China has responded indignantly to news that India, its neighbor and rival, will soon surpass it as the world’s most populous country. Reports have suggested that India may already have overtaken China as the most populous country. Both countries will have almost 1.43 billion people, according to the United Nations World Population Dashboard. China is facing a demographic crisis that could hamper its bid to rival the United States, with Chinese officials arguing that western coverage of the population statistics is an excuse to “bad mouth” Beijing.
Chinese officials and state media are arguing that America and the West are focusing only on population size, rather than education, industrial output, and economic clout, the latter seeing China far outweigh India. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin stated that it was important to look at not just the size but also the quality of its population. The state broadcaster CCTV suggested that China was being “slandered” despite “creating a miracle of sustainable and stable economic development with a huge population”.
To China, being the most populous nation does not count for anything in and of itself. What’s important is to be seen as a developing, modern, and functional country. Dimitar Gueorguiev, an associate professor who teaches Chinese politics at Syracuse University, suggests that what matters to China is consumer and investor confidence. He said: “it is not hard to see why Chinese officials are pushing back on the argument that a population decline spells economic decline”.
China has a far larger economy than India, with its GDP almost seven times that of India, which is placed fifth. However, both countries face their own challenges. China’s aging population fell last year for the first time in six decades, and this raises serious questions about the country’s ability to maintain, let alone enhance, its economic status. India has not achieved the same development in manufacturing and infrastructure as China. Its population is younger, but more of them are unemployed or living in extreme poverty.
Despite a booming technology sector, India is struggling to create enough jobs to keep up with demand. Only 2.2% of workers between the ages of 15 and 59 have received formal vocational training, according to government figures. In China, 26% of the workforce are classified as “skilled”. Despite the population statistics, India does not seem entirely thrilled about claiming the top spot. A survey conducted by the UN in conjunction with this week’s report found that many Indians listed economic issues as their top concern when thinking about population change, followed by worries about the environment, health, and human rights.
Andrea Wojnar, the United Nations Population Fund’s representative for India, said that the findings suggest that “population anxieties have seeped into large portions of the general public,” even though the numbers should be seen as a sign of development, rather than a cause for anxiety.
Despite the fierce competition between China and India, some Chinese citizens are unconcerned about the population news. “Population does not equal national power,” said Zhang Han, 29, a business student from the eastern province of Shandong. Retired teacher Liu Quan, 57, said he doesn’t care about the population news at all. “We just want peace” between the quarrelling neighbours, he said. “I believe both India and China don’t want conflict.”
In conclusion, while China is facing a demographic crisis, it believes that its economic strength and quality of its population are more important than just population size. India may be set to become the world’s most populous nation, but it is struggling to create enough jobs and provide sufficient vocational training for its young people. However, despite the fierce rivalry between the two countries, some Chinese citizens do not believe that population size equals national power and want peaceful relations with their