Will a Japanese girl marry a Chinese

China's population is getting older - and Beijing is facing major problems

Shanghai has always been a kind of liberal outpost of China - or at least it thinks it is. "Having two or three children has never really been a problem here," says Aileen Yu. "You only have to pay a fee, but if you are wealthy, you can always afford it." It was less than ten years ago that stories of forced sterilization from the provinces because a farming couple dared to have a second child. In Shanghai, however, it always sounded like "stories from the wild hinterland". But the 35-year-old resident of the 23 million city is childless herself.

Many Chinese feel the same way. The one-child policy was abolished in 2016 and replaced by a two-child policy. However, this did not affect the birth rate. On the contrary. For the first time in 60 years, the Chinese population has not really grown. 1.41 billion people live on the national territory of the People's Republic, which is "only" one million more than ten years ago. This was the result of a census conducted in December, which takes place every ten years. Every fifth Chinese today is over 60 years old. While this age group is growing, the birth rate is falling: It is currently 1.3 - and the trend is falling.

Buying an apartment is hardly affordable

Yu and her husband from Shanghai have no financial problems: "My husband and I just don't want to have children, although we could easily afford them." The couple already owns two condominiums in the metropolis, which have steadily increased in value over the past few years. But that is a big problem for young people. Buying an apartment has become a completely utopian undertaking for many young professionals.

This, in turn, is what many future in-laws require before agreeing to a marriage. "Meiyou fangzi, meiyou laopo", they say - no woman without an apartment. And so many young Chinese remain single, and many of them are men. Due to prenatal diagnostics and the one-child policy, many girls were aborted, especially in rural areas.

Consequences for the economy

But Beijing poses problems that Europe and Japan know only too well: Society is aging. This has serious consequences for the social systems. Economic growth is decreasing and a shrinking working population has to support a growing group of retirees. In Europe one tries to solve the problem through immigration. Japan is relying more on robots and artificial intelligence to feed the many old people and keep the economy going.

But Beijing has not yet had any of these funds available. China is not and will not become a country of immigration - the repressive political system is too unattractive for that and society, apart from a few expats in Shanghai and Beijing and Filipino guest workers, is closed.

However, the country is still too poor to fully rely on technology. Even if propaganda images from the Chinese tech hub Shenzhen suggest something else of self-driving taxis and parcel delivery drones - a large part of the population still lives just above the poverty line.

Doubts about statistics

Finally, there are doubts about the official figures. Independent experts suggest that the real population is even lower. "The true population most likely did not exceed 1.28 billion in 2020 - far less than the officially named 1.4 billion," said family planning expert Yi Fuxian from the University of Wisconsin to the dpa news agency.

But there is no doubt that the reproductive behavior of the Chinese must somehow be regulated and stimulated by the state. Liang Jianzhang, a Beijing professor, recently demanded that every couple who conceive a baby be rewarded with one million yuan, around 120,000 euros, to increase the birth rate to 2.1. After all, the professor's proposal was controversial on the Chinese short message service Weibo. (Philipp Mattheis from Shanghai, May 14th, 2021)