Reports that China’s population has peaked and is starting to fall were greeted with remarkable hand-wringing and prophesies of doom and gloom by economic and media commentators.
For them, this is a problem that needs action!
But rather than being something to be feared, this outcome should be welcomed. As the President of Sustainable Population Australia, Jenny Goldie, has pointed out, China at 1.4 billion is overpopulated. Its air quality is dreadful, with 143 cities recording annual average PM2.5 concentrations seven times greater than World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.
Ninety percent of China’s groundwater is contaminated, and 70% of rivers and lakes are unsafe for human use. As a result, half China’s population does not have access to safe drinking water.
And China’s biodiversity loss has also been terrible. Since 1970, half of China’s terrestrial vertebrates have vanished, and its ecological footprint has doubled. China is among the countries with the most threatened species in the world.
The good news is that a falling population will enable improvements in all of these areas. Given this, you have to wonder what the cause of the hand wringing is. Is it that the commentators simply see Chinese people as mass consumers of our exports, or as an indefinite source of cheap labour? Do the commentators not care about safe drinking water and healthy air for the Chinese people? Are they content to let these things continue to decline? This suggests a casual racism or “unconscious bias”, that normally the left of politics would be swift to identify and denounce.
Or perhaps the commentators are worried about the precedent, as indeed they worry about the Japanese precedent. Claims that Japan’s population reduction has been bad for Japan are without foundation. It offers incentives to companies that employ workers aged over 65. Although it has almost twice our proportion of older citizens, it has roughly the same proportion of people in the workforce that we do. The older citizens are not a problem. Japan has low unemployment and low underemployment. Japan is OK!
But the commentators are so addicted to growth that they cannot imagine any other way. So if countries like Japan and China successfully navigate population reductions, their model, and with it, their credibility, would collapse. Perhaps it is no wonder they are so gloomy.
The Hon. Kelvin Thomson
Sustainable Australia Party