There are numerous extremely popular videos on YouTube about China’s imminent demographic collapse. People like Peter Zeihan have popularized the claim that China will lose half its population by year 2050. Is that possible or probable? Simple demographic math will debunk this sensational claim. Let’s take a look.
Who will be dead by 2050?
So, how many Chinese will be dead by 2050 … i.e., in the next 28 years? Well, China’s life expectancy is now 78 years. Let’s assume that it stays the same (although it will likely go up).
In 2050: Who will be 78 years of age or older?
Answer: That will be people who are now (in year 2022) 50 years or older.
Next Question: How many people are now 50 or older? The answer comes from the population pyramid — about 33% of the population.
So, right away, we see the problem with the doom-and-gloom predictions. But the anti-China people also ignore something else: BIRTHS.
How many babies will be born in the next 28 years?
It’s hard to tell how many babies Chinese will have every year over the next three decades. Here’s the data for births per year over the last decade.
COVID obviously had a big impact, and perhaps the rate will go up after next year. However, let’s be conservative and assume that there will be on the average 10 million births per year.
That means 280 million new babies by year 2050.
Net Population in 2050
So, here’s the simple math for what happens between 2022 and 2050.
Deaths = 460 million
Births = 280 million
Net population change: Decrease by 180 million. (460-280 = 180).
Population in 2050 = 1.4 billion minus 180 million = 1.2 billion!
But China Lies!
Of course, Peter Zeihan and others also claim that China lies about its population, and the real number is 100 million smaller. Okay, let’s say that it’s true (although these conspiracy theorists don’t have any solid proof for this claim).
So, China’s population in 2050 can be as low as 1.1 billion (1.2 billion minus 100 million).
Less than 10% decrease!
Assuming the worst case scenario, China’s population will decrease as follows:
2022: 1.3 billion
2050: 1.1 billion
That’s a decrease of 8.5%! Far cry from the wild and irrational claim of 50% collapse.
In terms on median age (38) and fertility rate (1.3), China is doing better than many developed nations — some like Germany, Japan and South Korea are actually much worse off.
Thanks to increased deployment of automation, robots and AI in the future, many countries will be better off with fewer people.
And here is a photo of a driverless car on the roads in Beijing:
Also, China can implement new policies to encourage more babies — like providing subsidized or free housing and childcare for young couples. At some point, China can also bring in immigrants from neighboring countries to do labor-intensive factory jobs.