Saturday, January 22, 2011

China (and America's) closing window

From American Thinker:

With Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington, there's a lot of talk about the rise of China as an economic and military power. But the Chinese may have only a small window in time to assert global dominance -- and Chinese leaders have to know it. China is, perhaps, twenty years from the start of a demographic implosion, one that will cause enormous internal strains, economically and socially.

Could awareness of the hard demographic realities that lie ahead for China drive the Chinese to advance their interests militarily, if need be, before China is hampered by an aging population? Will the Chinese military, alarmed by the coming demographic crisis, push its nation to imperialism, similar to that inflicted on Asia-Pacific by the Japanese through World War II?

An increasingly assertive Chinese military may be providing the answer. Chinese leaders -- party and military -- may well appreciate that China needs to secure its position as a great power before tackling the huge challenges of a graying population.

The root of China's coming demographic crisis is the nation's longstanding one-child policy; that policy has markedly skewed the Chinese population older. Not far off, many more old people and fewer young people mean greater strains on China.

Neil Howe and Richard Jackson, with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in the Washington Post about China's demographic plight:

Consider China, which may be the first country to grow old before it grows rich. For the past quarter-century, China has been "peacefully rising," thanks in part to a one-child policy that has allowed both parents to work and contribute to China's boom. But by the 2020s, as the huge Red Guard generation born before the country's fertility decline moves into retirement, they will tax the resources of their children and the state. China's coming age wave -- by 2030 it will be an older country than the United States -- may weaken the two pillars of the current regime's legitimacy: rapidly rising GDP and social stability. Imagine workforce growth slowing to zero while tens of millions of elders sink into indigence without pensions, without health care and without children to support them. China could careen toward social collapse -- or, in reaction, toward an authoritarian clampdown.
Howe and Jackson aren't alone in their assessment of China's future. AT's Thomas Lifson notes that because Chinese parents widely prefer that their one child be a male, aborting female fetuses, there will be about 40 million bachelor males in 2020 unable to find a female spouse. Not only does this reduce births, it provides an ample supply of unattached males suitable for military service.

Rodger Baker wrote recently at Stratfor about the end of China's economic miracle in the "not-so-distant future." But the Baker article chiefly addresses the evolution of the Chinese military into a broader leadership role within the country.

For three decades now, the Chinese have been reorienting its military from a primarily land-based border defense to a military that can project its strength in the air, on blue water, and through advanced weapons' technology and systems.

Baker writes that China's rapid economic expansion has led to China's dependence on resources across the globe. China, though not a resource-poor island like Japan, has an estimated population of 1.33 billion. Economic growth and growing consumer demands require that the Chinese obtain resources overseas. China's leadership is seeking to project military power to ostensibly protect vital sea lanes to ensure access to raw materials.

But one wonders if China's buildup in projectable military power doesn't allow for a contingency. China, facing an end to its economic miracle, and facing a demographic crisis in a mere twenty years, may find its beefed up military useful in securing resources sooner through intimidation or, in some cases, through outright seizure -- particularly in Asia, where China's military would have its strongest reach.

Go read the rest.

It is just possible that at the mid point of this century we will look back on our fears of looming Chinese dominance as a case of mass hysteria like the "Japan scare" of the 1980's.  Remember how so many people believed that Japan was going to take over the world.  How they were buying real estate all over the USA, sometimes even significant landmarks?

Remember also how Japan just imploded?  Remember how they were forced to sell all that real estate that they had paid vastly inflated prices for at a fraction of its real value?

China's demographic time bomb could very well bring on the same kind of implosion.  Or China could go old school communist and require all persons too old to work to report to the fertilizer factory for rendering.  It would have a large enough army to enforce its will on the population.

The point that the author of the AT piece is making is that China might decide to use the military that it is building up to establish China's place as a world power before it has to deal with its coming demographic problems.

It would be foolish to ignore this possibility.  China is spending a great deal of money building up its air force and deepwater navy and it is focusing its military R&D on various projects which have "carrier-killer" stamped all over them.  This is clearly intended to push America out of the Asian theater of operations and allow the PRC to snap up choice targets like the Spratley Islands and Taiwan.

I would not be all that worried about China's ability to pull off its ambitions given America's numerical and technological advantages but we do have to face the fact that we have, for at least the next two years, an American president who most likely thinks that America richly deserves to lose at the hands of the Chinese (or anyone else for that matter) and who will miss no opportunity to set up the circumstances for America's failure.

This is just the latest, and one of the strongest, reasons why it is so desperately important that we do the right thing in November, 2012 and not just send Obama back to Chicago but put someone in the White House with the strength to do what must be done.

Under normal circumstances the GOP leadership would come in off the golf course long enough to ask, "whose turn is it this time", and then nominate some RINO loser like John McCain or George HW Bush.  We really never could afford to do that and we absolutely cannot afford to do it now.

If the candidate chosen by the Republican rank and file to represent the party in 2012 isn't the kind of person who causes the GOP establishment leadership profound digestive upset (like Ronald Reagan did and Sarah Palin does) we will probably not win the election and even if we do it will not matter in the long run.