by JT Michcock...
Superpower No More?
Societies rise and fall.
The greatest and wealthiest nations 200 years ago have either died or been
substantially diminished. Britain once ruled the waves, Spain before
it and the ancient Phoenicians in the earliest historical period.
Nothing stays the same geopolitically and there's no reason to believe
that the future will likewise be different from the present.
In the year 2000, there is
no question that the pre-eminent nation is the United States of America.
It has held this position arguably since the early part of the century,
achieving superpower status after the close of World War II. After
more than half a century, it cannot be argued that the United States stands
as the paramount world power.
Or can it be argued?
Time Magazine recently ran
an article noting America's primary position among the world's powers,
economically and militarily. But the same article questioned how
long that could continue. After all, everyone guns for whoever is
There are some rather disturbing
signs that indicate the end of American supremacy may be either here or
right around the corner. Forces are at work on the other side of
the Pacific Ocean that may spell the end to American hegemony.
I want to be the first to
go on the record that the United States has only about twenty more years
before it is eclipsed as the paramount superpower. There is still
time to do something about it, but this likely will not occur due to the
numbers that are quickly becoming apparent.
These reasons are varied,
but the most salient development of late has been related to demographics.
I believe these demographics will conspire to make China the next superpower
by the midpoint of the 21st Century.
In 1979, the Chinese government
sought to maintain population through a one child per family policy.
This policy was later incorporated in the nation's constitution in 1982.
As a consequence of this, the nation's birthrate has fallen from 5.93 children
per woman in 1970, to 2.66 in 1979, and 1.94 in 1984. The overall
growth of the population growth has continued upward, however, with more
than 1.3 billion of the planet's six billion inhabitants
living in China.
The "One Child" policy has
had an interesting demographic effect. Based upon the overall preference
of the Chinese population, there are substantially more males than females
being born. How many more males to females? The latest
statistics place this number at 120 males being born for every 100
How the Chinese express that
preference for boy babies is also a source of concern. This
is being accomplished through the means of selective abortion and female
The respected London Telegraph
reports that the overabundance of males in the population is creating "an
army of bachelors." At present, there are some 70 million
young Chinese men entering marriage age who are going to find themselves
without a reliable source of female companionship. The Telegraph
predicts that "a severe breakdown in social order, including the abduction
and sale of women, and a huge rise in prostitution will be among the consequences."
Sounds like a bad Lifetime movie to me.
Neil Wiener, an associate
professor of psychology at York University, recently authored a study of
what pushes societies toward war. The simple
response that he provides is that it is based upon the number of unmarried
males in the population.
Aggression is principally
the province of men. Time after time, it has been demonstrated that
outcomes have created a world where men dominate statistically in areas
of governance and gender relations. This is no more or less
a "natural" observation than considering that women tend to give birth.
Certainly there are exceptions, but on a world scale, men will dominate.
If there is any nation that
has been regarded as respectful of its own borders, it has been China.
By and large, the China located on modern maps has remained largely unchanged
for hundreds of years. Excepting incursions into Tibet, China has
not had a reputation of being an aggressive force. Nonetheless, China
also happens to be in the midst of an unprecedented economic boom that
is creating increased
industrial output – output that can potentially be used for the purpose
of making war on others.
But Chinese men are no less
vulnerable to their biology than are their counterparts in the rest of
China's historically nonaggressive
posture is likely to change, with the numbers demonstrating more forcefulness
on the world stage in the very near future. Ominous signs are already
pointing to a more militaristic world view, with the heat on neighboring
Taiwan being only the most recent sign. The use of military
exercises in the surrounding straits separating the breakaway island
republic began in 1996. A stream of aggressive behavior has continued
and, with the election of a pro-independence President in Taiwan, the flames
With the annexation of Hong
Kong, China has acquired a means to become a true economic powerhouse.
With the intercession in Taiwan likely to occur within the next few years,
this will further direct momentum outward.
The future is always difficult
to predict. But one thing that consistently holds true is the reliability
of statistics as predictors. In looking around the world, one has
to focus on those areas that appear ripe for aggressive activity.
Some 70 million bachelors are going to be looking for wives soon.
What will the world offer them?
In the next column, I will
be looking at the flip side of the rise of China – the fall of the United
States as a superpower. Can anything be done to stop it? Or
is it inevitable that America is destined to fall?