28 February 2011

What Destiny Does Demographic Change Hold for World Hegemony?

It is fashionable to assume that the 21st century will belong to China, as Europe and North America lose the memes and genes which drove scientific, commercial, military, and technological progress in the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. But what does demography have to say about the fashionable viewpoint?
Americans prosper with a fertility rate of 2.1, high enough to shield them from the sort of demographic collapse closing in on Asia and Europe. Beijing and Shanghai are 1.0, Korea is 1.1, Singapore 1.2, Germany 1.3, Poland 1.3, Italy 1.4 and Russia 1.4.

...Zhuoyan Mao from Beijing’s Institute for Family Planning said China’s fertility rate had been below replacement level for almost twenty years. “Population momentum” turned negative over a decade ago in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Liaoning, but the countryside is catching up. “The decline speed in rural areas is faster,” he says. _Evans-Pritchard Telegraph
The decline of rural populations can lead to fewer farmers, less agricultural production, and a growing need to import food for hungry cities.
China’s fertility rate is collapsing anyway for the same reasons as it has collapsed in Japan and Korea – affluence, women’s education, later pregnancies that stretch generations, in-law duties, and costly housing. You cannot reverse this with a wave of the wand. The lag times can be half a century.

George Magnus, UBS’s global guru, writes in his book “Uprising” that China faces a “triple whammy of ageing”. The number of children under 14 will fall by 53m by 2050; the work force will contract by 100m; and the over-60s will rise by 234m, from 12pc to 31pc of the total.

...Cheng Siwei, the head of China’s green energy drive, told me a few months ago that eco-damage of 13.5pc of GDP each year outstrips China’s growth rate of 10pc. "We have an intangible environmental debt that we are leaving to our children," he said. That debt is already due. _Telegraph

Much of Eastern Siberia will belong to China before the mid-point of the 21st century. Russia's demographic collapse is coming on too quickly for it to be able to hold on to its vast underpopulated East -- new nukes or no new nukes.

But will China belong to China? China's history is replete with short lived empires interrupted by chaotic schisms of scattered warlord rule. We can see such nascent cracking chasms beginning to work their way through modern China even now -- some of them along ancient fault lines.

And while the quoted Evans-Pritchard article above referred to the possible rise of something called "ChIndia," how much more likely -- should the US collapse under massive debt, over-sized government, dys-regulation, and loss of human capital -- that the wave of anarchy and neo-tribalist schism should wash over China, India, and all other multi-ethnic, multi-cultural quasi-empires?


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Blogger neil craig said...

Professor John McCarthy once pointed out that there is a strong correlation between high birthrate and a society that oppreses women, which is not a pleasant thought.

Of course if we achieve physical longevity a declining population will be the least of our problems.

And if we get a production line of O'Neill space colonies going overpopulation, at least as it affects sustainability, will cease to be a risk. It will remain a problem if humanity gets a single government with power linked to numbers.

Monday, 28 February, 2011  
Blogger kurt9 said...

The decline of rural populations can lead to fewer farmers, less agricultural production, and a growing need to import food for hungry cities.

No, not at all. It just leads to farm automation. This is why less than 2% of the U.S. population can grow the food for nearly half the world. Also, most of that 2% are immigrant laborers whose work would also be automated if they were not around.

Depopulation drives the development of robotics and advanced automation. It also makes it easier to restructure economically in economic liberalization without the creation of mass unemployment. The only downside to depopulation is the increases in government spending to take care of all of the old people before they either die off or get rejuvenated (SENS).

Japan has a big debt because of the post-bubble Keynesian spending during the 90's. Neither Korea or China have this kind of debt right now.

Monday, 28 February, 2011  
Blogger kurt9 said...

South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) is too screwed up culturally and economically speaking for them to ever take over any land outside their own region. The muslim middle-east is also starting to undergo the same demographic transition as everyone else.

The reality is that much of the developing world (Latin America, S.E. Asia, India, Muslim world) is only about 15-20 years behind China in the demographic transition.

Monday, 28 February, 2011  

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