Population imbalance impacts the world order

When someone heard that South Korea’s fertility level had dropped to a record low last year, they immediately published an article saying that South Korea might become the first country to disappear. It was indeed shocking. Is it really so scary? Looking at the population forecast of the United Nations, we know that population changes are a slow process. How South Korea’s population will change in the future depends not only on whether the fertility level continues to be ultra-low and life expectancy increases, but also on the net migration of the population. , There are many uncertainties. There is a high probability that South Korea will not disappear within this century. But in any case, South Korea’s population problem has become South Korea’s national security issue.

Population imbalance impacts the world order

Not only South Korea, but many developed countries will face this situation. China will also embark on a path of zero population growth or even negative growth in a few years. Exactly what impact this process will bring, and what kind of changes will take place in the international population economy and the world pattern are issues that are worth studying. This article focuses on three questions: What is an international population imbalance? What are the characteristics of the international population imbalance? What is the impact of the international population imbalance on the international political and economic order?

Three dimensions of international population imbalance

Population imbalance refers to the change of population away from equilibrium, including domestic and international population imbalances. Domestic population imbalance mainly refers to the imbalance of domestic population structure and distribution. International population imbalance refers to the huge differences in the population situation of different types of countries, which in turn leads to the imbalance of the international population pattern.

The domestic population imbalance is closely related to the international population imbalance. In recent years, the World Bank’s classification of countries has divided the world’s economies into three categories not only from the income perspective, but also from the demographic perspective: former demographic dividend countries, early demographic dividend countries, and post-demographic dividend countries. This classification method is a great improvement over the United Nations Human Development Index, and it is more convenient for people to truly understand the serious problems faced by countries with high human development indexes, and avoid deification and idolization of countries with high human development indexes.

Due to the multi-dimensional characteristics of population structure, dynamics, inertia, and country specificity, after years of research by demographers, a series of consensus indicators have been formed, such as population size, population growth rate, crude birth rate, general Fertility rate, age-specific fertility rate, TFR (total fertility rate), infant mortality rate, age-specific mortality rate, life expectancy at birth, total dependency ratio, old dependency ratio, child dependency ratio, immigration rate, emigration rate, net migration Rate and so on.

Population imbalance impacts the world order

We can examine the international population imbalance from three dimensions: the imbalance of population growth rate, the imbalance of the old-age dependency ratio, and the imbalance of the scale of net migration. The difference in the international population growth rate reflects the future trend of population changes in countries with different income types, the difference in the old-age dependency ratio reflects the future structural pressure of the domestic population of different types of countries and the potential for international population migration, and the scale of net population migration reflects different types of countries. The population tension between.

First, from the perspective of population growth rate, the international population imbalance is manifested in the phenomenon that the population growth of some countries and regions is too fast, while the population growth of other countries and regions is slow or even declining. Figure 1 shows the huge differences in the population growth rate of countries with different income types. The average population growth rate of high-income countries is only 0.4%, while the average population growth rate of low-income countries is as high as 2.6%. This means that high-income countries need 101 years to increase their population by 50%, while low-income countries only need 27 years to double their population. The higher the income, the lower the population growth rate, which is a worldwide law. The trend of population changes in high-income countries continues to be sluggish, and the trend of population changes in low-income countries continues to explode. This demographic polarization is a basic manifestation of the international population imbalance.

Data source: World Bank WDI2021
Second, from the perspective of the old-age dependency ratio, the international population imbalance is manifested in huge differences in the old-age dependency ratios of different types of countries. The old-age dependency ratio refers to the number of elderly people that an average of 100 working-age people need to support. Figure 2 shows that the old-age dependency ratio in high-income countries has reached 28%, while the old-age dependency ratio in low-income countries is only 6%. The higher the income of the country, the lower the fertility rate, the more serious the aging of the population. In other words, the more serious the declining birthrate and aging population, the higher the old-age dependency ratio. This means that the socio-economic development of high-income countries lacks youthful vitality, and there is a shortage of young laborers, while vibrant young people in low-income countries lack job opportunities and are full of yearning for high-income countries.

Data source: World Bank WDI2021
Third, from the perspective of net international population migration, international population imbalance is manifested in the fact that high-income countries face huge population migration pressures, forming a relatively close population international political economy with the net migration of middle-income countries and low- and middle-income countries. relationship. The net migration of population reflects the total migration scale minus the scale of population migration in a certain period of time. It includes both legal immigrants, refugees and illegal immigrants.

Due to stagnant or even negative population growth, high-income countries have been experiencing serious declining birthrates and aging populations, and they have become areas of net migration of the international population. Figure 3 shows that from 2013 to 2017, the net migration of the population from high-income countries was 15.84 million. It is worth noting that there is not a simple linear relationship between the scale of international population migration and income. Generally speaking, the population of middle- and high-income countries is more inclined to stay in the country to study, work and live. Middle-income countries and low- and middle-income countries have the largest net emigration scale, reaching 11.80 million and 10.24 million respectively. The reason is that people in middle-income countries and low- and middle-income countries can more afford the cost of international migration. People in low-income countries, because of their poor conditions, can hardly afford the cost of international migration, so the net migration scale is smaller. Of course, the size of the population of countries with different income types also affects the scale of net migration. On the whole, it still reflects that countries with slow population growth, low birthrate and aging population bear a greater risk of net population migration.

Data source: World Bank WDI2021
The main context of the imbalance of international population and political economy

The imbalance of international population and politics and economy will be manifested in many aspects of the international field, such as international diplomacy and international conflicts, international investment and technical barriers, free trade and trade protection, sovereignty and citizenship, and so on. From the perspective of historical evolution, we can see the main context of international population and political and economic imbalances from the changing trends of population proportions and GDP proportions in Western Europe, China, the United States, India, Africa, and Latin America over the past 400 years.

Figure 4 shows the change trend of the population proportion including the predicted value for 2030. It can be seen that in the 18th century, China played an important role in the world in terms of economy and population. Beginning in the 19th century, the proportion of China’s population began to decline, while the proportions of Western Europe and the United States increased, and the proportion of Western Europe exceeded that of the United States. After entering the 20th century, as the population proportions of Africa, Latin America, and India rose, the proportions of Western Europe and the United States began to decline. But in terms of economic weight, the 19th century can be said to be the European century. Its economic weight quickly left China behind, and it was much higher than that of the US economy. After World War I and World War II, the center of the world economy shifted to the United States. Figure 5 shows that the economic status of the United States surpassed the entire Western Europe around the middle of the 20th century. The biggest variable in the second half of the 20th century was China. By 2008, China’s share of the global economy was close to that of the United States. Of course, here is the result calculated by Maddison using the international dollar. If you replace it with the current dollar GDP ratio, the result will be different. But generally speaking, using purchasing power parity to measure economic aggregates is a more reasonable international comparison method.

Data source: Maddison2013

Data source: Maddison2013
At the beginning of the 20th century, in 1900, the world’s population was 1.56 billion. By the beginning of the 21st century, in 2000, the world’s population reached 6.08 billion. In other words, the population that mankind increased in 100 years of the 20th century was three times the population accumulated in the previous tens of thousands of years. Under the trend of total population growth, what is hidden is that the pace of population growth in different countries is different in different periods, that is, the progress of population transformation is different, which in turn leads to a new order of international population and political economy.

Three theories foretell the fate of international population and political and economic trends

The world population and political and economic imbalance have three theoretical backgrounds: one is Weber’s modern social theory, the other is Kuznets’s modern economic growth theory, and the third is Huntington’s theory of civilizational conflict. These three theories point out the great differences between the modern development of mankind and the traditional era from the three dimensions of society, economy and politics.

Weber believes that once humans enter modern society, they cannot go back. Lao Siguang highly praised Weber’s view that “modern culture is an established fact”, that is, there are some incompatible parts between modern society and pre-modern society. The emergence of modernity represents a difference in a historical stage. It is by no means simple Regional differences, once entered into modernity, there is no way to look back [1].

Through empirical analysis of national economic statistics, Kuznets put forward the problem of modern economic growth, which makes modern society and modern economic growth have a mutually constructive relationship. On the one hand, modern society is often accompanied by economic growth. On the other hand, economic growth has promoted the construction of social modernity. Kuznets defines modern economic growth as “a country’s long-term continuous growth in the ability to supply diversified goods and services. This growth in capacity is based on technological progress and the required institutional and ideological adjustments” [2].

Huntington’s theory is based on the perspective of international politics. Weber’s modern social theory and Kuznets’s modern economic growth theory incorporate national and civilized factors, making social analysis fall into the framework of nation-states, while economic growth Factors with conflicts of national interest. The theories of Weber, Kuznets, and Huntington predicted the fate of international population and political and economic trends.

The declining relationship between the international population and the political and economic structure has a very different meaning in pre-modern society and modern society. The problem of population imbalance has existed since ancient times. Due to the huge differences in natural geography, resource environment and climate among the continents of the world, the migration, flow and distribution of the global population is naturally concentrated in geographical areas with good natural conditions, and the phenomenon of human civilization is the first to occur in large rivers. The differences in population growth caused by the climatic and geographical conditions of different regions have often triggered large-scale population migration in history. The invasion of agricultural nations by nomads is actually a cumulative effect of slow population migration. Historical events such as the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Five Unruly China are clear evidence. No wonder Huntington pointed out: “If population is fate, then population migration is the engine of history” [3].

If the international population migration before modern times is an important way to solve the local population imbalance, then after the establishment of modern countries, the difficulty of international population migration has greatly increased. The borders of pre-modern countries are blurred. The ruling class generally guards small urban areas or castles, and has weak control over the countryside. There are vast forests, lakes and wilderness between the castle and the castle, and a large amount of uncultivated land can meet the needs of the new population. Therefore, in the pre-modern period, the phenomenon of intertwined populations of different ethnic groups was very common. The result of this historical process is that it is difficult for many modern countries to retain a single ethnic group on the same territory. The ethnic conflicts in many regions reflect the frequent migration and interaction of ancient populations. For example, the relationship between the Israeli nation and the Palestinian nation in the Middle East, the relationship between the Slavic nation and the Germanic nation in the Balkans, the ethnic relationship between the East and the West in Ukraine, etc., as well as the Scottish issue in the United Kingdom, the Quebec issue in Canada, the Catalan issue in Spain, etc. Wait.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict resulted in the death of a Palestinian. / Xinhua News Agency (Photo by Nidal)
Once a modern state is established, the issue of participation of different ethnic groups in the sharing of national sovereignty may become prominent, and in serious cases may cause a crisis of national secession. For example, Crimea in Ukraine and the conflict in eastern Ukraine in recent days. In this process, transnational ethnic identity may trigger political divisions within a country. Religious identity and cultural identity that transcend national boundaries are the theoretical background of Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations”. The ruling ethnic group in a country may suspect the political loyalty of the ruling ethnic group and find excuses for ethnic cleansing, or may intervene in its internal affairs and support the opposition because of sympathy for the ruling ethnic group of the same race and the same ethnic group in another country, thereby causing conflicts. The degree of mutual trust between countries has been greatly reduced.

A historical example is the spread of anti-Japanese sentiment in the United States after the Pearl Harbor incident. At that time, there were about 127,000 Japanese citizens in the United States, most of whom lived on the west coast of the United States and were engaged in agriculture, fisheries, or small businesses. Among them, more than 40,000 were first-generation immigrants and about 80,000 were second- and third-generation immigrants. Compared with people of German and Italian descent, the scale is smaller, but easier to identify, and has become a target of public criticism. After the outbreak of the Pacific War, politicians and civilians on the west coast of the United States vigorously encouraged the government to expel the Japanese. Under public pressure, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 9066 in 1942 and approved the deportation plan. A total of 110,000 Japanese residents were expelled, including 60,000 American citizens. These Japanese residents were forced to abandon or sell their properties at low prices and suffered humiliation. It was not until 1988 that the US Congress passed a bill to provide limited compensation to these people [4]. However, many people have already passed away. Is justice that is late counts as justice? How much money can compensate for the pain these people have suffered? This is a historical event that occurred in the United States, which is known as the cultural melting pot. The atrocities of the Nazis are well known. Similar events in other countries and regions are also in the history.

When we learned “Guwen Guan Zhi” when we were young, we would read that there was a famous “Remonstrative Book” by Li Si, which actually reflected the crisis of national identity caused by the migration and flow of population between countries during the Warring States Period. When the world was attacking each other, King Qin and his ministers doubted the loyalty of people from other countries to their own countries. Even now, many people may feel sympathy for this. The so-called non-self race must have different hearts. That’s what it means. The Western Jin Dynasty did not have a strict defense against the Yi Xia, which led to the subsequent five chaos in China. The Tang Dynasty re-used the generals, which led to the Anshi Rebellion and the separatism of the Fanzhen. All kinds of historical lessons made the insightful and scholar-official class in the Northern Song Dynasty begin to re-emphasize “respect the king and fight the barbarian.” It is a pity that the national strength is weak, and eventually he died of foreigners. Until the end of the Qing Dynasty, in the face of the powerful ships and guns of the great powers, they still advocated “learning from the barbarians to control barbarians”.

The imbalance between population and international politics and economy is often caused by the national characteristics of the population

Historical experience at home and abroad has shown that the problems brought about by international population migration are not just the optimal allocation of labor factors, but in many cases the integration or conflict between civilizations. The biggest difference between modern international population migration and pre-modern times lies in the establishment of modern sovereign states.

The imbalance between population and international politics and economy is often caused by the national characteristics of the population. Nationality is an important feature of the population of our time. The so-called nationality of population means that the total global population is managed and controlled by sovereign states. The population is the sovereign population. The United Nations has 193 member states, all of which are independent and sovereign states. When we talk about the world’s population, it is only ecologically meaningful. In fact, there is no political entity responsible for the world’s population. Therefore, when talking about controlling the world’s population, it is necessary to turn to the actions of sovereign states in the world. In 1974, the United Nations organized the first World People’s