Liang Jianzhang: people are wealth, not burden

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Sina science and technology news on the afternoon of July 10, in view of Li Tie, chief economist of China’s urban and small town reform and development center, published an article entitled “we can’t encourage multiple births irresponsibly”, Liang Jianzhang, chairman of the board of directors of Ctrip and a population economist, issued a paper today, saying that population is a wealth rather than a burden, and the average value of Chinese people is positive. He believes that China’s extremely low fertility rate means that the proportion of the industrious and intelligent Chinese nation in the world is shrinking rapidly, which is not only a loss to China, but also a loss to the world.
Liang Jianzhang said that most countries would not regard the reduction of fertility as a contribution to the world because they all understand that children are the most valuable resource, and many countries with far higher fertility rates are encouraging fertility.
Although China’s population is more than 11 times that of Japan, in terms of population density, there are 145 people per square kilometer in China and 345 in Japan. China’s population density is less than half of Japan’s, and Japan still encourages childbearing. In addition to Japan, the population density in Germany and the United Kingdom is also higher than that in China, and now Germany and Britain are also encouraging fertility. Singapore’s population density is dozens of times higher than that of China, but Singapore still encourages childbearing.
He pointed out that Chinese civilization once accounted for one third of the world’s population, but now it is less than one fifth. However, every year, only one tenth of the world’s population is born. Even if we do not encourage procreation, China’s share of the world’s population will shrink sharply. By the end of this century, China’s weight will plummet and Chinese civilization will decline completely. “At the same time as other factors, the power of civilization is proportional to the size of the population. With the decline of population, the quality of population is not rising but declining. A large population does not mean that it will be strong, but a sharp decline in population must indicate its decline. ” (Zhang Jun)
The following is the full text of Liang Jianzhang’s article:
Liang Jianzhang: four comments on Li Tie’s theory of China’s overpopulation
On July 7, Li Tie, chief economist of China Center for urban and small town reform and development, published an article entitled “we can’t encourage multiple lives irresponsibly”, in response to our previous article “three comments on Li Tie’s theory of China’s overpopulation”. Although we do not agree with Li Tie’s point of view, we still want to thank Li Tie for his repeated response to our articles. It should be pointed out that Li Tie either turned a blind eye to many of the viewpoints discussed in previous articles or seriously misread them. Next, we analyze some specious views in Li Tie’s article.
We should not only look at the population, but also the population density
“If China’s population is only a few hundred million, we can discuss raising the birth rate and encouraging fertility,” Li said. However, China now faces a population of 1.4 billion, which is more than four times that of the United States and 11 times that of Japan, not to mention those small countries with a population of millions or tens of millions. ”
Although China’s population is more than 11 times that of Japan, in terms of population density, there are 145 in China and 345 in Japan per square kilometer. It can be seen that China’s population density is less than half of that of Japan, and Japan still encourages childbearing. According to Li Tie’s logic, only look at the population size and not the population density. China has a population of 1.4 billion, but Japan has a population of 127 million, which is not overpopulation. So if we regard every province of China as an independent economy, and the population of each province is less than that of Japan, is it not overpopulation? Can we talk about raising the birth rate and encouraging fertility? In addition to Japan, the population density in Germany and the United Kingdom is also higher than that in China, and now Germany and Britain are also encouraging fertility. Countries with larger population density than China do not think that their population is too large. What is the reason for China to think that it has too much population?
Li Tie has repeatedly stressed that “China’s population base is large”. In fact, China’s population base is large. First, China has a long history. The history of the United States is much shorter than that of China. Of course, the population of China is smaller than that of China. Second, China is a unified country. China is not divided into dozens of countries like the Roman Empire, nor is it divided into two or three countries like India Pakistan and then Bangladesh. If India is not divided, India’s population will now surpass that of China.
Under the long-term publicity of family planning, the concept of overpopulation in China has been deeply rooted. In addition, China is the country with the largest population in the world. Many people take it for granted that Chinese people are especially capable of having children. But in fact, all the remaining nations have a strong fertility culture. China has a vast territory and a long history. The integration of different tribes led to a unified Chinese nation. After that, the social and economic structure was relatively stable and the agriculture was developed. All these are favorable factors to promote the reproduction and population growth. In the past two thousand years, China’s population accounted for more than 20% of the world’s population, except in times of war.
In fact, no matter how dense a country’s population is, it is impossible to draw the conclusion of “overpopulation”. For example, Singapore’s population density is dozens of times higher than that of China, but Singapore still encourages childbearing. In the final analysis, the difference between Li Tie and us is that Li Tie regards population as a burden and thinks that the average value of people is negative, while we regard population as wealth and think that the average value of people is positive.
The proportion of the population of Chinese civilization is declining
Although China is now the country with the largest population, as a civilization, China has no population advantage. For example, there are more than one billion people in Western civilization, which share a common race, language family, religion, values and cultural identity. After World War II, the western countries were highly integrated in economy and security, and were a stable community of culture and interests. Population is the foundation of civilization inheritance. The Chinese civilization once accounted for one third of the world’s population, but now less than one fifth. However, every year, only one tenth of the world’s population is born. As shown in the figure below, even if fertility is not encouraged, China’s share of the world’s population will shrink sharply. By the end of this century, China’s weight will plummet and Chinese civilization will decline completely.
Note: the Chinese civilization contains Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. Data before 1950 were derived from the Chinese population history (1988), and then came from the 2010 population census. Other countries came from Maddison (2008) before 1950, followed by the UN Population Programme projections.

Of course, it is not only the quantity of population that affects the rise and fall of civilization, but also the population quality factors such as population quality, development level, organizational ability and cohesion. But population is the basic condition, and the power of civilization is directly proportional to the number of population. With the decline of population, the quality of population is not rising but declining. A large population does not mean that it will be strong, but a sharp decline in population must indicate its decline.
Marginal effect and scale effect
“There is a basic concept in Economics – marginal effect, that is to say, under a certain economic scale, the benefit may increase, but if it goes beyond the boundary of scale, the effect will decrease, and so will the population,” Li said
“Marginal effect” is also known as “diminishing marginal benefit”, which means that in an industry with resources as input, the utility of unit resource input on product output is decreasing. For example, if one person cultivates one mu of cultivated land, the output value is 1000 yuan; if two people cultivate two mu of cultivated land, the total output value is 2000 yuan; if there are more people and less land, the total output value may be only 1400 yuan and the per capita output value is only 700 yuan.
For agriculture, “marginal effect” is basically applicable, the more population, the less cultivated land per capita, the lower the per capita output value; however, for Industry and service industry, it is applicable to another effect – scale effect. In modern society, the industry with the highest output value in a country is not agriculture. In many countries, the output value of industry and tertiary industry is much higher than that of agriculture. For example, in 2019, China’s primary industry (including agriculture, forestry, fisheries and animal husbandry) accounted for only 7.1% of GDP, the secondary industry accounted for 39.0% and the tertiary industry accounted for 53.9%.
Within a certain range, the more population, the easier the development of industry and service industry, the higher the production efficiency and the higher the per capita output value. In manufacturing, for example, the unit cost of one million products produced by a company is much lower than that of producing 10000 products. Take the transportation industry for example, the higher the population density, the lower the per capita transportation cost and the more developed public transportation. The greater the population density, the lower the cost of promoting products and services. If there are many people and a large market, large-scale production will bring benefits. The larger the population, the more people will demand your products and the more competitors you will have, which will promote technological progress.
The shortage of labor has nothing to do with population size
“In the views of Mr. Liang Jianzhang and Mr. Huang Wenzheng, the simplest logic is that China’s population will decrease due to the decline of birth rate in the future, especially in the era of population or labor shortage,” Li said
Obviously, Li Tie has seriously misunderstood our point of view, because we have never encouraged childbearing on the basis of China’s labor shortage, nor has he said in any article that the reason for liberalizing and encouraging childbearing is employment. We have said many times that there is no significant correlation between the number of population and the unemployment rate, nor is there a significant correlation between the number of population and the shortage of labor force.
A shrinking population does not mean a shortage of labor. This is because all the job opportunities come from people’s needs. As the population decreases, the demand will decrease correspondingly, and the job opportunities will naturally decrease. On the whole, the impact of population size on employment is neutral, but slightly positive. We have analyzed in detail in the first article commenting on Li Tie’s views, and will not repeat them here.
Although the world’s population is increasing, the general trend of labor price, i.e. wage level, is rising, which shows that the most precious wealth is not natural resources, but human resources. On the other hand, the proportion of the value of natural resources in the economy has been declining on the whole, and now it accounts for less than 5% of GDP. It can be seen that compared with the wealth created and enjoyed by human beings, natural resources are becoming cheaper and cheaper, while human resources are more and more expensive.
The root cause of the deterioration of ecological environment is not overpopulation
Li Tie said: “the greenhouse effect is one of the serious problems facing mankind. What is the purpose of most countries in the world signing climate treaties? It is the excessive consumption of resources by human beings that leads to the deterioration of the earth’s ecology. ”
In fact, the earth itself has been in continuous changes and periodic fluctuations, human activities are only one of the many factors affecting the earth’s environment. Before the existence of human beings, glacial period and climate warming occurred alternately. As for how human activities affect the environment, it is difficult to reach a conclusion. Even if the impact is significant, production and lifestyle and environmental protection measures are far more important than the impact of population policy on the environment. For example, the energy consumption, space occupation and environmental impact of office workers’ own driving are several to dozens of times higher than that of using public transport. In the foreseeable future, the impact of population policy differences on the total population and the environment is only a few percent or dozens of percent, which is an order of magnitude lower than the impact of traffic mode differences. It will take decades for Fertility Policies to have a perceptible impact on population size. During this period, if the understanding of environmental problems is in place and the measures are appropriate, the environment can be changed.
Moreover, a small population does not necessarily mean a good environment. In terms of environmental quality, densely populated Europe is better than sparsely populated Africa, and Japan, with a larger population density, is better than China, which has a smaller population density. Mongolia is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, but it is one of the countries with the most serious desertification. 90% of grassland is affected by desertification and land degradation.
Over the past 20 years, 2 million square miles of vegetation have been added to the surface, equivalent to one more Amazon rainforest, according to NASA. One third of this green growth is due to China and India, the two most populous countries in the world. Although it is uncertain how much of this is related to climate change, efforts by China and India to pay more attention to the environment and invest more resources in afforestation and vegetation improvement have contributed to their growing affluence. In the process of these efforts, the huge population size of the two countries is even a favorable factor to improve the environment, which is in sharp contrast to the worsening environment in sparsely populated countries such as Mongolia. Brazil, by contrast, has a much smaller population, but its Amazon rainforest is shrinking.
China is not the only one responsible for the global population problem

“Continuing to encourage multiple births irresponsibly will not only make China face many difficulties in development, but also make all mankind have to face all kinds of problems arising from overpopulation in the future,” Li Tie said
There are now 7.7 billion people in the world, including 1.4 billion in China and 6.3 billion outside China. If the earth is really overpopulated, then all countries in the world should participate in the population control plan, especially the countries with larger population density than China should control population more and formulate the population control proportion of each country. If other countries do not restrict childbearing, only in China, we would like to ask Li Tie: if only 1.4 billion people in China are restricted, and the remaining 6.3 billion people do not need to be restricted, can this solve the global population problem?
“China has made great contributions to the world in population control. Of course, this has been achieved at the expense of countless individuals and families in China,” Li said. But also because of the population control, the huge burden of China’s development has been reduced. ”
It can be seen that Li Tie still regards China’s population as a huge burden and China’s population control as “a great contribution to the world”. However, we believe that the average value of Chinese people is positive. China’s extremely low fertility rate means that the proportion of the industrious and intelligent Chinese nation in the world is shrinking rapidly. This is not only a loss for China, but also a loss for the world.
Most countries will not regard the reduction of fertility rate as a contribution to the world, because these countries understand that children are the most valuable resource, and many countries with a fertility rate far higher than China are encouraging fertility. For example, the French government awards the Republic family medal to families with four or more children. Families with four to five children are copper, six to seven children are silver, and eight or more children are gold. There are countless practical incentives. Even so, France’s fertility rate is only close to 2.0, still below the replacement level. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are also trying to encourage fertility, but the fertility rate is still hovering at a very low level.
All in all, Li Tie’s argument still holds that population is a burden, which is the same as Malthusian theory 200 years ago. Malthus theory can be said to be a simple “peasant” population theory, which is not suitable for modern economy. 200 years ago, in the Malthusian era, agriculture was the main industry, and more land per capita would certainly increase productivity. Li Tie is also constantly using examples of agriculture and per capita cultivated land as his argument. But in fact, China and most of the middle-income countries in the world have stepped into industry, service industry and innovative economy, and the proportion of agriculture is very small, and the vast majority of young people in China have not been engaged in agriculture for a long time. Therefore, some people still cling to the farmers’ habitual thinking and come to the conclusion that “population is a burden”. This wrong view is extremely misleading to the reform of population policy.