China’s Looming Demographic Crisis

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Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Fourteen people were killed and 25 more wounded when a helicopter crashed near a nursery school in a city near Kyiv on Wednesday. Ukraine’s interior minister Denys Monastyrsky and state secretary Yuriy Lubkovich were among those killed, but the cause of the crash—and whether Russia was behind it—remains unclear.
  • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced this morning she will step down from her post by early next month, opting not to run for re-election in October after leading the Oceanic nation since 2017. “Leading a country is the most privileged job anyone could ever have, but also the most challenging,” the center-left 42 year old told reporters. “You cannot and should not do the job unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unplanned and unexpected challenges.” Another Labour Party leader will be sworn in upon Ardern’s resignation, but the party’s standing has plummeted in the polls and Ardern’s replacement could face an uphill climb in this year’s election.
  • The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that U.S. retail sales fell 1.1 percent month-over-month in December, the largest such decline of 2022, just ahead of November’s 1 percent drop. The data is yet another indicator pointing toward a slowing economy as the Federal Reserve hikes interest rates, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 600 points yesterday as investors price in the likelihood of a recession.
  • The Labor Department reported Wednesday that the producer price index (PPI)—a measure of what suppliers and wholesalers are charging customers—rose 6.2 percent year-over-year in December, down from November’s 7.3 percent annual rate and the measure’s lowest reading since March 2021. Core PPI—which excludes food and energy prices—slowed to a 4.6 percent annual rate in December.
  • The United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics reported Wednesday that annual inflation in the U.K. fell for the second consecutive month, from 10.7 percent in November to 10.5 percent in December. Core inflation remained unchanged at 6.3 percent, leading investors to believe the Bank of England will continue hiking interest rates in the coming months.

Age Before Wealth

A staff member helps a child put on a mask as she holds a Communist Party of China flag. (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

China’s one-child policy once promised “one mouth, six pockets,” as four grandparents and two parents could shower all their affection—and resources—on one lucky kid. But as those parents and grandparents retired without enough young people to replace them, demographers warned the pyramid would flip, leaving those only children scrambling to fill six pockets solo.

The dynamic has already been playing out for a few years, but it hit a milestone this Tuesday when China’s National Bureau of Statistics reported the country’s population declined by 850,000 people in 2022—the first population drop since the 1960s, when famines caused by Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward” killed tens of millions of people. China is still officially the most populous country in the world with 1.4 billion people—India is catching up quickly—but last year’s decline is likely the first of many.

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