8 votes

China's reckoning (Part 1/3): Chinese demography

13 comments

  1. [10]
    nukeman
    Link
    I haven’t had a chance to watch the video, however, these sorts of questions have been making their way around the think tank circuit for a while. I’m somewhat skeptical, because while China may...

    I haven’t had a chance to watch the video, however, these sorts of questions have been making their way around the think tank circuit for a while. I’m somewhat skeptical, because while China may have made hundreds of millions wealthier over the last few decades, there’s still 600+ million who are still very poor in cities and towns we’ve never heard of. China still has massive amounts of room for growth, even if the currently wealthy areas in Beijing, Shanghai, and the Pearl River Delta begin to spend less. Additionally, China is going gangbusters investing in AI technologies. Not only does this come in handy for social control, it also can help automate manufacturing and administrative jobs as the working age population plateaus and declines.

    4 votes
    1. [8]
      mundane_and_naive
      Link Parent
      Can't we say the same for Japan? It's mentioned in the video that Japan economy still plateaued after the population declined despite their also strong emphasis on automation, so maybe it's not as...

      Can't we say the same for Japan? It's mentioned in the video that Japan economy still plateaued after the population declined despite their also strong emphasis on automation, so maybe it's not as much a silver bullet as we assume.

      2 votes
      1. [6]
        stu2b50
        Link Parent
        There are other factors affecting the Japanese economy, though. In particular, their infamous work culture has seemingly been a albatross on their economy's neck for the last few decades. Japanese...

        There are other factors affecting the Japanese economy, though. In particular, their infamous work culture has seemingly been a albatross on their economy's neck for the last few decades.

        Japanese work productivity is godawful - at a mere $46/hour, it's far below the rest of the developed countries. The Japanese consistently work more hours to do less "things" than workers in other nations.

        It's still possible that their limited to negative population growth would still cap their GDP in the future, but there's clearly more that can be done with their workforce than is right now.

        3 votes
        1. [5]
          mundane_and_naive
          Link Parent
          Surely Japan work culture was just as terrible before? I'm sure having an unproductive workforce is not good for the economy, but if it didn't stop them from growing then, it can't be the main...

          Surely Japan work culture was just as terrible before? I'm sure having an unproductive workforce is not good for the economy, but if it didn't stop them from growing then, it can't be the main reason for their decline now, something else must have changed.

          1. [4]
            Odysseus
            Link Parent
            People are brought up differently these days. There isn't the post-war sense of responsibility to rebuild anymore. The nationalistic dedication to being a contributing member of society isn't...

            People are brought up differently these days. There isn't the post-war sense of responsibility to rebuild anymore. The nationalistic dedication to being a contributing member of society isn't there either. It's more "normal", and the old work culture doesn't fit. People grew up watching their parents work themselves to death, never being around, and that's not what they want anymore.

            I think a bigger part though is that Japan is expensive now. Back then, Japan was China. All that manufacturing generated a lot of wealth. No real reason for most companies to make things in Japan anymore.

            3 votes
            1. [3]
              mundane_and_naive
              Link Parent
              I see, so the people lost their motivation to work basically. If unmotivated workforce is the reason for Japan's decline then I suppose China could still face a similar challenge in the future,...

              I see, so the people lost their motivation to work basically. If unmotivated workforce is the reason for Japan's decline then I suppose China could still face a similar challenge in the future, due to if not long working hours as in Japan then maybe increasing social stratification and oppressive environment. And it doesn't seem like a problem automation can solve on its own either, aging population or no.

              1 vote
              1. [2]
                Odysseus
                Link Parent
                It's not that people lost motivation to work, it's that people aren't willing to give their entire lives to the company anymore. Plus, with the Japanese work culture, it's more important to look...

                It's not that people lost motivation to work, it's that people aren't willing to give their entire lives to the company anymore. Plus, with the Japanese work culture, it's more important to look like you're working hard than it is to be productive and finish early.

                4 votes
                1. mundane_and_naive
                  Link Parent
                  Right, when I said "lost motivation" that's more or less what I referred to. Since the main topic of discussion is China I just wanted to reframe the point in a way that's more transferable that's...

                  Right, when I said "lost motivation" that's more or less what I referred to. Since the main topic of discussion is China I just wanted to reframe the point in a way that's more transferable that's all. Sorry that it wasn't clear.

                  1 vote
      2. nukeman
        Link Parent
        In addition to what was discussed below, it’s also a matter of scale (China has around six Japans of poorer residents) and timing (automation and AI was very young when Japan began to stagnate).

        In addition to what was discussed below, it’s also a matter of scale (China has around six Japans of poorer residents) and timing (automation and AI was very young when Japan began to stagnate).

        2 votes
    2. Kuromantis
      Link Parent
      I agree with this. FWIW, He does mention both those things in the video that China's GDP is at 10k per person, although he only acknowledges your latter point, in the end of the video where he...

      I agree with this. FWIW, He does mention both those things in the video that China's GDP is at 10k per person, although he only acknowledges your latter point, in the end of the video where he talks briefly about a few things that are still in his opinion favorable for China.

      2 votes
  2. [2]
    Kuromantis
    (edited )
    Link
    A video on how China's demographics seem very detrimental to it's future growth in the medium-long term. I have a few questions however: Demographics is often a quite essentialist field (something...

    A video on how China's demographics seem very detrimental to it's future growth in the medium-long term. I have a few questions however:

    Demographics is often a quite essentialist field (something which he acknowledges later) and, following that, he basically makes 2 claims about the 4 cohorts he and presumably most demographics use to look at populations. Those being:

    • Old (post retirement) people usually don't spend much and don't take large risks. While old people being poorer makes sense in China given the large scale post WW2 economic growth was largely absent in China and they then had a massive famine with the great leap forward, I don't know if being less risky is the same thing.

    • He says that people aged (very loosely) 15-30 are largely defined by the debts they incur. I feel this is, while true, also entirely preventable if the Chinese government wants to do something about it. Debt can also define your finances for as good as forever, although I'm not sure how much of this happens in China, and he does talk about and acknowledge how trying to achieve homeownership often does what I just said.

    The video is largely about how Chinese demographics are bad to China. I can't see how 'the west' is dealing with this any better than China is. Sure western countries have far more immigration, but with declining birthrates in the developing world and Xenophobia in the developed, I'm not sure how much that matters in the long term.

    He says when you retire, you basically lose all of your income instantly to whatever retirement money the Chinese government gives to them. Aside from not seeing how this is different from the West, I'm not sure how true this is, and the main reason I don't reject it is because (reiterating) China didn't have massive post WW2 growth like western countries so baby boomers there can't be assumed to be wealthy or just not poor as an age group.

    1 vote
    1. viborgu
      Link Parent
      It's odd to me that these discussion happen completely separately from any consideration of the climate change crisis. If we don't solve that, declining birthrates' effect on the economy will be...

      It's odd to me that these discussion happen completely separately from any consideration of the climate change crisis. If we don't solve that, declining birthrates' effect on the economy will be moot in comparison; and in fact having less babies in developed countries is basically the best thing that can we do to immediately mitigate the climate crisis. (Someone called me an "ecofascist" on Twitter because I raised a similar point about birthrates in the richest countries.)

      5 votes
  3. KapteinB
    Link
    This video is also on Nebula for those preferring to watch it there.

    This video is also on Nebula for those preferring to watch it there.

    1 vote