Liang Jianzhang: will the Chinese people die out in a thousand years?

category:Finance
 Liang Jianzhang: will the Chinese people die out in a thousand years?


Author: Liang Jianzhang (founder of Ctrip, Professor of Guanghua School of management, Peking University, columnist of Netease Research Bureau)

Recently, I said on the wonderful talk show that if every generation is halved, the population of China will be less than that of the United States in 100 years. A thousand years later, after thirty or forty generations, how many Chinese are left? The third power of two is one billion. After thirty generations, the third power of two is one billion. Now there are more than one billion people in China. That is to say, if we all maintain this status quo after one thousand years, and if Chinas current fertility rate continues, there will be no Chinese after one thousand years. As a civilization and a race, the Chinese are extinct.

However, due to the time limit of the program, some of my views could not be explained in detail in the program, so I wrote this article to add a few points:

First, the extinction of the Chinese people in a thousand years is mathematically speaking, but the population problem is not a purely mathematical problem. The history of population development shows that the fertility rate cannot be unchanged in a thousand years, and even it may change dramatically in decades. For example, in 1970, Chinas fertility rate was as high as 5.81. By 1991, Chinas fertility rate had dropped to about 2.1, which is far below the replacement level. In just a few decades, Chinas fertility rate has dropped from much higher than replacement level to much lower than replacement level.

Second, I said on the program, one thousand years is thirty or forty generations, that is, the average generation is 25-30 years old, which is according to the current standard. But we cant predict how many years each generation will be in the future, because if the per capita health life expectancy is greatly extended in the future, and the childbearing age is also greatly delayed, then each generation may not be 25-30 years old, but may be 35-40 years old.

Third, I said on the program, we have been calling on the state to issue more policies to help every family to be able to have a second child, and to be able to afford to have a second child. but in fact, it is not enough to only encourage the birth of a second child, because considering the factors of not marrying and infertility, even if all married and fertile women have a second child, The fertility rate is also less than 2.0, still below replacement level. If the fertility rate of a countrys population is always lower than the replacement level, then the population will eventually be extinct, only sooner or later, unless a large number of foreign immigrants are introduced.

In fact, Japanese and Korean scholars have calculated the extinction time of their own population. For example, according to the research conclusion of Northeastern University of Japan, on August 16, 3766 A.D., it may become the doomsday clock of Japanese extinction. The timing was based on fertility rates in 2014 and 2015, according to Yoshida and Ishigaki, two economists at Northeastern University in Japan. On December 26, 2019, Japanese Prime Minister Abe said that the number of births in 2019 fell by 900000 for the first time. Now its a very serious situation. Its a national disaster.

In 2014, a study by the national legislature of South Korea showed that if the fertility rate is maintained at the level of 1.19 children per woman without the reunification of North Korea with South Korea and the influx of large numbers of immigrants into South Korea, South Koreans will be naturally extinct in 2750.

Although Chinas fertility rate is higher than that of Japan and South Korea in recent years, about 1 / 4 of the Chinese born in 2016-2018 can be attributed to the temporary fertility accumulation brought about by the comprehensive two-child policy. After deducting the accumulation of two children, Chinas natural fertility rate in recent years is only about 1.1, significantly lower than Japans 1.42, only slightly higher than South Korea in recent two or three years.

From the perspective of fertility intention, the average fertility intention of Chinese in recent years is far lower than that of Japan and South Korea. According to the survey data of kgss and the world bank, from 2006 to 2014, the average number of ideal children of Korean was 2.45-2.55. According to the survey data of JGSS (Japan comprehensive social survey) and the world bank, from 2000 to 2012, the average number of ideal children in Japan was 2.41-2.60. According to the data of the national fertility sampling survey conducted by the national health and Family Planning Commission in 2017, from 2006 to 2016, the average number of ideal children of Chinese women of childbearing age was 1.96, while the average number of planned children of women of childbearing age was 1.75. It can be seen that the average willingness of Chinese people to have children is not only significantly lower than that of Japan, but also significantly lower than that of South Korea.

Generally speaking, the actual fertility rate is lower than the birth intention, because some couples want to have children, but suffer from infertility or miss the birth period. Moreover, for the urban working class, many young couples feel great pressure to raise a child. Even if they want to have a second child, they are afraid of having a second child, considering that it takes a lot of money and energy to raise another child.

The experience of other countries in the world also confirms the conclusion that the actual fertility rate is lower than the fertility intention. For example, from 2000 to 2012, the average number of ideal children in Japan was 2.41-2.60, but the actual fertility rate was 1.25-1.41. From 2006 to 2014, the average number of ideal children of Korean is 2.45-2.55, but the actual fertility rate is between 1.1 and 1.3.

With reference to the situation in Japan and South Korea, according to Chinas average ideal number of children is 1.96, and the average number of planned children is 1.75, if fertility is fully liberalized, Chinas actual fertility rate may only be about 1.1. If the fertility rate stays at 1.1 for a long time, it means that the birth rate will be halved for every generation. So its not enough to just let go of childbearing. China must introduce policies to encourage childbearing so as to reverse the decline of low fertility.

First, raising children and preventing the aged is the economic motivation of the past, but with the popularization of pension socialization and the change of social concept, this motivation has basically disappeared. Even those parents who are willing to have more children are rarely expected to rely on their children to provide for the aged in the future. Economically, raising children is a kind of altruistic behavior that provides public goods to the society with its own hardships.

Third, urban families regard having only one child as their default state of birth. Urban families generally believe that its normal to have only one child, while it needs enough reasons to have more children. This is the only phenomenon in the history of human civilization that the default value of the number of births is set on the number that can not maintain the normal reproduction of ethnic groups.

Fourth, for a long time, the higher fertility rate in rural areas can compensate for the extremely low fertility rate in urban areas, but this is changing. Most of the young people in rural areas have been working and living in cities at ordinary times, facing greater pressure than the young people in urban areas, so their concept of childbearing is moving closer to the city.

Despite various downward pressures on Chinas fertility rate, it is not easy to draw a definite conclusion whether Chinas population will experience a miracle of rebirth or a catastrophe of extinction after a thousand years. I believe that because Chinas system has the advantage of focusing on major issues, if China can fully liberalize and vigorously encourage fertility as soon as possible, and can effectively improve the fertility rate, then the Chinese will not only not be extinct, but also be able to maintain the population size advantage for a long time.

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