Pensions, Public Opinion, and the Graying of China
Mark W. Frazier
This article analyzes popular beliefs and attitudes regarding pensions, pension reforms, and the future of retirement savings in China.
As China approaches the “high tide” of population aging over the next fifteen
to twenty years, the Chinese government will increasingly encounter a graying
citizenry that holds a strongly state-oriented view of pensions and pension
rights. After fifteen years of pension reforms, this cohort of citizens at or near
the retirement age maintains strong beliefs that the government should play a
major role in providing pensions.
- Pension reforms to date have resulted in the Chinese government’s acquisition
of a large pension debt owed to current contributors when they retire.
These pension requirements will act as a significant constraint upon central
and local government budgetary resources in the future.
- The deeply held beliefs among the Chinese populace regarding an active
state role in providing pensions could, especially given China’s lack of democratic
mechanisms, constitute a potent threat to social stability should
medical and pension costs go unmet.
- The graying of China will accelerate the “guns vs. butter” debate already
occurring within Chinese leadership circles. Though the outcome of that
debate is indeterminate, its resolution will reveal a great deal concerning
the character and strategic intentions of the Chinese Communist Party.