In an interview with Voice of America, Yi Fuxian, a senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, author of “Worse than Japan: how China’s looming demographic crisis will doom its economic dream,” an article that the South China Morning Post published, said that China will never surpasses the U.S. and that China’s national and local entities have been overstating the population data for their own benefit.
China’s economic growth will fall behind the U.S. by 2035 because of its aging population
China censored Yi in 2016 because Yi told the New York Times when participating in the 2016 Boao Forum that China’s economy could never exceed the U.S. At that time, the statement he voiced was a big blow to China.
Yi said that population drives the economy – production, consumption and innovation. Yi predicted that because of its aging population, China’s growth will fall behind the U.S. by 2035 and will also make it impossible to surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest economy in 2028. In the 1980’s, China was going through the reform and opening up. China’s median age was 22 years old vs. 30 in the U.S. At that time, China’s economy achieved great results because it conformed to the economic law. However, China’s labor force began to decline around 2014, and the median age had surpassed the U.S. even before 2018. Currently China’s median age is 42 years old while in the U.S. it is 38 years old. If China keeps a stable birth rate of 1.2 (each woman of childbearing age has an average of 1.2 children in her lifetime), then by 2035, the median age in China will be 49 years old, while in the U.S. it will be 42. By 2050, China will reach over 56 years old, and the U.S. will be 44 years old. Between 2030 and 35, China’s population index will fall behind the U.S., which means that the economic growth will be lower than the U.S. by around 2035.
Meanwhile China’s labor force began to decrease in 2013 and 2014, while the labor force in the U.S. will not decrease until 2050. In 1991, China’s birth rate was already lower than the U.S. and in 2000 it was lower than Japan, Germany, Greece, Portugal, and Italy.
Government entities have been overstating population data
According to Yi, very few elite scholars in the U.S. conduct analyses on China’s population data and they don’t have the real data. In the more than 20 years of his research career, he found that the China’s National Family Planning Commission, the National Bureau of Statistics, the local education departments, the local household registration departments, and hospitals have been overstating the population numbers. As a result, projected economic indicators such as the future labor force, consumption power, productivity, and innovation are exaggerated, leading to the overstating of China’s future economic growth and national power.
In 2000, the census data showed that China’s birth rate was only 1.2 and there were 14.08 million births, which means that it had reached the point where China needed to boost its birth rate. However, a law and regulation director of the Family Planning Commission said that the birth rate can’t be that low, so he forged a false report. The Family Planning Commission even announced that, if China had eased up on the one child policy, its birth rate would have risen to 2.1 which would have resulted in an unlimited population expansion. The Family Planning Commission continued to report higher birth rates in 2010 and 2015 census.
In 2016, China stopped the one child policy. The Family Planning Commission projected that China would have 47 million births every year but the actual number of births was 22 million in 2015 and 12 million births in 2016. In 2017, there were discussions on whether China still needed a Family Planning Commission. In order to maintain its power, the Family Planning Commission projected that China would have 18.46 million births in 2018, but the actual births in 2018 was only 13.62 million.
Yi said that at that time, from the National Bureau of Statistics which receives data from the Family Planning Commission to the China Population Association which is managed by the Family Planning Commission, all levels of the government entities set their population numbers to meet their needs.
Even the education bureaus have inflated the student numbers because the education funds they get are jointly funded by the central and local governments based on the projected school age children. The same is for the hospitals. After 2008 when the farmers had insurance to cover child births, hospitals started to overstate the number of births to receive more funding because they knew that the National Health Commission would never be able to find out what the actual number was.
After the household registration reform took place in 2010, there were no restrictions for people to register for residential status. People started to buy or sell birth certificates. Some even have dual or even multiple household registrations. The public security bureau’s household registration data was also fraudulent because the number of household registrations was tied in with the government housing incentive and social security funding.
The National Bureau of Statistics believes that from 2000 to 2019, China had a population increase of 130 million people, while public security household registration showed an increase of 170 million. Yi estimated that, in 2018, the number of births in China was about 10 million, which would have been the beginning of a negative population growth trend. The National Bureau of Statistics, however, showed the number of births was 15.23 million, an increase of 5.3 million, and household registrations showed an increase of 9.24 million.
Source: Voice of America, March 4, 2021