The richest man in the world has voiced concern over China’s population decline.

In a recent tweet in response to a BBC article about China’s population decline, Tesla CEO, mega-billionaire Elon Musk said, “Most people still think China has a one-child policy. China had its lowest birth rate ever last year, despite having a three-child policy! At current birth rates, China will lose ~40 percent of people every generation! Population collapse.”

In the BBC article, the newspaper cited China’s National Bureau of Statistics as reporting that China’s population would grow from 1.41212 billion to 1.41260 billion in 2021. This is a record low increase of only 480,000.

The reports also show that the decline in figures over the last two years has been due to strict COVID-19 measures. Notably, this situation has been coming for years.

Here is one such case.

In late May, the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “China’s Lockdowns Prompt a Rethinking of Life Plans Among the Young

Several accounts of young Shanghai residents regarding their future plans during the city’s long-term Covid-19 lockdown were featured in this article.

Mrs. Shen is a 27-year-old piano teacher. Earlier this year, she and her husband discussed plans to have their first child. She was once hesitant, but now she made up her mind: It’s a firm no.

It wasn’t one single event that pushed her into this adverse decision but a combination of factors. Among those, the first reason was the decision by the authorities to impose a lockdown on the whole city of Shanghai. And it’s also partly due to the difficulty when it comes to shopping online for daily necessities, plus the anti-epidemic workers forcefully breaking into residents’ houses to take people out to quarantine sites. And the last straw that pushed her into that decision was a video of a corgi being killed by community workers after its owner was forcefully taken away for quarantine. 

She said, “It’s enough that our generation is being bullied.”

According to the South China Morning Post, China’s fertility rate, or the number of children per woman, was 1.15 last year. This number is also below the level in Japan, which has a similar aging population. And it is lower than the replacement rate of 2.1, which makes the overall population decrease over the long run. 

BBC further mentioned, “This has happened despite China abandoning its one-child policy in 2016 and introducing a three-child policy, backed by tax and other incentives, last year.”

The English version of Da Ji Yuan news outlet also cited a demographic study funded by the Gates Foundation and published in the Lancet. 

Researchers from the University of Washington conducted this study. The authors of the study predicted that the global human population would peak at 9.7 billion in a few decades and then begin to fall.

The authors write, “Once global population decline begins,” adding that “it will probably continue inexorably.”

China, in particular, is expected to lose almost 670 million people by the end of this century. This makes up over half of the country’s current population. And India will lose 290 million people.

Huang Wenzheng, a demographer and senior fellow at the Center for China and Globalization (CCG) in Beijing said, “Musk’s concern is valid. My peers and I have been predicting a whopping decline in population for a decade.”

Huang added that the declining trend would not be reversed unless the government changed its mindset and understands that human being is a key factor to boost the competitiveness of the country.

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