China has long seen the United States as its main geopolitical rival. But the Chinese government is facing a new threat – this one from within: a precipitous decline in the country’s birth rate, leading to a rapidly aging – and shrinking – population.

China’s population fell by a staggering 2.08 million people in 2023 to 1.409 billion, according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics. Its population had declined by 850,000 in 2022, which had been the country’s first year-over-year decline since 1961.

Photo Credit: Reuters

In 2023, the country’s population decline resulted from both a dearth of births and an increase in the death rate. There were 9.02 million births in China in 2023, down more than 500,000 from the 9.56 million in 2022.

The nation’s fertility rate – the average number of children a woman will have over her lifetime – is nearing an “ultralow” rate of 1.0. The “replacement rate” needed for a population to sustain itself is 2.1 births per woman – China’s is less than half of that.

Photo Credit: The Wall Street Journal

According to Reuters, an increase in COVID-19 cases likely contributed to the rise in deaths in 2023 – up 6.6% to 11.1 million – the nation’s highest death rate since 1974 during the Cultural Revolution.

Yet – the country’s one-child policy (instituted in 1979 and ended in 2016) – is the real culprit of the nation’s declining population. What was intended to save the nation is causing its demise. Literally.

The policy is responsible for preventing an estimated 400 million births during the nearly five decades it was in effect. On top of that, the country has virtually no immigration, meaning any population growth must come from its citizens.

The last time China experienced a decline in its population was in the 1960s amid the Great Famine during the reign of Mao Zedong and the leader’s failed national industrialization plan, the Great Leap Forward. An estimated 20 to 30 million people died as a result.

The nation’s dramatic decline in population – which is just beginning – has led the Chinese government to begin a frantic campaign to increase the country’s birth rate.

“President Xi Jinping said last year that women should tell ‘good family tradition stories,’ adding it was necessary to ‘actively cultivate a new culture of marriage and childbearing,’” Reuters reports.

The Chinese government has launched the largest fertility initiative in human history. Two years ago, 17 Chinese government departments “jointly released a guideline on support policies in finance, tax, housing, employment, education and other fields to create a fertility-friendly society and encourage families to have more children.”

But as University of Michigan demographer Zhou Yun has noted, “As we have observed again and again from other low fertility countries, fertility decline is often very difficult to reverse.”

In fact, no nation with a fertility rate that has fallen below 2.1 has ever managed to bring itself back above the replacement rate.

As a result, China’s fertility and population decline is just beginning; headlines regarding China’s population decline – which has great (and negative) social, political and economic implications for the nation – will be headline news for decades to come.

Reuters reports:

Long-term, U.N. experts see China’s population shrinking by 109 million by 2050, more than triple the decline of their previous forecast in 2019.

China’s population aged 60 and over reached 296.97 million in 2023, about 21.1% of its total population, up from 280.04 million in 2022.

But according to some demographers, the U.N.’s prediction for China is far too rosy.

In the book Empty Planet, social researcher Darrell Bricker and Journalist John Ibbitson predict that the nation could experience a population collapse “to between 612 and 643 million” people by 2100. “Seven hundred million people could disappear from the face of the earth,” Bricker and Ibbitson write, adding, “China appears to be on the verge of a deliberate, controlled, massive collapse of its population. Nothing like this has ever occurred.”

It has long been China’s goal to surpass the United States economically and militarily by the year 2049 – the one-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. With a rapidly declining and aging population that will continue indefinitely, it’s plan will likely fail.

It is curious that China’s atheistic communist government knows better than most that God’s first command to humanity to go forth and multiply is still very much in effect. In fact, their very existence depends on it.

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Related articles and resources:

Government Tactics Compromise Chinese Fertility Push

Discarding Genesis 1, U.S. Population Set to Decline This Century Amid World Population Collapse

The New York Times Discovers the World’s Coming Population Collapse

China Fertility Rate Falls to Record Low Amid Beginning of Global Population Crisis

China Launches Largest Fertility Initiative in Human History

Photo from Getty Images.