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Yi Fuxian
Yi Fuxian
Yi Fuxian is a senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Big Country with an Empty Nest.

Overhyped projections and a lack of mutual trust are damaging Sino-US relations, and strategic misjudgments based on bad data could be costly. Both sides are ageing rapidly, turning any potential war into a frolic between a sick cat and a skinny dog.

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More effective than realised, the one-child policy put the brakes on China’s economic growth, created a state pension time bomb, and forced Beijing to export excess capacity, reshaping the global economy.

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There’s no denying that China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea have done an impressive job of keeping Covid-19 death tolls low. But they, and others, are likely to have declining fertility rates, which will cost their economies dearly down the road.

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The unexplained discrepancies in official data from different sources for China’s birth rate and population size only underline how the government manipulates the figures to justify its population control policies, and allow past mistakes to go unpunished.

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China has inflated its population data so much that its status as the world’s most populous country may be false. This happens so provinces can get education subsidies and Beijing can hide the results of decades of family planning.

Growth trajectories must take into account the fact that China is ageing faster than the US. The experiences of Japan, Taiwan and South Korea bear out the correlation between growth and demographics, and economists optimistic of China’s growth prospects should take note.

A look at China’s ratio of working-age population to seniors is ominously similar to Japan’s in 1992, boding ill for the Chinese dream and the global economy as a whole.