnic minorities will still get sterilized.

  • And now it's time for me to  answer a question from a fan  

  • who supports China Uncensored on  the crowdfunding website Patreon.

  • Rswaggs asks

  • Why doesn't China invest into fish farmsThey must be cheaper than artificial islands.

  • This was a question from our episode on how  China's fishing fleets are wrecking the oceans.

  • Well, Rswaggs, China does invest in fish farms.

  • In fact, they have massive floating fish farms  

  • that provide two-thirds of  the world's farmed fish.

  • If you eat tilapia, it's probably from China.

  • The bad news is, that China has had food  safety issues with their fish farms.  

  • Farmers tried to deal with polluted water by  feeding fish pesticides and antibiotics that  

  • are illegal to use in other countries like the USWhich led to import bans on Chinese farmed fish.

  • In recent years, Chinese fish farmers  have tried to clean up their practices.

  • But even in China, consumers who have enough  money prefer wild-caught fish from North America,  

  • Australia, and other places that  they think of as having clean water.

  • Meanwhile, I've stopped eating tilapia.

  • Thanks for your question, Rswaggs.

  • And a big thank you to everyone who  supports China Uncensored on Patreon.

  • Visit Patreon.com/ChinaUncensoredpledge a dollar or more per episode,  

  • and you'll also get to ask  me questions on the show.

  • Once again I'm Chris ChappellThanks for watching China Uncensored.

China's population is shrinking

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One-Child Policy Fail: Could China Force People to Have Babies?

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    zijun su posted on 2021/05/06
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