Amid this lingering death of the Western world, the obvious question is: who’s next?
There is no obvious reason to suppose that Western peoples are peculiarly susceptible to baizuo mutations. In the absence of such a reason it follows that the West is merely leading, in this unhappy respect, as it previously led in other ways.
My guess for the runner-up is Hong Kong. Spared by colonialism from the horrors that engulfed China, its only episode of serious adversity was the Japanese occupation. We would therefore expect it to be further on the path to baizuo than the mainland.
There are signs that this is so: the headlines of the South China Morning Post have ominous echoes of its Western counterparts, e.g. “Half of Hong Kong employers do not want to hire women with children, study finds”. Presumably the other half are irrational.
Further back in the running order we can see Japan and South Korea, followed by China and Russia. This is speculative of course; a few more decades are required to make the picture clearer, by which time no one in the West will be able or willing to understand it.
How can a civilisation learn from the West’s baizuo catastrophe and save itself from the same fate? In theory it could be done by deliberately replicating the harsh reproductive environment that prevailed everywhere before the Industrial Revolution. In practise it’s difficult to imagine: how many parents would be agreeable to having 40% of their children sacrificed?
Most likely there is no escape. Civilisation, like other phenomena, tends to counter the effects that gave rise to it; it is self-defeating. Perhaps the reason that we seem to be the lone civilisation in the Galaxy is that it’s an evanescent state. Perhaps there are other planets around us where the ruins of great structures built by long-gone ancestors remind the little green men of achievements that can no longer be matched.