The impending collapse of China’s population creates a “closing window of opportunity” that could spur President Xi Jinping to be “more provocative, more belligerent,” a China expert said.
“Xi must be in a panic. His primary form of diplomacy is to intimidate others,” Gordon Chang told Fox News. “If you’re going to have the world’s largest economy, if you’re going to be the most populous society, yeah, you can intimidate others.”
“But if your country is rapidly shrinking, and that’s what’s going to happen to China, then no one is going to be particularly scared,” he added.
WATCH MORE FOX NEWS DIGITAL ORIGINALS HERE
China’s population fell in 2022 to 1.411 billion, down about 850,000 people from the previous year, according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics. This marked its first decline since Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward, a failed economic campaign that led to widespread famine and death from 1958 to 1962.
A United Nations forecast shows China’s population decreasing 100 million by 2050 and 600 million by 2100 due to an aging population, a shrinking workforce and declining fertility rates.
“Population decline will severely undercut the ability of the economy to grow,” Chang said. “China’s demographic dividend was largely responsible for the growth of the Chinese economy in the ’80s and ’90s. That was an extraordinary bulge in the workforce. Now we are seeing the opposite of that.”
Chinese officials have tried for years to slow down the impending demographic crisis, removing its one-child policy and offering incentives to encourage families to have children.
The city of Hangzhou announced it will give $2,900 to parents who have a third child this year, according to to Zhejiang Daily. Shanghai is increasing the amount of paid leave for couples getting married to 30 days, up from the standard three days.
RUSSIA DITCHES NUCLEAR SECURITY AMID CHINA VISIT, ‘DANGEROUS DECADE’ AHEAD, EXPERT WARNS
“They can trigger a bump for a year or two, but when the incentives are over, people go back to their normal birth patterns,” Chang said. “It’s going to be the steepest demographic decline in history in the absence of war or disease.”
China has had the largest population in the world since at least 1950, when the UN started keeping records. India is expected to overtake China as the most populous country by April, the UN report shows.
“This is going to be really traumatic for China,” Chang told Fox News. “Being a part of the world’s most populous tribe is really a matter of pride for the Chinese.”
“To have India overtake China is adding insult to injury, at least in Chinese minds, because they see Indians as inferior,” he added.
VIRGINIA DEMS CLAIM THAT TEACHING ABOUT EVILS OF COMMUNISM WILL OFFEND ASIAN AMERICANS. HOW OFFENSIVE
There are a number of reasons why the young generations in China are choosing not to start families, including the high cost of childcare and an overall gender imbalance in the country.
But a pervasive pessimism felt by the Chinese people will be the toughest to deal with, Chang said. Unrest beginning with the country’s strict “zero-covid” policies led to some youth calling themselves China’s “last generation.”
“There are many things that make me think my generation is likely to be China’s last, or its last ‘good’ one,” Shanghai resident Dylann Wang told Insider in May “None of my friends want to have children. And I, for one, don’t want to bring a new life into a world like this, and for them to grow up to be lonely, aimless, and another useless statistic in the country’s birth rate.”
“I think that sums up what people in at least urban China are thinking,” Chang said of the now-censored hashtag #lastgeneration. “These attitudes are baked into Chinese society. The Communist Party, for all its power, can’t change them. It can’t force people to have children..”
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
Without any feasible solutions, China’s demographic crisis is creating a “closing window of opportunity” for Xi to act on his territorial ambitions and invade a neighboring country, Chang said.
“I think he probably has a use-it-or-lose-it mentality,” he said.
Knowing that new generations will only continue to shrink “forces Xi Jinping to act sooner than he’d like, and it would force him to act more provocatively than he would otherwise,” Chang added. “So we’ve got to be concerned about China, but not a couple of decades from now, we’ve got to be concerned about China at this moment.”
To watch the full interview with Chang, click here.