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.
People who are 39 now will be 67 in 2050. But the life expectancy in China is already 78. Even if we assume that the life expectancy stays the same, it means that people now aged 50 and below will be alive by 2050. Looking at the population pyramid, we can say that at least 200 million Chinese people aged 38+ now will be alive in 2050.
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.
To summarize, Peter Zeihan’s prediction of China’s population is off by at least 400 million. Thus, in the worst case scenario, China’s population in 2050 will be 1.1 billion, rather than 700 million. To be scientific and objective, the forecast for China’s 2050 population is between 1.1-1.5 billion.
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.
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.
China is the world’s largest producer of rice, wheat and potatoes. 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.
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 — say, sunflower seed/oil from Russia — then even the meat consumption won’t be affected.
Thus, the “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.
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. 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. 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.
Let’s start with the Yuan or Renminbi. Obviously, it has value within China. 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.
If it were not for US’ coercion and threats, many 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!
It is true that China is careful about truly 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.
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%.
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.