China growth hinges on education: experts

Updated: 2016-06-01 11:06

By LIA ZHU in San Francisco(

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As China sees its population decreasing, the country needs to better educate its people to sustain long-term growth, said experts.

A Chinese couple will have, on average, only 1.4 children next generation, and calculated at that rate, the population as a whole would be reduced by a fourth after four generations, said Li Hongbin, a visiting professor of economics at the Stanford Center for International Development.

"If we can't increase the quantity, we can improve the quality, which is through education," said Li, at an annual conference of visiting scholars on Saturday at the university.

"China's problem in a sense is how to deal with a stable population or an aging population when you've lost a stimulus that comes from constantly having to provide for new entrants, new generations, new jobs, new students to be trained," said Nicholas Hope, director of the center and its China research program.

Last October, China initiated a second-child policy, putting an end to the one-child policy instituted in the late 1970s. The new policy is expected to address the country's aging trend and potential future labor shortages due to the low birth rates of recent years.

"Many women choose not to have a second child despite the policy, because the cost for women is too high," said Li.

Hope agreed. Once women have experienced the freedom that comes from not having to deal with half a dozen children and being constantly engaged in childbirth, many decide that one child is enough, he explained.

"To enable the process to continue in a country that's now emphasizing innovation and entrepreneurship, and movement to the front-tier and cutting-edge technological advancements, you need to educate people much better," said Hope.

He said while he was working with the World Bank as country director for China and Mongolia, he used to visit the rural areas of Guizhou, Gansu, Jiangxi, in the underdeveloped west of China.

"When you looked at where people were living," he said, "this was not a place that would support people in a decent standard of living 25 years from now."

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