Motohiko Izawa writes a series in Yukan Fuji titled, “The History of China, Which Will Absolutely Not Democratize.” The headline on September 1 was “The Man Who Killed the Most People in China’s History.” I was intrigued by “Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong (6),” which read:
“Cultural Revolution: A fanatical mass political movement that lasted 10 years from the summer of 1966. It was instituted by Mao and referred to as the ‘Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’ in China. The Cultural Revolution began with the Red Guards, who shouted, ‘It is right to rebel.’ Many leaders were overthrown in this major movement that brought Mao absolute power, and Chinese society was violently torn apart. The revolution’s failure left behind profound issues in contemporary Chinese politics and society. It had two facets: the mass movement, as well as internal power struggles in the Communist Party of China (CPC). Many tragedies occurred, and it is said that approximately 20 million people lost their lives in power struggles and armed fighting.”
As you are no doubt aware, The Asahi Shimbun is the bastion of the pro-Chinese faction in Japan. Yet even Asahi recognizes that 20 million Chinese people were massacred in the Cultural Revolution, although it avoids making clear assertions. There is no free press or mass media in China (they are not permitted to exist), which allows the CPC to invariably conceal its mistakes. Still, even the CPC officially admits to approximately 400,000 deaths and 100 million injuries, describing it as the “Worst retreat in the history of the People’s Republic of China.”
Mao’s craftiness is demonstrated by how he used the young “Red Guards” to carry out this massacre. Adolf Hitler also employed the method of brainwashing innocent youth through unilateral “education” and utilizing them for his own political purposes. Even if these objectives had been correct, I believe this is a terrible thing to do as a human and as a politician. The Cultural Revolution’s goals were indeed incorrect; moreover, Mao aimed to conceal his own misstep and destroy the opposition faction. The mistake he made was the Great Leap Forward, which we can describe as the most foolish action in Chinese history. Although he was not an expert in agriculture or biology, Mao wanted to enhance China’s national power by invigorating agriculture and increasing production. He thought this could be done by eradicating the “Four Pests” that devoured crops: mice, flies, mosquitos, and sparrows.
Let me remind you that I am not joking – this actually took place. Mao focused particular efforts on sparrows, which he thought posed a threat to agriculture. Citizens devotedly followed his orders to kill all sparrows on sight. In the end they actually did eliminate sparrows, which are beneficial birds that consume harmful insects. This destroyed the ecosystem and led to the Great Chinese Famine. At least tens of millions of Chinese people starved to death as a result, but the actual number is unclear because no official announcement has been made.
The people bore a grudge against Mao for this debacle, providing an opportunity for one of his political opponents to usurp power. Mao used young men – who have not yet developed a sense of discernment – to carry out the Cultural Revolution as a way to gain absolute power and crush any dissent. In other words, Mao is without a doubt the man who killed the most Chinese people in history. This is clearly evident if we include his victims from the Great Leap Forward.
Despite this, Mao’s portrait depicting him as a revolutionary hero is still displayed at Tiananmen Square. Bronze statues of him stand in various locations, and paper currency depicts his face as well. This gives you a sense of what China is like.
According to Wikipedia, the victims of the Great Leap Forward number from 15 to 55 million. This campaign started in 1958 and lasted three years. I think the fact that people still adore this politician – who killed so many of his countrymen – demonstrates that China would not hesitate to demand similar sacrifices today.
For instance, the Chinese government’s stance is expressed by its actions in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). On September 1, SANKEI DIGITAL posted an article entitled, “UN Uyghur Report Reveals Human Rights Violations, Focus on Collaboration in the International Community.” It read, “The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report on August 31 concerning the XUAR in China, revealing human rights violations committed against the Uyghur minority group.” It reports that, at minimum, many Uyghurs have been detained in “Vocational Education and Training Centers” from 2017 to 2019, where they were tortured, mistreated, and sexually assaulted. Forced sterilization has taken place from 2017 to suppress the Uyghur population. Even now, China totally disregards the human rights of its citizens in pursuit of its national goals.
There is a reason for China’s intense oppression of the Uyghur people. We can regard the contemporary Chinese political structure as an experiment – never in human history has a single party (in this case, the CPC) ruled such a huge population of 1.4 billion people. I imagine the CPC will use whatever means necessary to maintain its control. Economic growth has brought China massive military strength to transform it into a superpower. Its military force and nuclear weapons are factors in the background of its increasing pressure on other countries. Many nations across the globe see China not only as a threat to Asia, but to the international order itself.
The Soviet Union was made up of 15 republics composed of different ethnic groups. It ended up splitting into 15 independent states and following the path of democracy. China has 55 ethnic groups in addition to the Han Chinese. It includes 30 autonomous prefectures and five autonomous regions: Inner Mongolia, Guangxi Zhuang, Tibet, Xinjiang Uyghur, and Ningxia Hui. The best scenario for the world at large would be for China to break apart like the Soviet Union, resulting in numerous independent, democratic countries. Democratic states must work together to support a soft landing after China’s division, before China grows even larger and takes explicit actions using its armed might to achieve global domination.
The world’s population is said to number approximately eight billion people, of which China comprises about 18%. China has continually enjoyed economic prosperity by exploiting the majority of this massive population. However, its birth rate is showing signs of decline even after the repeal of the one-child and two-child policies. Yahoo! News posted a detailed article on this topic by Kazuhisa Arakawa on July 15, titled, “China’s Birth Rate Falls Below Japan’s, Fewer Births in India and Other Parts of Asia.”
Some media outlets are making a fuss about Japan’s total fertility rate, which was 1.30 in 2021. However, even more rapid declines can be seen in other Asian countries.
According to the latest UN World Population Prospects (WPP) data, which was just released in July 2022, South Korea has the world’s lowest birthrate at 0.88. Taiwan is 1.11, Singapore is 1.02, and even Thailand is 1.33, nearly the same as Japan. *WPP data may differ from the data released by individual countries.
A startling fact is the way China’s birthrate has declined so rapidly in recent years.
If we assume the UN’s numbers are correct, China’s 2021 birthrate was below Japan’s at 1.16. This sharp drop during the last four years makes it seem impossible that the birthrate stayed steady at 1.6 to 1.8 just a few years prior.
Some people mistakenly assume this is the result of the one-child policy, but that limit has already been repealed. In fact, the number of births is not increasing despite efforts by the authorities to promote having more children. The declining birthrate is not caused by mothers refusing to have children, but rather by the smaller number of marriages. This is influenced by the same factors as the Japanese trend of more women who do not have children – fewer people are getting married and more are divorcing, leading to a lower number of sustained marriages.
Before marriage itself meets its downfall in Japan, the same has already happened in China.
UN statistics say the 2021 birthrate was 2.03 in India, another country with a massive population.
India’s rate will soon drop below 2.0, ushering in an era of lower birthrates and depopulation in China and India, which together have a combined population of three billion people. This will automatically bring about a massive decline in the global population.
However, birthrates remain high in Africa as a whole at 4.28. In this century the population will significantly decline in countries across the world, except for Africa and some parts of the Middle East.
A quarter century ago in 1972, the Club of Rome (an international think tank) shocked the world when it released The Limits to Growth. This report said “the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years” if factors such as population growth and environmental pollution continue. The Club of Rome predicted that food and other resources will run out if the population keeps continuously growing. But today that world seems distant indeed; population growth is slowing down while technologies used to obtain resources are improving.
China’s shrinking population may significantly impact its future as a nation. Kazuhiko Fuji, a senior research fellow at the Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI), penned an article for the Business Journal news website titled, “China May Suffer Internal Collapse by 2025: Decreasing Birthrate and Aging Population at an Unprecedented Rate, Factories and People Escaping Abroad.” Posted on November 3, 2020, this article says that in recent years China is working for economic growth by trying to boost foreign demand centered on trade, as in the past. It has also begun efforts to expand domestic demand. Fuji writes:
It is common knowledge that China’s income distribution is exceedingly unfair. Roughly half of the population (710 million people) lives on 2,000 renminbi or less per month (approximately 32,000 yen). Income earned by the 290 million migrant workers from rural areas, which supported China’s rapid economic growth, has continued declining since 2015. Consumer spending will not increase unless China resolves these income disparities.
The falling birthrate and aging population are factors that will cause consumer spending to decrease in the future.
The UN defines “aging society” as a society where the ratio of people aged 65 or older totals 14% or more. A Chinese private-sector think tank predicted in October that China’s percentage will reach or exceed 15% in the year 2022.
When they became aging societies, Japan, the U.S., and other advanced countries had per capita GDPs much higher than 20,000 dollars. China’s per capital GPD is just around 10,000 dollars, and it is facing the possibility of aging before it attains affluence.
The article concludes by saying, “It was thought that China would outstrip the U.S. to become the world’s top economic superpower in the next 10 years. However, I cannot help but think there is a growing risk that it will instantly collapse due to growing internal and external pressure.” China’s division may be triggered by sluggish economic growth stemming from factors such as the declining birthrate and population aging. Liberal democratic countries should keep a careful eye on China’s changing demographics and economic conditions.
September 12 (Monday), 6:00 p.m.