Comte was right about that. This excellent article, “Power and Population in Asia”, by Nicholas Eberstadt (via Arts & Letters) gives a 40,000 ft. overview and rundown on the major players on the Pacific side.
Eberstadt discusses the ongoing Russian demographic disaster. “In absolute arithmetic terms, this Russian mortality crisis qualifies as a catastrophe of historic proportions. … Russia’s burden of illness today, however, is not primarily communicable and infectious, but instead overwhelmingly chronic and/or behavioral — the sorts of problems that are seldom susceptible to quick, cheap medical fixes. … At any given age … today’s Russians are more likely to succumb to fatal risk than their parents.” Zaire with permafrost indeed. At this rate, in the next few decades, Russia will exit the scene forever as a major power. A continent-sized power vacuum is opening up in Eurasia. Woo hoo. Stay tuned.
Eberstadt also discusses Japan’s slide into senility:
But the most extreme and extraordinary instance of population aging will be witnessed in Japan. By  … almost 30 percent of Japan’s populace will be 65 or older, and almost every ninth Japanese will be 80 or older. This future Japan would have very nearly as many octogenarians, nonagenarians, and centenarians as children under 15 — and would have barely two persons of traditional “working age” (as the 15–64 cohort is often, not unreasonably, construed) for every person of notional “retirement age” (65 and over).
Maybe the Japanese can keep workers active, operating manufacturing robots from their wheel chairs. And maybe the Japanese will set up training camps in the former North Korea (once the Commie regime disintegrates) to teach the half-starved, illiterate victims of Communism to be “guest workers” who can live in barracks outside of town and be bussed in to change the bed pans. Whatever happens, this all bodes ill for any hope of a raging Japanese economy in the years ahead. An old-folks home is not going to be a cockpit of economic vibrancy. No way. Remember Paul Kennedy’s prediction, that Japan was going to surpass the USA? Duh, no.
So Russia and Japan are sliding off into the Sunset. OK. Now, what about that 800 lb gorilla?
China’s population growth has flattened off. So, the short version is “they’re big, they’ll stay big, but they are not getting lot’s bigger.” But Eberstadt downplays what I think is the big news, the incipient disaster in China as a result of their “girl shortage” due to sex-selection abortions:
It does not seem wild, however, to propose that the emergence and rise of the phenomenon of the “unmarriageable male” may occasion an increase of social tensions in China — and perhaps social turbulence as well. Exactly how China’s future cohorts of young men are to be socialized with no prospect of settled family life and no tradition of honorable bachelorhood is a question that can be asked today, but not answered.
Sure it can. One way to answer the question is by reference to other countries and other times, as was done in the more alarmist and believable essay “A Surplus of Men, a Deficit of Peace: Security and Sex Ratios in Asia’s Largest States”. Short answer: All Hell is going to break loose in a Confucian society where 15% of the men can never get married. Things could get ugly. Again, stay tuned.
Eberstadt notes that India faces much the same problem, with many, many baby girls aborted. But India seems to me to be a more resilient society, with a functioning democracy, courts, free press, etc., i.e. its Anglospheric inheritance. So, I think India is a stronger society even if less stable-seeming on the surface, not relying so much on political repression to keep a brittle sort of order, like China. Also, India seems to be embarking on genuine economic liberalization, with the dismantling of the “license Raj” which means it is poised for major growth. And India seems likely to have more balanced growth than China does. (See the much-cited article, Can India Overtake China?, and this.) So, I am hopeful that India will have a strong economy and polity and be better able to withstand the mayhem when the consequences of this not-enough-girls thing start to become apparent. Fingers crossed.
Another thing. In a society with a shortage of women, the big losers are likely to be the women themselves. When they are in short supply, that are treated less as autonomous beings and more as scarce and valuable chattels. (Rodney Stark discusses the status of females in Roman society in The Rise of Christianity — the Romans practiced female infanticide and had a chronic deficit of adult women.) The struggle for women’s’ rights in the countries where they are 45% of the population will be dramatic indeed in the years ahead.
To a Jacksonian like me, the bottom-line best news from Eberstadt is this:
[T]he United States is [projected] to grow from 285 million in 2000 to 358 million in 2025. In absolute terms, this would be by far the greatest increase projected for any industrialized society; in relative terms, this projected 26 percent increment would almost exactly match the proportional growth of the Asia/Eurasia region as a whole. Under these trajectories, the United States would remain the world’s third most populous country in 2025, and by the early 2020s, the U.S. population growth rate — a projected 0.7 percent per year — would in this scenario actually be higher than that of Indonesia, Thailand, or virtually any country in East Asia, China included.
This is further support for the article in the Economist last year entitled “Half a billion Americans?” which reported the “shocking” news from America’s decennial census of a far higher fertility rate than expected. That plus continuing to be the world’s immigration magnet means that America is going to have a far younger, more dynamic work force than Europe over the coming decades. (I must quote Gary Brecher’s current War Nerd column: “How do you Europeans live with yourselves? You used to BE somebody. Now look at you. Can’t breed, can’t fight, won’t stand up for yourselves…makes me sick.” Yes. (BTW, read it; it’s good as usual; it’s about Libya.))
Our destiny appears to be more Americans to work, think, create, innovate, invent, invest, build, trade, buy, sell … and, when necessary, to visit swift and crushing devastation on those who would do us harm. Good. Good. Sounds good. (Getting everybody “assimilated” remains an issue — but we’ll deal with that … .)
All in all, I like the demographic cards we are holding.
God bless America, the young, dynamic world-nation of the 21st Century.