Re: China’s Population Falls, Heralding a Demographic Crisis

Written by Marian Starkey | Published: January 17, 2023

We submitted the following letter to The New York Times editor on January 17, 2023, and are sharing it below since it wasn’t published.

We encourage all our members and supporters to make their voices heard! See our media guide for advice on how to do that.

You can see common population myths busted on our Myths and Misconceptions page.

Dear Editor,

Re: China’s Population Falls, Heralding a Demographic Crisis, by Alexandra Stevenson and Zixu Wang, published January 16, 2023

New data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics predictably motivated yet another pessimistic article about population aging and decline. This (also predictably), without mention of the primary cause of the demographic shift—that women in China are finally able to make their own childbearing decisions, after four decades of authoritarian reproductive policy.

Despite misguided financial incentives from the federal government to raise the birthrate, women are deciding for themselves when, whether, and with whom to have children—and, on average, they are choosing to have fewer, later in life. This should be cause for celebration, especially considering the myriad environmental crises China is facing, due largely to a recent history of rapid population growth.

An aging and shrinking population presents economic challenges, sure. But it also presents an opportunity to rethink our relationship with the planet. As we grapple with the Sixth Mass Extinction of species, increasingly dire fresh water shortages, and rising greenhouse gas emissions, we should welcome any voluntary intervention that eases the pressure. Low fertility is one such intervention.


Marian Starkey
VP for Communications
Population Connection