How Severe Are China’s Demographic Challenges?

In 2021, there were roughly 30 million more men than women in China, and a study estimates that there are over 62 million “missing” women—females who would be alive without gender discrimination. This gap may become a factor contributing to social instability.

For centuries, China boasted the largest population of any country, giving it significant global heft. That is changing as China’s population shrinks and ages at a faster rate than almost any other country. In 2022, China’s population dropped for the first time in decades, and in 2023 India surpassed China to become the world’s most populous nation. China’s changing demographics pose major, prolonged challenges for the country and its leaders. China has for decades reaped the economic dividends that came with having a young workforce to fuel China’s emergence as a global industrial powerhouse. Now, the number of Chinese retirees will soon skyrocket, reducing the size of China’s workforce and putting pressure on China’s social safety net and healthcare system.

The Drivers of China’s Changing Demographics

China’s population grew at a breakneck pace during the mid-twentieth century, swelling nearly 50 percent between 1950 and 1970. Driven by fears of the extraordinary challenges of effectively governing a rapidly expanding population, the Chinese government began to institute population control measures in the 1970s. The “later, longer, fewer” (晚稀少) campaign, which was initiated in 1973, raised the legal age of marriage to 23 for women and 25 for men, encouraged at least a three-year period between births, and limited births to two children. Those who did not adhere to the new regulations faced penalties. This policy proved successful. Between 1970 and 1980, China’s fertility rate (the number of births per woman) plummeted from 6.1 to 2.7. 

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‘Daughter, I’ve wronged you’: Guilt and longing, as those torn apart by one-child policy search for each other

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China’s abandoned daughters search for their parents

Al Jazeera April 16, 2017

The stories of three women who were abandoned by their parents during China’s one-child policy.

Han Meng is a photojournalist and filmmaker based in Beijing.

Cai Fengxia: ‘Being reunited feels like a dream’

Cai Fengxia’s adoptive father cooks for her in Dangshan, eastern China [Han Meng/Al Jazeera]

Cai Fengxia cried as she had dinner with her biological parents for the first time in 38 years.

She had spent the past 12 years looking for the people who had wrapped her in white cloth and left her at the gate of the people’s commune of Qiaoqi Town in Jiangyin city, eastern China, when she was 25 days old.

But as she shared a meal with them she could only think about her elderly adoptive father, who was back home in Dangshan, hundreds of miles away. Tiếp tục đọc “China’s abandoned daughters search for their parents”