Tuesday, February 17, 2004

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Demographics and international relations

Most commentators do not mention the role of demography in international relations, in large part because the study of population can seem dry (I won't lie to you -- until a few years ago, if I saw a talk with the the word "demography" in the title, I was already bored) and because the effect of current demographic trends usually don't play themselves out for generations.

That said, Tyler Cowen links to a Nicholas Eberstadt essay in Policy Review that's worth a gander. First, Eberstadt actually justifies the failure to pay attention to demography:

By comparison with other contemporary forms of change — social, economic, political, technological — demographic changes are very slow and very regular.... And demographic change is only sharp and discontinuous in times of utter upheaval and catastrophe (circumstances, to be sure, not unfamiliar to modern Russia, China, Cambodia, and Korea — and a number of other Asian or Eurasian populations). From the standpoint of strategic demography, momentous developments can and do occur from one generation to the next, but rather less of note can be expected to take place over the course of three to five years.

That said, Eberstadt instroduces some startling facts -- and the same one that caught Tyler's attention caught mine:

Between 2000 and 2025 China’s median age is set to rise very substantially: from about 30 to around 39. According to unpd projections for 2025, in fact, China’s median age will be higher than America’s. The impending tempo of population aging in China is very nearly as rapid as anything history has yet seen. It will be far faster than what was recorded in the more developed regions over the past three decades and is exceeded only by Japan. There is a crucial difference, however, between Japan’s recent past and China’s prospective future. To put the matter bluntly, Japan became rich before it became old; China will do things the other way around. When Japan had the same proportion of population 65 and older as does China today (2000), its level of per capita output was three times higher than China’s is now. In 2025, 13.4 percent of China’s population is projected to be 65-plus; when Japan crossed the 13.4 percent threshold, its per capita gdp was approaching $20,000 a year (constant 1990 ppp dollars). One need not be a “Sino-pessimist” to suggest that China will be nowhere near that same economic marker 22 years from now....

Thus, China’s rapidly graying population appears to face a triple bind. Without a broad-coverage national pension system, and with only limited filial resources to fall back on, paid work will of necessity loom large as an option for economic security for many older Chinese. But employment in China, today and tomorrow, will be more physically punishing than in oecd countries, and China’s older cohorts are simply less likely to be up to the task. The aggregation of hundreds of millions of individual experiences with this triple bind over the coming generation will be a set of economic, social, and political constraints on Chinese development — and power augmentation — that have not as yet been fully appreciated in Beijing, much less overseas.

However, the startling fact in Eberstadt's article in the increasing gender imbalance in Chinese and Indian birth rates -- a function of "1) strong and enduring cultural preference for sons; 2) low or sub-replacement fertility; and 3) the advent of widespread technology for prenatal sex determination and gender-based abortion."

Eberstadt's conclusion is sobering:

It would be cheering to think that the gender imbalances emerging in Asia’s major population centers were a vestige of backward ideas and will consequently pass away with increasing modernization. The facts to date, unfortunately, do not support such an interpretation. In both India and China over the past two decades, the nationwide sex ratio at birth has increased along with per capita income, female literacy rates, and urbanization. In China today, the more literate provinces tend in fact to have somewhat higher, not lower, sex ratios at birth; and in India it is urban, not rural, areas in which the disproportion between boys and girls is greatest. For the time being, we must live with the disturbing possibility that continuing “development” and “globalization” will heighten rather than reduce nascent gender imbalances in these two enormous countries — and the knowledge that these particular expressions of “Asian values” will have unpredictable but perhaps not inconsequential repercussions on society and politics in these ostensibly rising powers for decades to come.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM


The one thing I could never understand about the distorting effect of a male favored birth ratio, is what happens when all these men reach marriageable age? The competition for the relatively fewer women is going to be intense.

posted by: cynical joe on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Key concept: .

Unnerstan it.

At any rate, demography is much more worrisome as it relates to the Middle East. I'm surprised it isn't discussed more frequently.

posted by: praktike on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]


key concept is population momentum.

posted by: praktike on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

I think when it comes to China, the competition for women among men of marriagable age will be allieviated somewhat by the already-existing practice of importing wives from poorer countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, etc. I don't have any idea what Indian men are going to do.

Something that is disturbing, however, is that historically, societies have "solved" this sort of imbalance by slaughtering their weaker neighbors and appropriating their women. Doesn't look like the 21st century is going to be a peaceful one after all.

Finally, China's current problems are primarily self-inflicted, the unintended consequences of decades of "social engineering" carried out by the Communist government. Mao ordered the people to reproduce as fast as possible as a means of surviving the nuclear war, and when China's population got too big for it to handle, the government imposed its soon-to-be-disasterous one-child policy to counter the unintended effects of its first policy.

posted by: Tom Ault on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Fascinating subject, excellent link. Here are my initial thoughts.

In India, a bride "deficit" could be countered classically (ala the Mahabharata) by meting out one bride to several related males (preferably brothers). Given the scarcity of women, they would probably be less inclined than the Pandava brothers to lose her at the gaming tables, but you never know.

The thing about shortages of marriageable women is that, when they arise, they blur the definition of "marriageable" itself. This could mean we'd have women (girls, really) being married off at younger and younger ages. Not the boon feminists anticipated when this subject was first mooted a decade ago. Then, the theory was that girls would become more valuable, their choices and status would rise. If their parents or relatives simply sell them off as children to the highest bidder, it's hard to see how this could happen.

On a more positive note, this imbalance could do much toward offsetting the wealth differential between urban and rural, high-caste and low-caste segments of the population. In ancient India, Brahmin men (experiencing a dearth of Brahmin women) would marry lower caste women, producing a plethora of new jati. This time round, finding a partner within one's caste might just prove too expensive, and exogamy would become the norm.

In an internet age, however, I wonder if the concept of "bride shortage" even has any currency. It's possible to imagine a multilingual version of EHarmony bringing together men and women from different backgrounds, at different points in their lives. I'd put my money in such a startup, wouldn't you?

And I haven't even touched upon what will happen in China and India when gay rights really catch on--bride shortage? puleaze, girlfriend.

posted by: Kelli on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

What will happen when all these men hit marriagable age?

My guess is pornography and prostitution.

And if male homosexuals occur more often than female (figures for America seem to be on the order of 3% and 1.5%), a larger number of males than females can voluntarily not marry, helping to ease the imbalance.

posted by: Roger Sweeny on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

It's possible there is a lag between social progress and industrial development. Right now, young rich Chinese who can only have one child and possess their parents' bias towards boys, can easily explain the data. Now you can decide to assume that the trend will continue (mores won't change with modernization) or you can assume that generational changes will be accompanied by attitude changes toward girls. I favor the latter.

posted by: ch2 on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

What will happen when men significantly outnumber women in India and China? Look to Wyoming, which had a similar problem and became the first territory to grant women the right to vote in 1869. A low supply of women increases their value. Expect significant increases in how Asia "values" women--greater freedom, more prosperity, more choices, etc. This problem will eventually self-correct, with great benefits accruing to Asian women in the meantime.

posted by: Matt on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

>What will happen when all these men hit >marriagable age?
>My guess is pornography and >prostitution.

I would guess the former but not the later. If there is a bride shortage, then it seems to me that low status/poor girls who might have had to sell themselves in a glutted market may very well be marriageable (sp?)

posted by: Ted on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Ted has a good point, but it ignores the unsettling effect that excess males has. Higher crime will probably also occur (if not military conflicts), and The Sopranos notwithstanding, criminals usually aren't the marrying type (though China may be different in this regard).
In any case, importing brides from poorer countries, while better than importing prostitutes from poorer countries, only pushes the problem onto other countries. If this occurs in high enough doses to alleviate China's problem, then what happens in Vietnam, Phillipines, Cambodia, etc.?
Perhaps China will stop the foriegn adoption of female babies?

posted by: Geoff Matthews on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

>What will happen when all these men hit >marriagable age?
>My guess is pornography and >prostitution.

My guess is combat.

posted by: Richard A. Heddleson on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Eberstadt and his colleague Murray Feshbach were the first to detect the pending implosion of the USSR.

As for the sex imbalance, the adaptations should be very interesting. Indian culture sounds like it has a possible adaptation. In Venice, in the rennaisance the younger brother married while the older brother ran the business, which often involved extensive travel, and there was a well developed class of courtesans who entertained the older brothers when they were home. Dangerous Beauty had some positively inspirational scenes, and a mild relation to fact.

posted by: Robert Schwartz on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

How reliable are the Chinese demographic numbers? I have read that especially in the hinterlands, the "one child" policy is not so much enforced, but I profess mostly ignorance about the matter.



posted by: MG on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

“Most commentators do not mention the role of demography in international relations, in large part because the study of population can seem dry...”

Nope, Dan Drezner is not even close. The real reason is that this discussion inevitably drags in the awkward and uneasy issue of abortion. Thus, even if girl babies are destroyed---the feminists don’t want to touch the abortion aspect with the proverbial ten foot pole. What is my own position on abortion? I am a logically inconsistent and perhaps even hypocritical pro-lifer.

posted by: David Thomson on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Historically, an excess young male population is a precursor for WAR. With both China and India suffering the same demographic trend, the obvious danger is a Indo-Chinese nuclear confrontation. The biggest danger, from a selfish point of view, is that the USA is dragged into such a war.

Hopefully this pending catastrophe can be averted by the overthrow of the geriatric communist rulers of China. Then the one-child rule will be discarded. The other thing that may mitigate the danger is the ageing of the Chinese population. Typically, both youth and population imbalance in favor of males is needed for War.

posted by: Scott Harris on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

On further thought, perhaps the combination of an ageing ruling class with a disproportionate young male demographic portends internal revolution which could be a good thing in China.

posted by: Scott Harris on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

The one-child policy might end up filling the Chinese Army with Private Ryans. If all those only children are trained to regard themselves as irreplaceable, China might end up with an army of egomaniacs unwilling to fight.

posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

So, you guys think China and India DON'T have prostitution and porno? Okay, so "Baywatch" isn't technically porn, but your peers in Asia are perfectly capable of jerking off to pictures of strange women and paying for a chick who won't kiss them. Oops, is my feminism showing?

More to the point, I can't see the automatic causal relation between lack of marriage partners and nuclear war. Call me myopic. It'll take a bit more than that. And if there were perfectly parity between girls and boys, would we have peace, love and grooviness? Let's not get carried away.

posted by: Kelli on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Kelli, what of Matt's "increased value" contention, above? I think it's the best post on the board so far - from us 'dudes', anyways...(g)

I think you , er...nailed it, Matt.

posted by: Tommy G on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]


Growing up with 3 brothers, 2 uncles, and no aunts, I can say with some degree of certainty that boys are violent by nature. Interaction with women tends to "tame" this violent nature. So the conclusion that an excess population of boys will result in a more violent society is not without foundation.

And sex, by itself does not mitigate that violence. Masturbation, while providing a temporary physical release of tension also tends to create frustration and resentment if it is the only sexual outlet a male has access to. Only a commitment to a particular female engenders the type of psychological changes in men that tend to tame their violent natures.

Men are not women, and never will be. It is not wise to discount the biology of men.

posted by: Scott Harris on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

One commentator asked what will happen when in a few years there are too many men and not enough women for them in China and India. The rich and powerfull men will find a woman. The poor smart guys will leave the country and come to the US and take the women here. The poor dumb men will stay behind and become increasingly frustrated till they feel death is preferable to life. The a guru will get up, preach some humbug idea and these men will follow him into battle and death. Look at Bin Laden's supporters or the Taliban supporters. They were poor men without prospects of a job, a house and a wife, so to say a normal life. Look at the rebels in Haiti or Liberia or Congo.

posted by: Ricky Vandal on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Mmmmmm Great counterpoint, Ricky.

So Prof Dan, which do *you* think has more merit?

Matt or Ricky?

posted by: Tommy G on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Widespread sex selection of babies has been going on in some parts of India for more than 25 years, and the first generation with a major imbalance is marriageable age now.

A couple of years ago the WaPo had an article about how it is affecting things:


posted by: Steven Den Beste on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

“The poor dumb men will stay behind and become increasingly frustrated till they feel death is preferable to life. The a guru will get up, preach some humbug idea and these men will follow him into battle and death.”

I’m forced to agree with you. This development will likely entice these frustrated men to embrace nihilist, true believer, ideologies. The article in the Washington Post provides this most interesting quote:

“"They don't realize that this is going to affect society. People just assume that if a daughter is born, it's a thing to mourn."

Almost in the next breath, though, he revealed his own conflicting feelings on the subject. "I regret that I didn't sterilize earlier," he said. "Then I wouldn't have had as many daughters."”

Oh my goodness, where are our feminists when you need them?

posted by: David Thomson on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

It's a very interesting article, though by no means anything particularly groundbreaking. Nearly a year ago, I believe, the NYTimes carried a front page story on the bride deficit in China, on China's policy towards homosexuality, and the growing trend towards homosexuality amongst young men.

I think he nearly touches upon what is, of course, a very important issue: the growing trend of male to females, coupled with a modernizing society, coupled with a increasing HIV/AIDs epidemic, could throw all projections out the door. We simply don't know to the extent that these variables will result in unexpected outcomes; also, a cure for HIV (by no means a strong possibility, but one nonetheless) would have at least a slight effect on current projections. All of what I said above is equally applicable to India.

But that's wildly speculative. As is, of course, the whole thing. It's also wildly interesting. I myself find Pakistan's coming predominance over Russia to be quite interesting, along with the strongly growing Vietnam.

I have more thoughts, too -- but I don't want to go on for too long. Great link.

-- Mike

posted by: Mike on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Yeah, you're probably right, Dave. Put me down as : Hope for 'Matt', but plan for 'Ricky'.

My plan for 'Ricky'? Just keep our Navy better than the ChiComs. That should just about do it. Anything else will be Ivan's problem.

posted by: Tommy G on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

What the younger generation will do with the shortage of women is one question, but one that seems to be ignored is what these societies (and ours, for that matter) will do about the over-abundance of old folks.

posted by: tcobb on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Here's a study about the effects of sex selection in India:


posted by: Steven Den Beste on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

MG - There's a concise discussion of the evolution in the quality of Chinese demographic data at http://www.iiasa.ac.at/Research/LUC/ChinaFood/argu/dataqua/dq_12.htm
China completed a census at 2000, so the latest data is fairly up-to-date, moreso than a lot of other developing countries.

Ricky - Actually, one of the disturbing things about al-Qaeta is that a lot of its members seem to come from the upper and middle class of their respective societies. This was certainly the case for the 9-11 hijackers.

posted by: tagryn on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

The other aspect of the article that is troublesome is the bleak picture painted for China down the road. While there are boom times now, it is not clear that China will have the economic capability to support it's rapidly growing elderly population. Beyond that, the sentence that particularly caught my eye was "from about 2010 onward each cohort of women in their early 20's will be smaller than the one before. Between 2010 and 2025, this cohort will in fact shrink appreciably - by almost one-fourth". It is not hard to see the geriatric set in Beijing come to the conclusion that if we want to fight (insert country of choice) we will never be as strong relatively as we are now. Isn't that the same calculus that persuaded the Kaiser to go to war? While China does not have a history of expansionism, the use of foreign devils to distract attention from domestic difficulties is not unknown.

posted by: Richard A. Heddleson on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

"Not the boon feminists anticipated when this subject was first mooted a decade ago. Then, the theory was that girls would become more valuable, their choices and status would rise."

I follow the feminist press, and I don't recall anyone seeing a boon in female children being aborted at a higher rate than boys. This is clearly valuing females less than males.

Well maybe where you are there are some weird academic feminists who would say such things - I wouldn't be surprised

posted by: Yehudit on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

I live and work in Bombay, India.

Young, urban women are really starting to assert themselves in a very modern way, i.e., education first, then career, then marriage when I get around to it. Parental influence is still strong but the grip is loosening. So as educated, urban women more and more assert their independence, the "problem" will grow.

Conservatively, the population here is 15 million people, arguably making it the most populace city on Earth.

Crime (murder, burgulary, robbery, assault, etc.) is proportionately non-existent.

Bombay also has a very active red-light district with over 100,000 prostitutes/sex slaves who inhabit the area known as "The Cages"(a topic for another discussion to be sure).

A very distinguished and well-educated Indian business man here told me there is a huge correlation between the lack of crime/violence and the sex trade that goes on here.

posted by: Chris on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

China does have a large neighbor with a complementary imbalance -- Russia and other Former soviet states. Though the total numbers are lower, the percentage imbalance of women to men is much worse than the male-female imbalance in China. So the future points to Chinese men marrying Russian women.

posted by: jj on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]


Ever heard of the filmmaker Mira Nair? Before she foisted crap like Mississippi Masala on an unsuspecting audience (hold on, she got BETTER again, e.g. Monsoon Wedding, most excellent) she came out with a fairly influential documentary (title escapes me) on the subject of sex-selected abortion.

But who needs Nair? most everyone who comes to Dan's site believes in the power of the free market (including me) and the law of supply and demand. This is hardly the most bizarro feminazi idea out there. You should get out more.

posted by: Kelli on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Mira Nair, Children of Desired Sex, 1987, 28 minutes.

posted by: Kelli on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Scott Harris,

Got two boys of my own. Trust me, no one needs to tell me boys and girls are different. I got the bruises to prove it. :)

posted by: Kelli on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

There is a more important reason demography is not interesting to social scientists.

There is some strong evidence that the main cause of demographic decline in Western Europe, Japan, and the USSR is related to the relative growth in government. See:

This theory is a rather horrible idea for those who believe in more government intervention, rather than less.

Many nations in Europe are actually extinct, they just cannot recognize their own death because of what pratlike has identified above "population momentum". An out of balance demography does not show up until its too late to fix, as other posters have pointed out regarding Chiona's effort to manipulate demography.

Bringing us back to the main point. If Italy, which is effectively dead as a nation, was killed by very high government consumption of the economy, then how do the social scientists find the cure when they may have been the cause? Its rather horrid to discover that one is the cause of the death of an entire people, and social scientists may prefer not to study the demographic death of modern nations.

posted by: Matt Young on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]


Unless things have completely changed on a massive scale since I was there 7 years ago, Bombay only has a low violent crime rate if you don't count what happens to beggars/orphans. (A noticable number orphan beggars were intentionally maimed so they would be more effective beggars, for instance, which certainly seems "violent" to me!)

And if "robbery" includes pickpocketing, it was more widespread there than any other country I've visited (37 of them).

posted by: Deoxy on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]


I have nothing constructive to add, as I haven't read the article yet. Just wanted to say it's a thought-provoking post, and leads me to read something I never would have read otherwise.

~mike d

posted by: mike d on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Heddleson -
Nice take re:Wilhelm. They only way out of this box is to assert themselves as a regional power. There are nit-picking structural difference to be sure, however.

To assert itself, the Kaiser launched an ambitiuos naval expansion that began to dwarf out the social spending that was so desperately needed by the German public as the country moved away from the aristocracy. It was never big enough to do anything except bring together regional rivals to oppose it, and was ultimately a prime source of revolution.

Great China will pursue it's naval ambitions to a similar doom, the exception being they'll be no one to fight with about it. And ultimately, as I said earlier, it'll be Ivan's problem to clean-up.

posted by: Tommy G on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Another reason why social scientists not always pay attention to long-term demographic projections is that they are horribly unreliable and imprecise. Just look at the vast differences between the various scenarios of the UN report.

The sex-ratio findings are very troubling though and very much worth exploring (Sen has been all over this for the past few years).

posted by: zaoem on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Matt Young:
The site that the other Matt cited says that a similar process is going on in the US, but it is being mitigated by large scale immigration to the
US. Do you think that if European nations were to bring down their barriers to immigration that this would slow the demographic extinction that you talk about?

I think that the USSR is slightly misleading as you have to take into account the massive numbers of people who were deliberately murdered by the government under Communism. I'm not saying I disagree with your assessment, but comparing a decline caused by expansion of government with deliberate genocide is not really equivalent.

posted by: sam on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Thanks, Tommy G, for raising the naval aspect of it. Strategy Page (last paragraph),/a> has interesting posts on Chinese naval developments. There was another on their acquisiton of conventionally powered subs from Germany that are very difficult to detect.

There is only one navy in the world against which these forces can be used. And there is really only one reason they would be used, Taiwan. It really does not make sense for them to do this but China's naval policy does not have a track record of making sense [those not aware of the Chinese treasure fleets will find this link fascinating] any more than did the Kaiser's. Taiwan is the kind of foreign devil a Chinese leadership with intractable domestic problems could use to raise Red Guard fervor in the hearts of unattached and frustrated males. Unfortunately, it would not be Ivan's problem to clean up, assuming there were enough Ivans left.

Let's hope the Chinese navy proves to be as useful as the Soviet Union's.

posted by: Richard A. Heddleson on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

I think could exist some relation in lack of sex/ social frustraton with violence. For sure when that happens usually it's a cocktail of causes and not only one reason. My exemple: i point out to Saudi Arabia: repressive sexually and with an agressve idiology that can be seen has a escape.
Read this interisting text by Lawrence Wrigth to know much frustation exists because of sexual repression but not only because of that.he lived there.
was one of causes of 9-11 the sexual repression of Saudis?

Of course i didnt make any scientific study but empirically i think Chinese lack of woman and an agressive idiology can be a sign troubles ahead.
Au contraire technology promotes mobility, defusing the problem...

posted by: lucklucky on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Apologies for the bad formatting, but the links do seem to work.

posted by: Richard A. Heddleson on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

China getting older and more male... Russia crashing, populationwise (there was a very interesting NYTimes oped piece on this a week ago)... Siberia a barely tapped storehouse of minerals and other resources... could China turn and start making claims to it's north, not it's south ?

posted by: fingerowner on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Kelli: Mississippi Masala is crap? I beg to differ. IMHO, it was a meisterstuck. The scenes of the father returning to Uganda at the end were almost unbearably poigniant. And how can a movie with Denzel Washington be bad? Monsoon Wedding was, IMHO, slight and formulaic, fun and well above the run of the mine lately, but not nearly the film that the earlier one was.

posted by: Robert Schwartz on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

The bride deficit in India is being countered by an increase in polyandry (usually involving two brothers so poor they cannot afford a bride on their own); and can be ameliorated by reaching down into younger age cohorts. Polyandry is growing fastest in rural areas, according to a woman I met who was the director of television in an Indian state.

That said, the "repercussions" that are in store for Indian foreign policy are likely to be inconsequential.

India is still 70% rural. The richer elites are still going to find plenty of wives for their sons. Anyone who has not seen a poor (often low-caste) Indian person putting up with unbelievably indignities that would shock a Westerner has never been to India.

Perhaps it is the Hindu concept of karma and order, but the poor men who will suffer the fate of being unmarried are not going to be marching in the streets of Bombay or Delhi anytime soon. They will accept it as another of life's burdens.

posted by: Mark on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Very interesting post and comments. I've been worried about this for some time.

We could kick Pakistan into shape ("NO! You can't sell nukes to terrorists."), and then strengthen India by selling theatre area anti-missile systems (require them to give up Kashimir as part of the price) which would help finance our own development of a worldwide anti-missile system. Then India could do a proper Mexican standoff with China. Not sure if that's a good plan or not.

If as someone said, the only male child cohort gets to be feeling super-special but unwilling to war, and yet enormously frustrated and nihilist then I would look to our own 1960's for parrallels and expect an internal revolution which probably unless we help out a lot goes very wrong and ends up with another batch of murderous dictators in charge of China.

Remember, as to what happens to woman, there will be significant variables situations. Some women will try to use the situation to improve their status, and they may well succeed. But men have two ways of getting a woman's attention 1)Charm and gifts 2)Thonk on the head.

It won't be as crude as no. 2, but this is not a culture that has the same respect for woman as ours. Did they bind the feet of women at one time?

In the American Old West, the typical respectable woman was very valued as she was rare. My thought is that she maybe could get a man killed for simply being rude or forward.

But, the values of the cowboys and miners of the Old West are not the values of the athiestic and communistic Chinese.

I've heard some stories that the young in China are totally consumed by ambition. Which makes sense seeing as they have no Judge.

I've bounced around a bit. What do I really expect? 1)Woman and their treatment for good and ill are going to take center stage in Asia. Political movements will revolve around them. 2)Lot more homosexuality, prostitution and so forth. 3)Lot of emigration. 4)Lot of Chinese adventurers running around making deals with ruthlessness and ambition in full display. In other words, a lot of Chinese Donald Trumps are going to be flyng on jets across the world. 5)Some sort of Revolution or compromise with a Movement whether it succeeds all the way to Revolution or not is largely unimportant since this is followed by Imperial Adventures backed up by some sort of mystical state religion that replaces athiesm, and this religion gives full sanction to totalitarian and rascist impulses. It will be something like Shinto. And woman will 'learn their proper place, underneath the jackbooted heel of the male conqueror'. And then the US will go in to stop China overrunning Vietnam and Korea, and Siberia, and so forth. And we will whip them.


posted by: Tadeusz on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]


1. Female infanticide has been a tradition in asian countries for thousands of years. It's not new. the primary reason why it's more public is due to the effect of sonograms, which allow for the early abortion of female fetuses, and the observance of the side effect on population demographics. Another effect is that people are probably more willing to abort an unborn fetus rather than intentionally killing a child.

But the primary reason behind this behavior has been in evidence for a very long time. Mostly due to bride dowrys and the support a son can provide for his parents. While a son is a son for life, the same cannot be said for daughters. Perhaps this will change as demographics and economic factors change. India has introduced some draconian dowry laws to try and regulate the problems stemming from outlandish dowrys that can bankrupt entire families.

2. The latest estimate, unproven BTW, is there are about 70 million unmarriageable men in China. How this figure was attained I'm not sure but I'll try and look up the numbers.

While this number isn't that large compared to the overall population, it's still pretty huge. Imagine the entire adult male population of America put into a position where they simply cannot have any hope of successfully competing for a wife. That this is a fact can be explained by the current process whereby Chinese men along the North Korean border regularly buy the North Korean women who are smuggled across to China.

I think the going rate is about $400 USD, which is pretty significant in of itself since the per capita is around $750 USD.

3. Chinese workers live in huge gender segregated dormitories. A fact that should be taken into account. These aren't collegiate style housing environments, they're more like barracks. I don't believe that these barracks are divided along married/single lines so there isn't a case of further segregation. However even the married men only see their families, and wives, on holidays. A prominent fact of last years' SARS scare was that many men took the opportunity to go home to visit their families while the factories were closed.

4. Frankly I don't know if such a situation would result in war or not. I'm not an oracle by any means. But I would suggest that such a situation is extremely unstable with said instability growing with further growth in that imbalance. All things considered I really don't see such problems going away any time soon. Even if changes were implemented immediately, and effective immediately, there is still the 15+ year delay between implementation and fruitition. During that time period these problems could only grow worse.

I frankly see this instability leading to great political changes. Civil war is always a possibility, particularly in China IMHO. Frankly the Chinese leadership is largely an oligarchy of regional warlords in all but name. It wouldn't take all that much to make that a reality. A possible precursor would be the incipient backlash against extensive offshoring moving to India and China. If population demographics could be a problem, they could only be even worse problems in a situation where there is also economic instability as well.

5. China's banking system is largely bankrupt. Since the Chinese national bank system is owned, operated by (and for) the Chinese national government, it's been looted by the same. That nation's banks use the money, deposited by the average Chinese worker, to provide loans to Chinese companies.

The problem with this however is that most, if not ALL, Chinese companies are owned in part, or in whole, by members of the government or by members of their families. An example would be the current requirement for a Chinese "partner" to any foreign investor looking to start operations in China. The opportunities for government officials to profit from this "partnership" deal is obvious. Also into this mix are those companies, ineffcient or badly run, that are a source of unofficial income for government officials. This situation also benefits generals in the PLA, where a single general could control a number of factories and thus earn him income beyond the official salary.

As a result, the banking system has been loaning out massive amounts of money to companies in what can only be described as NPLs, Non-Performing Loans. In this situation a company, desperately needing cash, approaches the bank. The bank is then ordered to provide the loan regardless of circumstances. The loan is made but payments are never made on the loan and the loan becomes an NPL. Nothing more happens in this situation because the government will not allow the bank to recover it's loan by foreclosing.

The losses, at least those admitted to by the Chinese, is somewhere around $600 billion. Frankly that sounds a little low to me. So I'd suggest that is the low number and that it could run upwards from there.

Currently the Chinese government is trying to interest Chinese workers, those same defrauded depositors btw, into buying stocks issued by those same banks. There is a serious liquidity problem and it's not going away. The Chinese government doesn't want to take on the burden of refilling those looted coffers so it's looking to other people to do the work.

In fact stockbrokers are shopping Chinese stocks to investors here in the US I believe. :):) Anyways. Right now the Chinese banking system is largely a ponzi scheme. New deposits are covering withdrawls, but there really isn't all that much in the till. Even at that the till is getting raided on a regular basis by companies looking to continue operating.

A crazier system could hardly be described.

posted by: ed on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]


I am glad and suprised that you seem ready to tackle the problem of fertility decline in modern nations.

In mathematics we generally formulate a ratio that determines whether a time series will decay, be stable, or expand. In the case of population decline in Europe, and the U.S., the trick is to run enough correlation studies to find out what is exactly the particular variable we should monitor.

There are a lot of things that Europe, Russia, and Japan did in common, especially with regard to modern wars. Other things they have in common is very high levels of government in the past and present. I would think the highest priority of social scientists would be to determine the link between current culture and declining populations. If we were whales, this would be a national emergency; yet we are only starting to look closely at what may be the elimination of Europe as we knew it.

Solving the population decline via immigration is sort of a moot point. If native populations are killing themselves off, then what purpose is solved by simply replacing one population with another?

When we talk about leaving our children and grandchildren with a mountain of debt, we do not actually think about what that means. As near as I can tell, it means we rob the future and current generations of resources needed to reproduce our societies. This logic led me to look closely at the level of government spending and fertility, as best I could, and the correlation was strong enough to encourage further work in this area.

The problem is this. We now have the capability of moving large percentages of our economies into government mandated programs, and the cost is distributed unevenly among the age groups. If we get the balance wrong, then we could very well wipe out our populations before we discover and repair the imbalance.

If social scientists have a vested interest in maintaining some level of taxation and government programs, based on politics and ideology, then we have a real problem. They would likely ignore, unconsciously, any study that invalidates a lifetime of beliefs.

In short, we had better get to work and re-learn objectivity in the social sciences.

posted by: Matt Young on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

If we were whales, this would be a national emergency; yet we are only starting to look closely at what may be the elimination of Europe as we knew it.

Yes, but remember that includes France. Every cloud has a silver lining.

posted by: Gene on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

"Yes, but remember that includes France. Every cloud has a silver lining."

Someone got dissed by a French girl.

posted by: ch2 on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Biggest laugh of the month thanks to Gene.

posted by: Matt Young on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]


Agree completely.

BTW, let me offer you a belated Valentine's gift.

Several other insiders, spooks, and industry specialists at:


Your Home away from Drezner.

(Sorry, Prof - you're great on everything else)

posted by: Tommy G on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]


There's a couple of things that no one has seemed to consider:

1) Everyone has assumed that Asian societies are backwards in this regard. That's awfully arrogant. I think it's very likely that this trend will not only continue in Asia, but will -- now that we have the technology -- spread to America.

2) Doesn't Dr Drezner, and most of the people who read this site, believe in market forces? If people are continuing to favor sons, isn't that the market speaking? Doesn't this sort of prove that they must have good rational reasons for doing so?

And there are a lot of good reasons to favor sons. And these reasons apply in America as much as to Asia:

• Raising females costs more. These costs don't show up in economic terms, because they are mostly contained within the family, in the manner of additional-pain-in-the-neck and additional emotional energy costs.

For one thing, you have to constantly protect females against sex (either by seduction or force). For instance, you can send your 14-year-old son into town alone to peform some task, but for your 14-year-old daughter you have to arrange an escort. And such protection is never 100% effective; some females get pregnant, and then you have another dependant, and a "spoiled" female with (even in America, although more so in Asia) a sharply reduced chance of finding someone to take her off your hands.

• Males are stronger. Granted, this matters a lot less in America than in Asia, but it still matters.

• In my opinion -- and, I think, the opionion of most objective observers -- males are better workers, even in tasks where strength is not an issue. On the job, males are just generally lower-maintenance.

• Let's be realistic... for several days of each month, females are impossible to get along with (and even females will admit this, if you can get their guard down). The rest of the time, they're just difficult. Given a choice, who would rationally choose to put up with this? Many would, because many people just prefer females anyway. But most wouldn't.

Yes, I'd have to assume that there would be a correction in the market at some point, so that females do not become too scarce. But consider: wouldn't it be a pretty amazing coincidence if this correction occured at or near a 50-50 ratio? I have a lot more reason to believe that it would settle the ratio at 60-40 male or 70-30 male than at 50-50.

posted by: a reandom person on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]


No offense "a reandom person" but quite frankly your points are rather awkward.

1. Nobody I know would prefer a son to a daughter. In fact ALL of my immediate friends have only daughters and I don't see anyone crying into their beer. Though I must admit that I, and they, are awaiting with some great anxiety, and baseball bats, when they start dating.

2. As for market forces, I don't see how they could apply in America. Even if we suddenly started aborting only females immigration would balance it out almost right away. Additionally there are always a segment of the American male population that tends to look elsewhere for a wife. I had a friend of mine actually go to Russia to meet some women. He didn't marry one but he came back with some truly funny stories.

Frankly I'm not going to comment on the rest of it.

posted by: ed on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]


Sorry to disappoint you, but France is actually the one country in Europe where there still is significant natural growth of the population and where there is almost full replacement of generations (1.9 child per woman, as in the US).
Look forward to a time in the not-so-distant future when France has a bigger population than Germany (currently 61/82 million) and than the UK (currently 60, but the birthrate is also declining)

If you are interested in demographic trends, you may want to check the following book by Emmanuel Todt:
After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order recently translated. (the economics part is not very good, the politics are disputable, but the demographic facts are extremely interesting)

posted by: Jerome G on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Isn't "reandon" latin for tiny prick?

posted by: m.c. on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

The CIA and World Resource Institute put the French fertility rate at 1.75, although the French recently gave some tax advantages to families which supposedly raised the number.

Using the number of 1.8, and factoring out the recent immigrants, the native French have a fertility closer to 1.4

For a few more numbers.

Italy is near to 1.2, and Spain 1.2. There was at least one province in Italy that has sufferred a fertility of .9 for over 20 years and is now devoid of children.

These low numbers for Italy and Spain lead to a speculation that Khadafi's recent change of heart may have had more to do with a belief that Libya will inheret Southern Europe by default. Certainly these low fertility numbers must factor in to middle east and north African foreign policy.

posted by: Matt Young on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Matt Young:

Actually, according to "La fécondité des étrangères en France" (PDF format), the fertility rate for native French was 1.72 children born per woman in 1998-1999 and rising slightly, while that for immigrants is 2.80 and falling slightly. The falls are particularly sharp for Tunisians, Moroccans, Turks, and Africans.

And considering that Libya only has 5.5 million people and an unsophisticated oil-exporting economy while Libya's neighbours in southern Europe (Spain, France, Italy, Greece) are wealthy First World countries with a combined population of ~170M, Libyan aspirations for a European empire are bound to be stifled.

posted by: Randy McDonald on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]


Sex imbalance in China is very soluble. It means more slave labor and healthy organs for sale cheap. Of course, this scenario is inconsistent with dreams of democracy.

India is coping well. For those males without resources to win a bride, maybe their next incarnation will be better.

Japan has an aging problem, but the Japanese can ride it out, as long as they don't replace the aging native population with an alien population, European-style.

Russia and Europe have hooked themselves up to a demographic Kevorkian machine and activated it. Of course history has many surprises, but the obvious, logical outcome is that white, Christian civilization will end its run on the Euro-Asian landmass, and the mainly Muslim successor peoples are going to make life interesting for the scattered leavings of a civilization that died of abortion, contraception, selfish greed, and ludicrous social science, including and not limited to Marxism.

Frankly, nations that wipe themselves out, in part by aborting their progeny in huge numbers, and also in part by inviting numerous and hugely fertile unfriendly strangers in to contend for the land against the few of their offspring they haven't killed, deserve to die. In this case, the justice and logic of the end are inseparable.

I conclude that there's little point in being nice to the Europeans, in the long run. They're not going to be here, so why concede anything to them? Keep your money in your pockets and wait with a wary eye to deal with the successor peoples.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, you would have said of the old (pre-Muslim) Europeans and European-descended peoples: "These folk are great! What cultural vitality, what science, what art, what noble ideals they have, what winners they are! Surely they can have whatever they want." How strange that they turned out to want their own deaths, 1914-1945, and then the steady extinction of their future generations.

The Americans will still be around, though their white population will be eclipsed. There is real hope that that may not matter, that the culture may continue regardless. America is a beacon of hope in the nightfall of the West.

In footnotes, the "international Jew" (the diaspora) is going bye-bye. I find that sad too, but a man can't fight the setting of the sun.

Just my 2c.

posted by: David Blue on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

Nazli Choucri. 1974. Population Dynamics and International Violence: Propositions, Insights
and Evidence. Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath/Lexington Books.

and a many publications since, often ignored in academic settings, but not in IOs.

posted by: Mike Ward on 02.17.04 at 03:14 PM [permalink]

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