One of my many criticisms of Peter Zeihan and his zeal to put the U.S. on an altar while casting China and Russia into Dante’s Seventh Hell, is that he insists on regarding the demographic trend as something written in stone, as it were. Thus, although the U.S. has less than full replacement rate in its births, China, as Zeihan sees it, is rapidly following the example of Korea and Japan into a demographic collapse. He sees an issue coming where the majority of the population of any society is elderly and the younger cohorts can no longer use their productive years in growing the nation and inventing useful things, but rather are condemned to spend their youth taking care of a useless dead-weight of old people.
The strange thing in all this is that just a few years ago other critics lambasted China for growing too fast and having too many babies. Overpopulation would destroy China, ruin the environment, collapse the country into civil war. Yet now that the Chinese have found a way to finally reduce the population pressure, suddenly this is even worse news. Now it is a population gap that will destroy the country, ruin the environment, and collapse the place in civil war.
But we are not talking about a society characterized by societal conventions of “the people” versus “the government”, which is characteristic of Anglo-American societies. Most Chinese do not see their government, or the Communist Party, as something separate from the Chinese people. The regime is both secure and all-powerful. Despite the much-ballyhooed analysis of China as a land where the sacred pro-family traditions of Confucius still prevail, I note that the years of Mao’s Red Guard had no problem whatsoever with humiliating and executing the elderly in public if the Party’s goal of modernizing China was at stake.
Who can say what the next Party policy might be? Assisted suicide of masses of elderly, just as the covid police “assist” the potentially infected by nailing them into their apartments to starve alone? A decade or so of mass “assisted suicide” could restore the demographic balance that Peter Zeihan is so concerned about. Control over information, control over news, control over who gets to eat and when. . . The kind of society that has emerged in today’s China is not what Confucius ever had in mind and may turn out to be quite different from what Zeihan predicts. Westerners have long recognized that the highest value in China is social conformity. Bucking the latest policy from the Party it seems to me is not on the horizon and the Party has more than one way of solving its overhang of the perceived uselessness of its elderly, from assisted suicide, to war, to enforced early retirement on minimum rations, to purchasing “retirement” districts inside and outside China, to buying American politicians and encouraging massive emigration to the U.S, thus imposing its burden on a commercial rival. After all, it’s not as if Congress is not for sale.