China's population and economy are slowing. Dangerous

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The Chinese economy is struggling. The global dominance-seeking juggernaut is slowing down, and not just in the short term.

This year, the Chinese economy is expected to grow by only about 3%, embarrassingly far short of the government's goal of 5.5%.

That would be the second-worst performance in more than 40 years after decades of galloping expansion. The only year with a worse recession was 2020 due to COVID.

The percentage of unemployed young workers has increased to 20%. Fuel costs are increasing as a result of Russia's conflict in Ukraine. The overcrowded housing market is in peril. And President Xi Jinping's harsh "COVID Zero" lockdowns have caused chaos, most recently in Chengdu, a city with a high concentration of technology (population 21 million).

By the end of the century, China's population is expected to drop by about 40%, from 1.4 billion to just 800 million or so. Although some demographers predict a steeper decline, India will soon overtake the United States as the top nation.

Low birthrates are the cause of the population decline, which also causes China's population to age and its labour force to shrink. According to projections by the Lowy Institute in Australia, by 2050, more than 25 percent of the population will be over 65. As a result, according to Lowy, China's growth rate will slow to an average of less than 3% over the following three decades.

Those depressing predictions are shared by China observers. However, they disagree on what that means for the future of the nation and for American strategy. When the underpinnings of its strength seem to be crumbling, how does a developing superpower respond?

A terrifying concept has been put forth by two foreign policy experts, Michael Beckley of Tufts and Hal Brands of Johns Hopkins: China's leaders will be more likely to take risks in the short term, like invading Taiwan, because they are aware that their power is due to decline.

But even an aged China with a slowly expanding economy will remain a formidable rival in business, technology, and the military. Its leaders will remain ambitious, adamant on integrating Taiwan, and determined to usurp the United States as the preeminent power in Asia, at least until the end of Xi's third term in 2027.

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