China’s Population Decline and its Affects on Geopolitics


Patrick Moore, Staff Writer

In early 2023, a surprising development in the People’s Republic of China occurred: the PRC lost population. With the largest population in the world and a quickly growing economy, this article will examine how this popolation trend occurred and what it means for the future.

While life expectancy is rising in China, the nation’s population decline was attributed to a low birth rate among mothers. In the early 1970s, China was faced with a demographic issue; with too many people and not enough food to feed its growing population, Chinese dictator Mao Zedong established the “one child policy” to the population growth rate.  In the years following the implementation of this policy, and combined with an increase in trade liberalization and manufacturing jobs, China’s economy grew rapidly and the country’s birth rate slowed. In fact, since the 1970s, China’s birth rates have fallen dramatically, as the average fertility rate has decreased to 1.3 births per woman from 6.1 in 1970. This decrease in birth rate has steadily continued for the last fifty years and culminated in China’s population declining by over 500,000 people in 2022 alone. This trend will also likely  to continue and become significantly greater in the future, by one estimate, China’s population could fall “down to 587 million in 2100, less than half of what it is today.” 

With China’s population decline, the Chinese government will be forced to make some difficult economic choices. With an aging population, it becomes harder for the Chinese government to fund social programs and meet the demands of an expanding military.  The World Economic Forum summarizes the difficulties that can come with an aging population, as China and its citizens “will be required to direct more of its productive resources to provision of health, medical and aged-care services to meet the demands of an increasingly elderly population.”

It also has fewer available people to serve in the armed forces, potentially limiting China’s ability to use its expansionary foreign policy tactics as seen in their recent aggression to Taiwan and military build up in the South China Sea. On the other hand, China may feel vulnerable and may try to attack Taiwan and/or other neighboring states to allow them to continue their growing economic and geopolitical status.

Regardless of which scenario happens over the next decade, China’s population decline will have significant economic and foreign policy ramifications as a result.

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