China's Looming Demographic Crisis: Causes, Prospects, and Policy Options

Feng Wang, University of California, Irvine

In the closing decades of the twentieth century, China’s national fertility level dropped to well below the replacement level. The realization of such a demographic shift in the world’s largest population did not come without much confusion and controversy. The role of China’s three-decade long one-child policy has often been assumed to be a major reason for the recent low fertility. This paper introduces the recent evolution of the policy, reviews the drastically changed demographic and social landscape in recent years, and by using results of population projections under varying scenarios, explains why the continuation of the policy will push China over a demographic cliff that has profound implications for China as well as the world.

Presented in Session 37: China’s One Child Policy after 30 years – Time for a Change?