January 28, 2023


Beijing in Retreat: A plunging birthrate, deepening socioeconomic divisions, and the chaos produced by China's failed Zero-COVID policy prove that Xi Jinping and the Party do not have the measure of the nation. (Aaron Sarin, 28 Jan 2023, Quillette)

As China limps out of the COVID-19 pandemic like the last straggler among nations, its ruling Communist Party appears uncharacteristically subdued. The Wolf Warriors have gone quiet; the mood is almost reflective. Beijing has been taking sober stock, realising the vulnerability of its position. Never has the Party faced so many different troubles at once.

On January 17th, authorities admitted that the country's population has finally begun shrinking, and much earlier than the UN or the CCP had predicted--indeed, much earlier than anyone had predicted, with the exception of the lone prophetic demographer Yi Fuxian. For context, this is the first time that the Chinese populace has declined since 1961, when tens of millions died in history's worst-ever famine. Today there is no comparable cataclysm; just the slow march of demographic inevitability, set in motion 43 years ago by Deng Xiaoping's one child policy (the largest social experiment in human history), and moving ever since with the cold certainty of implacable Mother Nature.

The Communist Party actually saw what was happening a full decade ago, but its two-child and three-child remedies floundered. The birthrate continued to drop (more steeply following the new policies), and the trend may have been further exacerbated by Xi Jinping's "Zero-COVID" policy and its deleterious effect on the nation's psychology. Nightmare stories circulated, like the report of a pregnant woman who lost her baby due to draconian COVID regulations. She was left bleeding onto the sidewalk in the dead of winter outside a hospital in Xi'an, her child sentenced to death by her expired test result.

These stories proved hard to forget. The Chinese people learned that they can enjoy no certainty about the future and that Xi's obsession with order leads, paradoxically, to chaos. Young couples realised that if their hypothetical children survived, they would enter a hopeless world of stagnant growth and failing services--a twilight of locked-down apartments and testing booths. Who would bring a child into such a world?

It's an ever more Unipolar world.

Posted by at January 28, 2023 8:32 AM