Tesla CEO Elon Musk suggests that China could soon be facing a “population collapse” in the aftermath of Beijing’s decades-long population control program that until recently had restricted most families in China to a single offspring.
“China had its lowest birthdate ever last year, despite having a three-child policy! At current birth rates, China will lose ~40% of people every generation!” he wrote, before adding the grim note: “Population collapse.”
The one-child policy was instituted by the Chinese Communist Party between 1980 and 2015 in a bid to curb a population growth rate that the regime considered too rapid and facilitate economic growth. Violators of the limit were fined, forced to go through abortions or sterilizations, and could potentially lose their jobs.
Until its official abolishment in 2016, the policy had caused some 400 million abortions, accounting for about 28 percent of the nation’s 1.4 billion people, according to official statistics. It also led to child abandonment and infanticide of baby girls due to traditional social preferences for a son.
But those measures have done little to convince couples to have more children.
But the latest official data from May show that the population of at least 15 Chinese provinces or municipalities, including Beijing, have shrunk, with 11 provinces seeing a decline. That included five provinces where the number of deaths exceeded births for the first time in decades.
Recent demographic studies indicate that the world at large, which currently has about 8 billion people, is confronting a population decline problem.
One of them, published in the medical journal Lancet, predicted that the global human population will peak at 9.7 billion in roughly four decades before starting to decline.
“Once global population decline begins, it will probably continue inexorably,” the authors wrote in a study published in 2020.
Musk has been vocal about the consequences of the world’s declining population growth.
He recently shared a clip taken during the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in 2019, where Musk was seen sitting side by side with billionaire Jack Ma, founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.
“Assuming there is a benevolent future with AI, I think the biggest problem the world will face in 20 years is population collapse," he said. “I want to emphasize this: The biggest issue in 20 years will be population collapse. Not explosion. Collapse.”
Ma, in the video, concurred with him. “1.4 billion people in China sounds like a lot, but I think next 20 years, we will see this thing will bring big trouble to China,” Ma said. “The speed of population decrease is going to speed up.”