Wednesday, June 27, 2007

China: Observations of an Economist

China growing old before it grows rich
"You see [China's aging society] just by walking down the street. There are hardly any children. It's eerie. The one-child policy has been in place for three decades and China is heading into a snap demographic transition - they've created an aging society, but they haven't put into place any social welfare system or any pensions.

"They allowed state enterprises to jettison pensions. There's no formal safety net, and they have put an end to the informal safety net of the extended family. No wonder they save so much. It's all precautionary.

"Who knows what all of this will do to China as the family structure of thousands of years comes to an end?"


China has consciously crafted its own authoritarian destiny for the past half century, relying always on coercion to compel progress. Millions of expendable people died in the Great Leap Forward (1957-1960), the Great Famine (1960-1965), and the Cultural Revolution (1967-1977). Millions more have died in the one-child policy (launched in 1978) - in abortions performed for the sole purpose of eliminating girl babies, in post-natal abandonment, and in outright killing. (Abortion is free in China, available through the ninth month of pregnancy.)

In its 2000 census report, China reported that it now has 120 male births for every 100 female births; in some parts of the country, it said, there are 135 male births for every 100 female births; other authorities have put the ratio at 150:100. By 2025, the country expects it will have more than 40 million adult bachelors for whom wives will not exist. Meanwhile, China permits adoption abroad of 12,000 abandoned girl babies a year - 8,000 alone, ironically, to the U.S.

As everyone knows, and knew in the 1970s, the only policy that China (or any other country) ever needed to limit population growth was economic growth. This economic mechanism offers the additional advantage of gender balance. China now officially recognizes that it has a huge problem - but officially maintains its barbaric, coercion-first approach.


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