January 24, 2023

Is China doomed?

40 comments:

Mr Wibble said...

China's had ten years left for how many decades?

I think it's in for some rough times ahead, but so is the West in general, and especially the U.S.

rhhardin said...

Doom an evil deed, liven a mood. (Palindrome)

Kay said...

Well, no need to ban tiktok then.

tim maguire said...

10 years is nuts, but yes, China is doomed. China is a lot more like the Soviet Union than most people realize. Historically, it is not one country, it is many provinces held together by a strong central government.

And then look at what they are facing--it is too late for China to get rich before it gets old, it are heading into a demographic tailspin, and the belt and road initiative will not get them the international influence they want from it.

Not in 10 years, but maybe in our lifetimes, certainly our children's lifetimes, China will return to its historical norm of many little countries.

RideSpaceMountain said...

Ah yes...my - and the Naval War College's - favorite subject.

No.

The Vault Dweller said...

One of my friends linked this clip to me a couple weeks ago and asked what I thought. I responded by linking him a book titled, "The Coming Collapse of China", by Gordon Chang. In that book Chang predicted the collapse of China in 10 years time. That book was published in 2001.

RideSpaceMountain said...

China is not doomed. China is asshoe, but it's not doomed. The boundaries for what constitute a catastrophe are significantly wider in places with a history of unsentimentality.

China's 'doom' boundaries are the widest of any nation on planet Earth, and many many smart people have been made to look like fools underestimating the limit of their pain threshold.

Narr said...

Well, we can hope.

mezzrow said...

Hope to be able to see if he's right on that 10 years thing.
Zeihan's dog and pony show w/ slides is entertaining. There are at least a dozen versions out there on YouTube for those interested. Makes you see things you didn't see before. It's all about geography and demographics in his filter. Time will tell.

Lem Former Twitter Aficionado said...

Couldn't China survive like our debt has survived?

If debt doesn't kill, why are we so sure anything else does?

If they (by "they" I mean China) don't acknowledge it, maybe it won't happen.

Owen said...

How does one say "Pass the popcorn" in Mandarin?

wendybar said...

Aren't we close to that according to AOC?? She said that we had 12 years left about 4 years ago or so.

Amadeus 48 said...

This demographic fact has been around for a long time. Four grandparents, two parents, one child doesn't work. Japan is living it out.

The future belongs to those who show up for it.

Readering said...

Zaihan has a book last year predicting bad things for the world (maybe less for US). But even he did not forsee what a megalomaniac Xi has since become as he extended reign past the retirement that became traditional post Mao.

Folks here will want to disregard him since he factors climate change into his analysis.

Wa St Blogger said...

So, this is the same 10 years that as the Climate Change 10 years? Their demographics suggest that they could be in for some big trouble, but the ability to predict what WILL happen based on this is pretty sketchy. A lot of things could change. Civil war could break out or Xi could be ousted and that leaves a lot of various scenarios such as a harsher regime, to one that builds bridges to other nations. I am not good at guessing these things, I just know that things never happen like the experts say.

Rabel said...

Without the one-child policy what would China's population be now?

Saint Croix said...

The "one child" policy was insane.

China forced abortions on innocent women.

There's nothing "pro-choice" about telling women and men you can only have one baby.

So it's a little shocking (and revealing) how some people in the west supported this totalitarian rule by an evil dictatorship. The criticism was rather muted, put it that way.

Let me use Time Magazine as an example.

Here's Laura Fitzpatrick, 2009. "Is the world's most populous nation about to get more crowded?"

My takeaway is that she ain't pro-life, she ain't pro-choice, and she loves the "one child" policy and hopes it continues. So are you "middle of the road," Time Magazine? Or an apologist for mass murder and infanticide? History will be the judge.

Now flash forward six years. It's 2015. China has finally said, "oops," and changed the rules. Now people can have two children! And Time Magazine is still clueless.

China’s one-child policy may have prevented a desperately poor country from feeding up to 400 million extra mouths. Indeed, Communist officials credited their restrictive family planning with creating the conditions for the nation’s remarkable economic expansion. From producing around 6 children in the late 1960s, the average Chinese woman now bears around 1.5 offspring. If current trends continue, China’s population, now roughly 1.35 billion strong, will begin to decline by 2030.

One year later, it's 2016. Nothing has changed in the facts and the reality of what was going on. But oh shit, did the narrative change or what?

This year marked the death of the world’s most despised social-engineering experiment: China’s one-child policy, which was unveiled in 1979 in the belief that communist cadres could reduce the number of mouths the People’s Republic needed to feed. In the end, it turned out that nature works; populations naturally taper as a society grows wealthier. But for the 13 million or so unregistered Chinese, most of whom were born in contravention of family-planning regulations, the one-child policy’s devastating effects still endure.

Some costs of China’s family planning, which limited most urban families to a single child, are well known. Because of the abrupt lowering of the birth rate, China will grow old before it grows rich. The nation is already facing a labor shortage. Because of a traditional preference for boys, the nation is missing millions of girls. How will China deal with this excess in testosterone? Because of a scheme of forced abortions and other invasions of privacy, many Chinese lost faith in their government.


Huh! I wonder if any Americans have lost faith in their journalists!

Ampersand said...

I prefer my bold predictions to have a nice manageable 10 year falsification/verification window. Zeihan makes sense, and his factual predicates have a strong empirical basis. The Chinese in the CCP are many things, but stupid is not one of them. We will get to see how this plays out.

minnesota farm guy said...

This week seems to be "look what's happening to China" week. Maybe demography is destiny. Certainly an aging population has had an impact on Japan. Perhaps it will on China as well. Certainly it will affect internal growth and if we finally use our heads and stop sending our manufacturing there, internal growth will become much more important.

Tim Maquire makes a very good point. Look what happened to the Soviet empire. I find it hard to believe that there isn't a good deal of centrifugal force to permit the provinces to regain some form of self-government. On the other hand the Communist party of China is a pretty hard handed crew and I would not like to be the one leading the charge for independence.

Paul said...

Well when you think about it... Communist countries tend to fall after about 70 years.

Been about 70 since China went CCP.

Dave Begley said...

We can send to China the 6m illegal aliens Biden let in.

Lawrence Person said...

Zeihan has been saying this for a while. There's a fair amount of evidence behind his assertion, but he does tend to overstate his case.

Original Mike said...

""The Coming Collapse of China", by Gordon Chang. In that book Chang predicted the collapse of China in 10 years time. That book was published in 2001."

Well, Chang…

Hey Skipper said...

Ten years seems a bit quick, but demography is destiny.

And China's population, thanks to its insane One Child policy, is starting to sink like a well-greased safe. (Heck, Japan's PM today said its birth rate has put the country at the edge of an existential crisis. And Japan is a heck of a lot better run than China.)

Paul Ehrlich isn't getting nearly the credit he deserves.

Gospace said...

From some reports, some of the central parts of China are already ruled by local warlords- or their equivalent- who pay fealty to the central government, as in money, but rule as they please otherwise.

China is having border clashed with India. 95% plus of China's population lives north and east of Teng Chong- which is clse to Burma, well east of India. China will lose any war it starts there. And they know it. India has rail transpot enabling it to move war quantities of men and equipment along it's intire border. China doesn;t have any rail transport to it's border with India. See https://www.openrailwaymap.org/ for a look. CHina has one, exactly one road, to get equipment to the border with India. India has dozens of road approaches to any part of the border with CHina. Neither has the equivalent of I-90 or I-5 along our nothern and southern borders.

China's central government may fall, leaving control of it's nuclear arenal is several hands, but CHina itself will continue on. Our quandry if the central government fails is- who controls the nukes?

Kevin said...

This guy doesn't even mention that all of China will be under water by the year 2000 from the melting of the polar ice caps.

Narr said...

To be pedantic, there's China (actually, more than one in reality, and potentially) and there's any particular regime, such as the current CCP and the Xi-tendency.

A lot of discussion of population politics and policy around here seems to be premised on the idea that the world would be better off right now if the Chinese Reds hadn't interfered with their birthing people so. Why should anyone think so?

To the degree that social life is a struggle of group/tribe versus group/tribe--and it is, mostly--anything that other groups/tribes do to fuck themselves is OK with me.

Let's watch.

Original Mike said...

"CHina has one, exactly one road, to get equipment to the border with India."

Can't imagine that road would last long in a war. And if Zaihan's point that a war with the US would shut down China's food and energy imports is valid, they've got a lot of gall being an asshole-nation.

I hope US companies continue to pull their manufacturing out of there. Not a smart place to do business.

Drago said...

RideSpaceMountain: "China is not doomed. China is asshoe, but it's not doomed. The boundaries for what constitute a catastrophe are significantly wider in places with a history of unsentimentality.

China's 'doom' boundaries are the widest of any nation on planet Earth, and many many smart people have been made to look like fools underestimating the limit of their pain threshold."

Quite correct.

The ChiComs have made it clear many times over the last several decades that they could lose a billion people and still have a "viable" society. This brag was usually in concert with discussions of nuclear war but it clearly extends to how the leadership views any eventuality....just as long as their competitors suffer more.

Achilles said...

Japan suffered the same fate.

Every country with the diamond shaped demographic curve goes the same way eventually.

The question is how much will they flail on the way down.

China has a lot of extra men.

effinayright said...

Mr Wibble said...
China's had ten years left for how many decades?

I think it's in for some rough times ahead, but so is the West in general, and especially the U.S.
*****************

Zeihan argues just the opposite, claiming the U.S., Canada and Mexico
have exactly what's needed to deal with de-globalization: friendly relations, vast energy and natural resources, skilled labor forces, highly developed transportation systems, and a unified trade zone, NAFTA.

Meantime, he says the US dollar will remain strong, as a safe place for savers and investors in countries with negative interest rates to put their capital . China has placed strict restrictions on capital flight, as it has seen billions sent abroad when it has allowed its citizens to do so.

A debt default could change all of that.

We'll see.

RMc said...

How does one say "Pass the popcorn" in Mandarin?

手爆米花

Gahrie said...

China has a lot of extra men.

So does India, and for very similar reasons. If China doesn't end up attacking Russia it will be cause she's at war with India.

Luke Lea said...

Bullshit. This guy is full of it.

Saint Croix said...

One of the horrific parts of the Time articles, for me, was the obliteration of individual people.

The refusal to think about an individual human being, a pregnant woman. And how horrific it would be to violently assault her in order to kill her baby.

Instead there's all this damn prattle about statistics. From the second article...

400 million extra mouths.

the average Chinese woman now bears around 1.5 offspring.

China’s population, now roughly 1.35 billion strong

Why would you talk about demographics in an article about rape (I'm going to classify a man forcibly aborting a pregnant woman a "rape," you feminists please yell at me if you think this is an error), and baby murder. I know Ivy Leaguers are trained to ignore baby murder in our finest universities, but I could have sworn rape was still a thing.

Why the fuck would you pull back the camera so far that you're off in outer space somewhere, and all the people in China are little blips?

Oh look, 100,000 blips just disappeared!

See also the liberals who insist that killing a baby in the middle of birth is a "tiny percentage of abortions."

1% of 60,000,000 is a lot of fucking murder.

Jack the Ripper killed 5 people.

War is a horrific event in human society, because so many people will die. But it's not actually "peace" if a society is quietly and efficiently killing innocent people over and over and over again.

Liberals used to know this.

What the fuck happened to you?

Barry Dauphin said...

Zeihan is interesting, and I think his point about demography and the amount of essential materials that China imports is important (fertilizer, pesticide, fuel, equipment, etc.). He tries to be too cute, clever, and witty. So he has an investment in entertaining people, while he talks about some very serious, and usually dry kinds of statistics. That’s good up to a point. However, he does it so much that it undercuts the seriousness of what he’s trying to say.

It seems that China does have a very serious demographic problem. They will have serious trouble paying the retirement of older people with proportionately fewer younger people in the next decade or two, and they have no realistic way of reversing this. The size of the population of 20-50 year olds is baked in. That should cause serious strain in China. They do import a lot of materials that are necessary for agriculture and feeding the population. They do have a serious problem with the amount of power Xi has. I think he’s right that nobody wants to tell Xi anything negative or contradict him, so he can simply proceed according to wishful thinking. I think Zeihan’s rhetoric is over the top and is intended to be provocative. I think he is probably directionally correct, but I suspect overstates the case.

takirks said...

It takes time for reality to work its way into the system, with all these things. Remember the 1980s, when Japan, Inc. was going to rule the world? How's that proposition looking, these days?

I don't have a brief for or against China, but I will observe one thing: Any system that embeds "bad information" into everything it does, the way China has? That system is doomed; all those "ghost cities" and "tofu construction" projects have a price, if only in terms of wasted resources and opportunity costs. China will have to pay the bill for those, one way or another.

The thing a lot of these idiots with socialist and communist pretentions fail to grasp is that an economy is basically a huge information exchange system. Is what you're doing efficient and necessary? Then the economy will reward you with more business, so long as the information flows aren't blocked by rent-seekers and oligarchs. If you're not being paid well, that's an information signal that you're not contributing something that's really necessary. Likewise, again, if the signals are blocked, then disaster ensues. It's bad enough when the information exchange gets misdirected and mismanaged in a normal economy, but when you factor in these huge "directed from the top" situations like in socialism and communism, what happens? The signals aren't even being sent; there's no feedback loop telling some bra manufacturer that Tashkent really didn't need 30,000 bras in fiscal year 1937; instead, he has to rely on some wonk in an office in Moscow telling him how many to make and send there. If the wonk got it right, somehow, all is well. If he did not, well... All of those built up signal errors with the information built up to the point where the whole endeavor came crashing down around 1989.

Xi is somewhere between 1937 and 1989, with regards to consequence catching up with his one-man decision-making process from Beijing. When that point is reached? Who knows? But, it's inevitable as the sun rising tomorrow, because you can't keep operating on bad information. You can see the results of this in Ukraine; nobody told Putin the right, accurate information because he had the guys who did that thrown out of various windows. Because of that, he expected that his highly professional, well-equipped soldiers would be greeted by one and all in Ukraine as liberators... What happened in the real world, when the fantasies he was spoon-fed by all the yes-men he gave employment to? Oh; that's right... It blew up in their faces.

It ain't like we don't have similar problems here in the US or other Western countries. The only saving grace we have going is that there's still enough residual free speech and market signal out there to inject somewhat more reality into the decision-makers choices than there are in either China or Russia.

Monocultures are bad. Information monocultures are really bad, and highly destructive. That's China's (and, Russia's...) essential flaw. Whether they can survive that all? I don't know. I rather hope they can, because that's going to be a huge chunk of humanity suffering when the whole machine finally does crash.

Narr said...

A guest at Prof van Creveld's wants us to consider the downside of a breakup of Russia. He uses the example of the awful things that happened after Wilson insisted on the breakup of Austria-Hungary in 1918. (Leave aside the likelihood of that event.)

It's an erudite reference but a little too neat. For one thing, he just assumes that what happened as that place fell apart could be influenced in some fundamental way by US policy, which is arguable at best.

When Yugoslavia fell apart there was violence; when the USSR fell apart there was little violence, although that event lit many fuses.

The trouble with Stability arguments is that they can easily lead to the reflex to prop up existing regimes just because they exist.

Which never works, and often shouldn't.

Aggie said...

"China will be gone in 10 years," he said with utter conviction and earnest, resolute certainty,"or I'll cut my man bun off."

Mike Yancey said...

“One Child Policy”...
Forced abortions, yes. I’ve read there were infanticides as well. And sometimes a girl child would be left somewhere for someone to discover, but then found too late.
Traditionally, the boy carries the family name, and more importantly will take care of the parents when they’re old. Not so a girl child’s parents.
When we were in China, we could never get a straight explanation of the ‘rules’ of “One Child”. Turns out “One Child” was mainly for the cities. We never stayed in a Chinese city of under 7 million population. Rural families WERE allowed 2 children - help with the farm and such. So rare though that the words for “brother” and “sister” practically fell out of use.
We adopted two abandoned girls, from two orphanages (“Social Welfare Center”). They’re 20 and 21 and now in University. Far better than they would’ve received in the “People’s Republic” of China.