China lost population last year for the first time since the 1960s. Mao Tse Tung was running the country then. China ended 2022 with 1.41 billion people, down 850,000 from the end of 2021. India’s population in 2021 was just a few hundred thousand behind China’s, and its count is still growing fast. (Note that both China and India remain countries with the strongest militaries.)
Three things will happen over the next several years as China shrinks and India grows. The first is that China has the same problem as Europe and the United States. As people hit the age at which most leave the workforce, there may not be enough people to replace them. Unless artificial intelligence is used in some of their jobs, there will be a labor shortage.
Second, someone in China must care for the aging population, which is expensive. There is no ready answer to how to maintain a system like Social Security without enormous financial consequences. And there is the more fundamental problem of widespread deteriorating mental and physical health. (Also, China has faced some of the deadliest natural disasters in the past 50 years.)
India has the challenge of an abundance of riches as its population grows. Most of the nation is abjectly poor. Some of the largest cities have tens of millions of people in areas that cannot support them in terms of infrastructure. Several are plagued by extreme heat and urban air pollution, among the worst in the world.
India may have taken the population crown, but it is not much of a victory.
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