Debunking Peter Zeihan’s Shocking and Popular China Predictions

Here are some shocking predictions about China from geopolitical strategist Peter Zeihan:

  • China’s population can fall by 50% by year 2050. (link)
  • China, in ten years, will not exist as a functional nation! (link)
  • Entirely possible that 2022 is the last year of PRC! (link)

Zeihan is the new favorite gloom-and-doom pundit when it comes to prognosis about America’s geopolitical enemies like China and Russia. His speeches on YouTube have received millions of views; and even the U.S. military invites him to give speeches. He also has a fascinating speech style that involves frequent emphasis of words and dramatic pauses.

He focuses a lot on demographics and is obsessed with food and energy independence. Based on these three factors, he concludes that America is in a fantastic position and China is doomed. He is full of sensational predictions and extreme claims — with adjectives like “greatest,” “biggest,” and “worst” sprinkled throughout the speeches. His statistics are also cherry picked, misleading or sometimes completely wrong, as we will see.

However, Americans love just this sort of narrative. Anti-China analysts and journalists have been very popular in the U.S. for the last two decades. And however many times these people are proven to be wrong, the demand for this perspective is always high. For example, Zeihan’s predicted in April that Russia’s production of oil will fall by 50% by July, which has been spectacularly wrong.

Let’s quickly analyze each of Peter Zeihan’s China predictions and see why they are preposterous and implausible.

China’s Population Will be Halved by 2050

Peter says that China’s population will fall from 1.4 billion now to 700 million by 2050. This is impossible. Here’s why. The median age in China is now 38 (which happens to be the same in the U.S. as well). That means, half of all the people in China now are over the age of 38.

Thus, for China’s population to fall by half by 2050 — in the next 28 years — two things have to happen:

  • All the people who are now older than the median age should be dead by 2050, and
  • Chinese people will have zero children for the next 28 years.

But neither of this can happen! Here’s why:

Life expectancy in China is already 78. Even if we assume that the life expectancy stays the same, it means that only people now aged 50 and above will be dead by 2050. As shown below, Chinese people below the age of 50 now will be alive in 28 years (i.e. by 2050).

Looking at the population pyramid, we see that people above 50 make up 33% of the population now — about 450 million.

Thus, the total number of deaths (between now and 2050) will be 450 million and NOT 700 million as Peter Zeihan claims. This means, that the population will be about 1 billion in 2050.

Furthermore, there will be new births that add to the population.

As for babies, yes, it’s true that the number of newborns has been dropping precipitously in China. In 2021, there were only 10.6 million babies born in China. Let’s say that, on the average, China has only 7 million babies every year over the next 28 years. That would be about another 200 million people.

So, the total population will be about 1.2 billion in 2050.

So, the transition from 2022 to 2050 would look like the chart below:

To summarize, Peter Zeihan’s prediction of China’s population is off by about 500 million! Thus, in the worst case scenario, China’s population in 2050 will be 1.2 billion, rather than 700 million. To be scientific and objective, the UN forecast for China’s 2050 population is between 1.1-1.5 billion.

There’s a Chinese American professor, Fuxian Yi, whose work is cited a lot by mainstream media. He’s the one who says that China’s population is actually 100 million smaller, the fertility rates are much lower etc. However, even his projection is that China’s population will be about 1.1 billion by 2050:

China certainly has a demographic crisis, but all Western and developed nations have the same or worse problem. Japan, South Korea, Germany and pretty much all the European countries face the same crisis.

And then look at the birth rates in China versus other countries like Italy, Spain, Japan and South Korea. China is actually better off!

What’s the solution? Through automation, immigration and off-shoring of labor-intensive jobs, these countries will manage this problem.

Without Food Imports, Famine Will Kill 500 Million Chinese in a Year

This is a popular narrative in the U.S. social media, even though it’s completely absurd. Especially the right-wing in the U.S. repeats this fantasy all the time. However, the fact is that China is fully self-sufficient in the basic food necessities.

Consider the following stats:

  • China is the world’s largest producer of rice,
  • China is the world’s largest producer of wheat and
  • China is the world’s largest producer of potatoes.
  • China is the world’s largest producer pf vegetables and fruits

That translates to an annual production of 211 billion kilograms of rice, 140 billion kg of wheat, and 94 billion kg of potatoes. Those three food items alone provide 2500 calories per day for every man, woman and child in China.

China also leads the world in production of vegetables as well as fruits. China produces almost 600 billion kg of veggies every year — four times as much as the next country (India) and 18x as much as the US. Thus, add in vegetables, fruits and fish caught from the ocean, and it’s obvious that nobody in China is going to starve.

Below are the charts of China’s production of vegetables and fruits. China surpasses other nations by a huge margin — including India, whose population will be larger than China’s this year.

So, what’s Peter Zeihan’s fake news all about? Soybeans! The only food China is dependent a lot on other countries is soybean, which is a big component of animal feed used for chickens and pigs. Chinese farmers and families raise about 700 million pigs every year. However, a bigger fraction of the animal feed is corn, for which China is the world’s #2 producer. In the worst case scenario, Chinese people will have to eat less meat. But if China can find substitute for soy — like, sunflower seed/oil from Russia — then even the meat consumption won’t be affected.

This is why China is considered to be “food secure.”

In summary, the narratives about “famine in China” and “500 million dead Chinese people” are just a reflection of a sick fantasy in the perverted minds of the anti-China crowd.

Many Countries Want to and Can Destroy China

In Peter Zeihan’s fantasy novel, there are numerous countries that really, really hate China. Given a chance, they will destroy China’s economy and kill hundreds of millions of people.

Let’s explore this utterly mad theory.

First, yes, China is very unpopular in many countries. In Japan, Vietnam, India and most Western countries, the unfavorable view of China is quite high. However, that does not mean that the people or the leaders of those countries want to commit genocide and kill hundreds of millions of Chinese. This hatred is just a projection of some deeply disturbed people.

More importantly, China is the #1 trading partner for 130 or so countries. Their economies depend on China. For example, Middle Eastern and African countries earn a lot of money by exporting natural resources to China. India’s strategic pharmaceutical industry gets about 80% of the raw materials (APIs) from China. About half of the antibiotics in the world come from China. The global semiconductor industry cannot function without China’s testing and assembly. The world will have no smartphones and computers without China. There won’t be any processed rare earth minerals or solar panels or electric car batteries without China, which controls more than 75% of each of those sectors. And on and on.

Most countries around the world trade more with China than with the USA

Finally, China has offensive options as well. For example, the CCP can take over all the Western companies based in China. And that’s pretty much every S&P 500 company — including Tesla, Starbucks, GM, Pizza Hut and so on. Many big names like Apple and Walmart will also be bankrupt in a month without the factories and supply chains in China.

Basically, without China, the world’s economy will collapse. You cannot kill China, the global manufacturing powerhouse, without killing yourself.

Think about how the US is not able to isolate Russia after the Ukraine invasion. Isolating China will be infinitely more difficult and mission impossible.

If the US leaves Asia, Other Countries Will Attack China

According to Peter Zeihan’s fairy tale, the only thing that’s stopping other countries from attacking China is the glorious American Navy, which is keeping the sea safe for transport. Peter’s laughable theory is that if the US leaves Asia, other countries will attack the oil tankers that transport oil to China.

Really? Let’s say that a Greek ship is transporting Saudi Arabia’s oil to China. Who will stop that ship? Nobody. It will be an act of war against multiple countries. And let’s not forget that China has 300+ nuclear bombs and missiles that can reach any place on earth.

Also, the US will never leave Asia. Even proposing that as a theory is very stupid. America’s biggest fear is China taking over Taiwan, dominating East Asia, and becoming a regional hegemon. That’s why US politicians and diplomats have been recently visiting Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam and others to shore up support.

The US will evacuate its military bases in Japan, South Korea, Guam etc. only after the American Empire collapses. Until then, the U.S. will stay in Asia to contain China.

Other Crazy Claims of Peter Zeihan

Peter just casually makes atrocious claims. Like, “China’s Yuan has no value” or “Chinese economy is significantly smaller than the US economy” or “China has the fastest growing wage in history, and the US will bring manufacturing from China to Mexico.”

It’s just one ridiculous comment after another.

“Yuan has no value” — Peter Crazy Zeihan

Let’s start with the Yuan or Renminbi. Obviously, it has value within China. Most global Fortune 500 firms have a big presence in China. For example, American retail firms like Starbucks and KFC have thousands of stores in China; and companies like Apple and Nike get 20% of their revenues from sales within China. Well, guess what, all these foreign companies in China earn their money in Yuan, which they get to exchange it for US dollar. Thus, it’s beyond stupid to say that Yuan has no value.

In the beginning of 2022, foreign investors held about ¥4 trillion (equivalent to $640 billion) of Chinese bonds. (link)

The Yuan is also a part of IMF’s SDR basket of currencies. China’s trade is worth whopping $6 trillion a year and growing. At some point, it’s only natural that Yuan will become a dominant currency in global trade. (Listen to Ray Dalio on this historical fact). For example, Saudi Arabia is considering accepting Yuan for oil. India is actually paying for Russian coal in … Yuan.

Many countries are dealing with China in Yuan for some of their trade. Last year, the cross-border trade in Yuan was about ¥35 TRILLION — worth more than $5 trillion!

If it were not for US’ coercion and threats, many more countries will accept Yuan. Why is the US so threatened? Petrodollar is what underpins America’s prosperity.

Does Peter Zeihan know that 70 countries are holding Yuan in their foreign exchange reserves? A couple of months ago, the Bank of Israel joined that crowd. And Yuan actually makes up staggering 17% of Russia’s FOREX! In Moscow’s stock exchange, Yuan is now the most-traded currency!

It is true that China is careful about fully opening up the Yuan, since China’s economy is dependent on trade surpluses. Furthermore, Wall Street has numerous tools to attack a free-floating Yuan. However, with the digital currency coming out in the near future, the internationalization of Yuan will move forward. Moreover, thanks to US/EU sanctions, many countries will gladly welcome an alternative currency to escape American financial aggression.

Let’s remember that reserve currencies come and go. Here’s a look at the last 500 years: Portugal, Spain, Netherlands, France, and Britain all had their glorious days. Nothing lasts forever.

“China is a small economy”

As for Peter’s claim that China is “significantly smaller than the US,” here is the 2021 GDP chart. China is actually larger than the entire EU!

As I have shown before, it’s very likely that China will surpass the US as the largest economy within 5 years.

As for China’s wages, yes, China will lose some labor-intensive jobs to poorer countries. However, I have described in other blog posts why such losses have not been significant. Other countries cannot match China in terms of supply chains, efficiency, flexibility, infrastructure etc. Thus, even though Chinese manufacturing wages are 10x higher than many other developing nations, China still dominates many of the low-end manufacturing like textiles, apparels, toys etc. As a clothing exporter, China is #1 with a staggering global market share of 31%. Vietnam, Bangladesh and India combined make up only 17%.

Conclusion

On one hand, Western establishment cries about China taking over the world. Recently, FBI and MI5 chiefs declared China as the #1 economic threat. And the US constantly makes military and economic alliances like the QUAD, AUKUS, IPEF and PGII to counter China in numerous ways. Even NATO has now deemed China to be a long-term threat. The USA has slapped crippling sanctions on 100+ Chinese tech companies and is also desperately trying to sabotage China’s semiconductor industry.

Wait, if China is going to collapse soon, as Peter Zeihan claims, why is the West spending so much time and energy to contain China?

The simple fact is that the West needs buffoons like Peter Zeihan to calm down the American public and also sow doubts in the minds of leaders of other countries. Geopolitics and economics also involve a lot of psychology. Corporations and countries want to bet on the winning horse, and the US does not want the world to bet on or follow China.

China has a lot of problems, and its growth will continue to slow down dramatically. However, China is going to be an economic, diplomatic and military superpower in the emerging multipolar world. If the US continues to listen to charlatans like Peter Zeihan, it is in for a rude awakening soon.

-Chris Kanthan

17 comments

  1. Guess the Russian “war” was not factored in. Or the fact the ratio between men and women is way off. Or that every single woman needs to have at least i kid. Hope they’re not career oriented or they wont have any. Or the fact China will have to safeguard all of their imports/exports in the decades going forward.

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    1. Russian war is benefiting China with cheap oil/gas, more exports to Russia, and more demand for Yuan. Russian companies are issuing Yuan bonds; and India is paying for Russian coal/oil in Yuan.

      All the demographic details like men-women ratio are in the conservative assumption of 10 million children per year. And since rural women have more children, not all urban women need to have kids.

      Anti-China people salivated about COVID destroying China’s manufacturing, but China’s global share only increased in the last two years. https://www.wsj.com/articles/pandemic-bolsters-chinas-position-as-the-worlds-manufacturer-11661090580

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  2. Really well written article if you don’t look at facts. Fact #1. China has for sure over counted it population by about 100 million. Also, most of the younger people are men. There are nowhere near enough women. Most estimates state that almost 100 million men under the age of 38 will never have a wife and never have children. Fact #2. The cost to have children in China is sky high. Magnitudes above the cost of living. Couple cannot afford to have more than 1 child. And many women are refusing to have any or are waiting until their 30’s. As a result the average population will decrease at best more than 1% a year. And according to some it may be over 2% a year. And is now. As China is now the fastest aging society in the history of the world. The expected drop rate will increase each year. If you take into account the absolute best possible scenario China will be around 700 to 800 million by year 2100 and the is the absolute best possible outcome. Unless China starts cloning people. Fact #3. China is absolutely not food sufficient. It imports most of its food. And cannot have pig farms with wheat, rice and potatoes. China is by far the largest importer of food and by the way…energy. Fact # 4 Financial. Man…you really need to do research about the RMB. You have absolutely no understanding about international finance. None. There are so many issues here that we cannot even go into how totally wrong you are. Fact #5. The reason why the west is trying to contain China is that they are CRAZY. They use their people’s money to build war machines and want to use them to turn the east into their playgroud. Eff anyone with ties to the China Sea. Phillipines???? Malaysia????? But you should do at least a little research on the corruption of the Chinese Military. At least spend an hour. Your whole article is just foolish and plain wrong. Maybe Peter is wrong about them being at 1/2 their population at 2050. But he is not way off either.

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    1. So many ridiculous logical fallacies in your comment! LOL

      1. You are arguing by changing the goal post. If Peter had said that China’s population would be halved by 2100, I would have ignored it. Because who cares? And who knows how the world would look like in 2100?

      2) All your stats are sensational claims with no proof. Everything is a nice “100 million”

      3) Who cares about pork? Lack of pork is not going to cause famines or deaths.

      4) China builds “war machines”? Talk to America

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    2. Yi Fuxian, author of a “Big Country, Empty Nest” makes a very good case that China has been overestimating its population growth for decades at this point and official estimates of its population exceed reality by about one Japan or Mexico. Does it matter that China has 10% less people than reported? Yes, especially when those people are children. It makes China the most geriatric country in the world.

      Oddly enough, I found your blog looking for counterpoint to Zeihan, but I am frankly disappointed.

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      1. It’s even worse than you think. This ‘debunker’ conflates the median age (currently 38 years) with the ‘average’. The mean age, not the median, is much higher, and that disparity has been growing. (
        For example, the mean age of China’s population in 1982 was 27.1 years; the median age was 22.8 years – and this has dramatic implications for China’s economy.
        This has been heavily discussed, and not just by Zeihan, since well before the Trump era. For example the WEF (World Economic Forum) back in July 2016 cited the PRC’s own statistics to show the working-age population dropping from over 900 million to 700 million by 2050. The demographic picture has only worsened since, and that’s assuming nothing else goes wrong, like a civil war. In China these can be really, really bad.

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    3. Thanks Chris I was about to say many of the same things. China’s real estate and banking sectors are shambolic and about ready to collapse. This is not going to be easier for them to pull out of be way way harder than it was for us in the Great Recession. Their rates of growth were always going to have built in diminishing rates of return which we are seeing now everywhere. China almost certainly will never exceed the American GDP in my lifetime. The US is still 1/3 rd bigger and China is going to lose ground over the next 5-10 years not gain any in this department. China will never take Taiwan by force, never. They haven’t the ability even if they had the will. They will only harass and intimidate Taiwan the same as Russia has done with other weaker countries on their borders. Women are not having children. 40% of the rural Chinese have hepatitis, the people have lost confidence in Chinese institutions, etc. No country can maintain a growing super power status with a depopulation crisis the size of that in China. Their foreign lending practices are treacherous and will soon find that fewer and fewer countries want to trade or trust China not to take over their national resources when loans are defaulted on from huge construction projects that the host country can no longer finance. Communism in the end destroys everything. It has no future. Eventually, even the Chinese will discover that and end up with a substantially modified system or an abandonment of their international ambitions, or probably both.

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  3. How much did the Chinese pay you to write this?

    You don’t address the lack of force projection China has, which really does give more credibility to Peter regarding the instability of Chinese supply lines.

    You also fail to provide sources to support your position when it’s not convenient — providing only citations to your Yuan is valuable argument and some older posts. You also make assumptions to support your argument — like just because it’s been cyclical with other world reserve currencies and they lasted x years that means it’ll be the same here.

    AND fail to recognise most rare earth metals can be processed elsewhere in the world and just aren’t because of the cost (financial and environmental) at this time.

    I don’t believe that USA will be forever, but this entire post is poorly written and cited — and I’d trust Peter, a geopolitical strategist for some of the most powerful organisations in the world, over this author any day of the week.

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      1. You don’t address any of the other points. Where are your sources? What are your credentials?

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    1. Ah here we go again, another Chyyynnnnaaa doooomeeed comment. How many times people like you say this and that China will collapse, China will blah blah blah and yet nothing happened. LMAO keep coping and keep being denial, it’ll make yourself feel better, right?

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  4. China is struggling mightily and with no previous experience at solving a financial crisis this big and having worn out their welcome in the West from all the self-dealing and stealing and lying and warmongering I would not be investing a dime in their near future. When most of the worlds respected independent economist tell you for months on end that China is in deep trouble, you should probably believe it.

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    1. If China is in deep trouble and doomed, why is the US government so terrified of them? Just leave them alone and they’ll fade away.

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