COVID Counterrevolution and Fertility Rate

Comparing China and Sweden provides telling results about the devastating consequences of the Lockdown policy

By Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 9 February 2023,


When the COVID pandemic began three years ago, it was only the RCIT and few other authentic Marxists (like Convergencia Socialista in Argentina which later joined the RCIT) who understood that the policy of Lockdown and emergency regimes represented a reactionary attack of the ruling class. We explained that the authoritarian policy of capitalist governments was not primarily motivated by considerations of public health but rather an instrument to expand chauvinism and state bonapartist control over the population.

Hence, in contrast to numerous reformist and centrist organisations, the RCIT characterized the reactionary Lockdown policy as COVID Counterrevolution and opposed it from early February 2020 onwards. We advocated a health-orientated socialist response to the pandemic [1] and a strategy of popular uprising in defence of social and democratic rights. [2]

As a result of spontaneous mass protests most Western governments were forced to retreat in the first half of the year 2022 and to lift many measures. By the end of this year, China – the initiator and bulwark of the draconic Zero COVID policy – was shattered by an unprecedented wave of demonstrations. This uprising – the largest protests since the revolutionary events at the Tiananmen Square in summer 1989 – forced the Xi regime to retreat. [3]


Collapse of China’ birth rate since 2020


One year ago, we published an article in which we analysed the consequences of China’s Zero COVID for the country’s demographic development. Using official figures of China’s authorities, we did show that mortality was increasing despite all the pandemic measures. At the same time, the number of babies born had extremely declined. [4]

Recently published data strongly confirm these trends. According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the national population was 1,411 million by the end of 2022. This represented a decrease of 0.85 million over that at the end of 2021. While the number of births was 9.56 million, the number of deaths was 10.41 million. [5]

It is the first time that deaths have outnumbered births in China since the famine in 1959-61 provoked by the so-called “Great Leap Forward” – a failed economic experiment of the Stalinist dictatorship led by Mao Zedong. In this period, the country lost 35 million people, according to former Xinhua reporter Yang Jisheng, who has researched the topic for more than a decade. [6]

It is true that China has experienced a long-term trend of declining birth rate. However, as Table 1 shows this trend has dramatically accelerated since the beginning of the draconic Zero COVID policy. If we take the birth rate of 2019 – the year before the pandemic – as a starting point, we see that this rate had declined by 18.2% in 2020, by 27.8% in 2021 and by 35% in 2022. This is a gigantic drop by any standards!


Table 1. Birth Rate in China from 2015 to 2022 [7]

2015      2016      2017      2018      2019      2020      2021      2022

1.199     1.357     1.264     1.086     1.041     0.852     0.752     0.677


We see the same trend if we look at China’s total fertility rate, i.e. the average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime. This rate was fairly flat at an average about 1.66 between 1991 and 2017. However, it fell to 1.28 in 2020 and 1.15 in 2021. And according to calculations from Professor Wei Chen at the Renmin University of China, the 2022 fertility rate was at just 1.08. [8]

Such a collapse of birth rate reflects that China is a society which is increasingly depressed and pessimistic in its outlook for the future. This is hardly surprising: who wants to live in a society where people are regularly put under curfew and surveilled day-by-day where they move, what they do and whom the meet?!

Wang Feng, a professor of sociology at the University of California at Irvine who specializes in China’s demographics, presents a doom outlook. “In the long run, we are going to see a China the world has never seen. It will no longer be the young, vibrant, growing population. We will start to appreciate China, in terms of its population, as an old and shrinking population.[9]


Stable fertility rate in Sweden


It is not without interest to compare China’s demographic development with that of Sweden. As it is well known, and we have pointed to this in various articles, Sweden was one of the few countries which did not impose a Lockdown policy and similar bonapartist measures during the pandemic. The bourgeois public opinion around the globe furiously denounced Sweden for this and claimed that its policy would “act with reckless disregard for the life of its citizens”. As we demonstrated, this was utter nonsense and, in fact, Sweden came out of the pandemic better than most other countries! [10]

If we look at total fertility rate of women in Sweden since 2000, we see an oscillation between about 1,5 and 2. If we take the figures for the years of the pandemic 2020 and 2021 (the figures for 2022 have not been released yet), we see that they were only slightly below the level of 2019: 1.70 (2019), 1.66 (2020) and 1.67 (2021). (See Table 2)


Table 2: Total Fertility Rate of Women in Sweden, 2000-2021 [11]

2000      2002      2004      2006      2008      2010      2012      2014      2016      2018      2019      2020      2021

1.54       1.65       1.75       1.85       1.91       1.98       1.90       1.88       1.85       1.75      1.70       1.66       1.67


What a contrast to the collapse of the birth rate in China in the years of the COVID Counterrevolution! In summary, we see that the Zero COVID policy had extremely negative consequences for China’s society while countries like Sweden which refused to implement the authoritarian Lockdown policy fared much better!

What a shame that nearly all so-called “socialists” supported (“critically” or not so critically) the bourgeois Lockdown policy! In some cases, reformist parties helped to implement these repressive measures as part of a capitalist government coalition (e.g. in Spain, Italy, South Africa). Various self-proclaimed Trotskyist organizations supported the policy of long-lasting mass quarantine of the population and only demanded better financial compensation. In many cases, they criticized the bourgeois governments not for their anti-democratic Lockdown policy but for not imposing it longer and more draconically! Worse, in many cases, such “Trotskyist” groups even denounced mass protests against the Lockdown and Green Pass policy as “reactionary” – like e.g. the spontaneous mass demonstrations in Europe and other regions or the dockers strike against the “Green Pass” system in Italy in autumn 2021. [12]

Socialists need to learn the lessons of the COVID Counterrevolution and decisively break with any support for chauvinist state bonapartism!


[1] RCIT: A Revolutionary Action Program to fight COVID-19! Workers and Oppressed: Don’t trust the State of the Rich and Powerful! Trust only Yourselves! April 2020,; see also: ALS: A Marxist approach to the international mobilizations against the authoritarian health restrictions, February 2022,

[2] The RCIT has published more than 100 pamphlets, essays, articles and statements plus a book on the COVID Counterrevolution which are all compiled at a special sub-page on our website: In particular we refer readers to two RCIT Manifestos: COVID-19: A Cover for a Major Global Counterrevolutionary Offensive. We are at a turning point in the world situation as the ruling classes provoke a war-like atmosphere in order to legitimize the build-up of chauvinist state-bonapartist regimes, 21 March 2020,; “Green Pass” & Compulsory Vaccinations: A New Stage in the COVID Counterrevolution. Down with the chauvinist-bonapartist police & surveillance state – defend democratic rights! No to health policy in the service of the capitalist monopolies – expand the public health sector under workers and popular control! 29 July 2021,; In addition, we draw attention to our book by Michael Pröbsting: The COVID-19 Global Counterrevolution: What It Is and How to Fight It. A Marxist analysis and strategy for the revolutionary struggle, RCIT Books, April 2020,

[3] The RCIT has published the following documents on the recent mass protests in China: Popular Rebellion against Lockdowns and “Zero COVID”,; COVID-19: What Did Authentic Marxists Say about China’s Lockdown Policy in Spring 2020? In contrast to the Lockdown Left, the RCIT opposed chauvinist state bonapartism from the very beginning, 22 December 2022,; Protests against “Zero COVID” in China: An Embarrassment for the Lockdown Left,; China Protests: The Anti-Lockdown Program of the University Students in Beijing,; Que el FITu y otros partidos de izquierda pongan en pie un Comité de Solidaridad con el pueblo chino que lucha contra la dictadura del PCch,; Defensores de cuarentenas y pases sanitarios apoyan la lucha de chinos contra cuarentenas ¿Doble vara o una realidad que liquidó sus argumentos?,

[4] Michael Pröbsting: China’s Demographic Development and the Zero COVID Policy. The latest official reports about China’s birth and death rates destroy the reactionary conception of the Lockdown Left, 18 January 2022,

[5] National Bureau of Statistics of China: National Economy Withstood Pressure and Reached a New Level in 2022, 17 January 2023,

[6] Jeff Pao: China’s demographic timebomb starts ticking down, 17 January 2023,

[7] The figures for 2015-2020 are taken from the China Statistical Yearbook 2021 and the CEIC: Population: Birth Rate: China, (accessed on 18 January 2022); The figure for 2021 is taken from Orange Wang and Luna Sun: China’s population up less than half a million in 2021, births plunge again as crisis deepens, South China Morning Post, 17 January 2022,; The figure for 2022 is taken from the above mentioned press release by the National Bureau of Statistics of China.

[8] Xiujian Peng: China’s population shrink in big picture perspective, 19 January 2023

[9] Quoted in Alexandra Stevenson and Zixu Wang: China’s Population Falls, Heralding a Demographic Crisis, New York Times, 16 January 2023,

[10] See e.g. Michael Pröbsting: COVID-19: Excess Mortality and Mass Vaccination in Europe … and Some Unpleasant Facts. In all age groups below 75 years, more people have died in 2021 than in the previous year. The reason for this is not the virus, 18 December 2021,; by the same author: COVID-19: Sweden's Total Mortality in 2020. Once again, the figures demonstrate that this is a serious but not unprecedented pandemic, 23 January 2021,

[12] We have dealt with the pro-Lockdown policy of these organisation in various articles. For references see the footnotes in the above-mentioned article “Protests against “Zero COVID” in China: An Embarrassment for the Lockdown Left”.