wisdom has it that given its very rapid rate of industrialization, China,
with its huge population, is on the road to becoming the worlds next
superpower. While war and revolution have helped transform 20th century China,
it should be remembered that China, as a civilization, goes way, way back,
being the oldest continuous civilization on the planet.
For example, that past reveals that about 1200 B.C., Chinese artisans had the knowledge and skill to cast large bronze pieces technology not achieved in Europe for fully another 1,000 years. Chinese history, as a civilized society, stretches back more than 3,200 years. It is said that modern day China is building its future with one eye on that ancient past.
This history offers a fertile field for the law of unintended consequences.
As a national policy to limit its huge population, China had adopted a one-child-per-family philosophy. This achieved the desired result of reducing the national birth rate, but, as a byproduct, resulted in the phenomenal growth of the elderly as a portion of society. Between 1970 and 2000, the population got very much older, with the median age going from 19.7 to 30. It is estimated that by 2020, China will have an older age structure than the United States.
Not only has this aging resulted from a one-child policy, but also from a concomitant increase in life expectancy. Between 1950 and 1970, life expectancy grew by 19.5 years. This was an extraordinary achievement brought on by a large-scale improvement in the survival of children. From 1950 to 1970, with Chinas population growing by 275 million, it was with almost two-thirds of this being the under-20 population.
Given these developments, by 2050 as many as half of all the Chinese could be over 50 years of age. This means that by mid-century, more than 418 million Chinese 30 percent of the population will be 60 years or older.
This should cause China to be preoccupied with economic betterment far more than with nationalistic or hegemonic agendas. So prophesizes Paul Hewitt, author of Chinas Aging Baby Boomers. This preoccupation should result in increased investment in the youth of today, who stand to inherit an immense social burden brought on by an aging society. Today, as the massive generation of youngsters passes the age of 30, it will both accelerate the aging trend and put immense pressure on the labor market.
To partially cope with some of these aging problems, in 1996 China promulgated a law on the protection of the rights of the elderly. Flowing from that, over a two-year period, court records revealed that there were 45,000 cases involving adult childrens failure to support their parents. This is especially important, as China has no government-sponsored pension system analogous to Social Security in the United States.
Said a Chinese judge, The major intention of the law was to arouse the publics concern about protecting the legitimate rights of the elderly, as an aging society has become a matter of fact in China.
Ruhig is well-known in Sacramento for his tireless advocacy for proposals
designed to help seniors live long, happy, full lives. He has held leadership
roles in several advocacy groups and on government advisory boards. Ruhig
once sued the California Department of Aging for age discrimination, and won!