China released the results of its 7th National Population Census on Tuesday. The past decade saw an increase of 72 million in China’s population, which now totals more than 1.41 billion. China’s population has maintained a low-rate growth, but with a trend of declining growth speed. It is highly possible that China will see a negative population growth in the future.
It is believed that this census will lead to more adjustments in China’s population policies. The country may begin to comprehensively encourage childbirth. We may see more supportive and incentive policies come out in the following years.
Over the past few years, China had gradually paid more attention to the slowing growth of population and the aging of population. It has become a social consensus in China that the central government needs to take measures to reverse or slow down such a trend.
As the latest results show, people should attach more importance to the trend. We do not need to panic. The loss of demographic dividend will have influence on China’s economy. But China is not the only country facing such a problem, since many developed countries have gone through a similar process of population aging. As China is such a huge society, it will have larger room in handling this issue compared with many developed countries. For example, China’s labor force is still generally sufficient so far.
We need to accelerate research and implementation of measures that can increase young people’s willingness to have children. A decline in people’s willingness to have children is inevitable along with social and economic development, but Chinese people cherish family values more than many Westerners. Although adjustments in population policies usually come into effect slowly, the increase in population aged 0 to 14 and the growth in the proportion of a second child among newborns have proven that the adjustments will eventually work.
Many policies that encourage childbirth in developed societies have yet to be adopted in China. The adjustment of China’s population policies is still limited to allowing a second child. The real toolbox has not been opened yet. With the further development of the Chinese economy, new social welfare should bring more benefits to women who have more children and related families. China is capable of doing this.
We should have confidence. China is a country with strong macro-control capabilities. In terms of adjusting the population structure, China will do it more effectively than Western countries have done.
Our discussions of the policy should be oriented to the future, not to the past. Some people are keen to discuss the pros and cons of China’s family planning policy and hastily label it as a “mistake” or a “failure.” This needs to be questioned. The family planning policy began more than 40 years ago when China had its own specific problems as well as consensus. Over the years, China’s rapid economic growth has intertwined with the family planning policy. We should be cautious in using today’s problems and ideas to evaluate decisions that were made in the past. The historical evaluation of the family planning policy requires longer review and more accumulation of experience.
Western public opinion interprets the changes in China’s demographic situation more from a political perspective, aiming to badmouth China. But this is ridiculous. No matter how slow China’s population growth is, the population of 1.4 billion is larger than the combined population of all Western countries. Our demographic changes have brought about realistic social problems such as a heavier burden of pensions. But its impact on China’s international competitiveness is particularly slow, and is even insignificant. China is a young rising power, and this will not change for a long time to come.
China has been aware of the new changes in its population problem. We understand that changes are needed in our population policies and we are capable of achieving this. Some claim that it is too late to make any adjustments, but such a saying is more suitable for Western countries. China is capable of making adjustments, and reforms will take place and yield effects, as long as we believe they are necessary.