China looks set to become the first country to get old before it gets rich.

Its declining birth rate looks almost impossible to reverse, a trajectory with profound implications for its economic and social prospects. The Chinese government is well aware of the problem and the dangers. Unfortunately, however, none of the responses looks like they will work.

Japan too must be alert to the repercussions of China’s aging. This country’s experience with a graying population may provide some ways to work with its neighbor and ease the transition to a grayer society.