China’s economy is slowing and its population is aging.that could make it dangerous

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at an event marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone in Shenzhen, southern China's Guangdong province, Wednesday, October 14, 2020. Amid a feud with Washington that has blocked access to U.S. technology and fueled ambitions to create a Chinese provider, Mr. Jinping said Wednesday that a new technology center to support development in Shenzhen, China's largest technology center, was announced on Wednesday. (Zhang Ling/Xinhua News Agency via AP)

Chinese President Xi Jinping. The country’s projected growth this year has slowed to around 3%. (Zhang Ling/Xinhua)

China’s economy is in trouble. The juggernaut that once seemed to take over the world is slowing down and not just in the short term.

China’s economic growth forecast has slowed to around 3% this year, embarrassingly well below the government’s target of 5.5%.

After decades of rapid expansion, it would be the second worst performance in more than 40 years.

Unemployment among young workers has ballooned to 20%. Fuel prices are rising thanks to Russia’s war in Ukraine.make too much housing industry It’s wobbly. And President Xi Jinping’s strict “COVID Zero” lockdown has wreaked havoc. Chengdu is a tech hub (Population 21 million).

Remember when Americans worried China would overtake the United States to take the title of world’s largest economy? That date has been pushed back beyond 2033, with some economists suggesting that it may not happen at all.

Some of these problems are the slowing global economy and Xi import refusal Foreign COVID vaccines.

But China also faces long-term challenges, starting with a rapidly declining population.

The United Nations predicts that China’s population will decline by about 40% by the end of the century, from 1.4 billion to just over 800 million. Some demographers say the decline will be steeper. Either way, India will soon be number one.

The population decline is due to declining fertility rates, which also means China’s population is aging and the workforce is shrinking. By 2050, more than a quarter of her population will be over the age of 65, Australia’s Lowy Institute predicts. Lowy expects China’s growth to slow to an average of less than 3% over the next 30 years as a result.

China watchers agree with these pessimistic predictions. But opinions are divided on what that means for the future of the country and for US policy. How will a rising superpower react when its base of strength seems to be eroding?

Two foreign policy scholars, Hal Brands of Johns Hopkins University and Michael Beckley of Tufts University, have published a terrifying paper. China’s leaders know their power is about to weaken, which makes them more likely to take risks in the short term. That is, to invade Taiwan. , for example.

China is “losing confidence that time is on its side,” they write in their recent book, Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict With China.

“China will have strong incentives to use force against its neighbors … even at the risk of war with the United States,” they warn. , this decade, the 2020s.

A chorus of other Chinese scholars disagrees.

First, they point to no evidence that Xi Jinping or any other leader believes their power is waning. They continue to predict the rise of China and the decline of the West.

China’s economy has continued to grow despite the slowdown and is still the second largest economy in the world.

“Countries can remain major forces in international politics even if their economic performance deteriorates significantly,” said Aaron L. Friedberg of Princeton.

Moreover, Xi and other Chinese leaders have strategies for solving economic challenges, he argued. “They think technological progress is the key to solving all problems,” he told me. “That’s how they plan to achieve higher productivity and moderately high economic growth.”

“We must do more to slow down China’s technological development,” he said, starting with tightening controls on exports of US and other Western technology to Beijing.

In a more optimistic scenario, Friedberg and others say, an economic slowdown could cause China’s leaders to spend less on military power and more on improving the lives of their people. I’m here.

“A weakened China should not be assumed to be aggressive,” said Bonnie S. Glaser of the German Marshall Fund. “China can turn inward. Perhaps China is less keen on reunification with Taiwan and more concerned with internal stability.”

So the 21st century may not be Chinese after all. China’s rise to global power is neither inevitable nor predetermined.

But even an aging China with slowing economic growth will be a strong commercial, technological and military competitor. At least until the end of Mr. Xi’s third term in office in 2027, its leaders remain ambitious and bent on absorbing Taiwan, replacing the United States as an Asian powerhouse. Trying to become a dominant power.

China’s challenges are changing, but not going away.

This story originally appeared los angeles times.