China is not likely to surpass United States as global economic superpower, new book predicts
By Steven Levingston
Joel Kotkin has some reassuring words for Americans worried that their country is in decline.
In a book due out next month, the international futurist says China isn't likely to overtake the United States as the world's economic superpower in coming decades, countering predictions of some forecasters who believe the Chinese economy will be the global leader by 2020.
In "The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050," Kotkin also projects that over the next 40 years the United States will not suffer as much as its global competitors from the burden of an aging population.
Kotkin, a presidential fellow at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. and an adjunct fellow with the Legatum Institute in London, bases his forecasts largely on population trends, fertility rates and immigration patterns. He sees the U.S. population hitting at least 400 million by 2050, an increase of roughly 100 million from today. In his largely upbeat account, which will be published in February by Penguin, Kotkin argues that population growth will be a boon to American prosperity, competitiveness and ingenuity. He notes that increased numbers of Americans will place strains on the environment, the energy grid and city housing, but he believes the challenges will spur innovation and technological advancement. And a larger, more diverse population will fuel America's future dominance, Kotkin says.
The U.S. fertility rate remains the highest of advanced countries, Kotkin writes, 50 percent higher than that of Russia, Germany and Japan. He projects that the Russian population will shrink by 30 percent by 2050 because of low birth and high mortality rates. The fertility rate in the United States also is well above the level in China, Italy, Singapore, Korea and almost all of eastern Europe. The U.S. population, Kotkin says, will enjoy the added benefit of continued large-scale immigration. "In advanced countries a rapidly aging or decreasing population does not bode well for societal or economic health," Kotkin writes, "whereas a growing one offers the hope of expanding markets, new workers, and entrepreneurial innovation."
China is undergoing one of the most dramatic demographic shifts, Kotkin writes. Its one-child policy is pushing the country toward a rapidly aging population by 2050. The United Nations predicts that about 30 percent of China's population will be older than 60 by mid-century. "Some have predicted that China will become the world's largest economy as early as 2020," Kotkin writes, "but this ... is far from certain. Earlier predictions of eventual Soviet, European and Japanese preeminence, after all, proved staggeringly off the mark. ... [China's] lack of democratic institutions, its cultural homogeneity, its historic insularity, and the rapid aging that will start by the 2020s do not augur well for its global preeminence."
Kotkin acknowledges that the United States will have to cope with its aging population in coming years, but its drag on resources will be less severe than in other countries. He says that a third or more of the populations in many European and East Asian countries will be over the age of 65 by 2050. By comparison, the over-65 set in the United States will make up a fifth of the population. Offsetting the aging population will be a millennial boomlet, as Kotkin calls it, between 2010 and 2020 when American baby boomers' children will be having kids.
Kotkin's analysis of population trends indicates that nearly 50 percent of the U.S. population will be nonwhite by 2050, up from 30 percent today. The diversity will be an engine of dynamism, in Kotkin's view. "By midcentury the United States will be a predominantly 'white country' no longer but rather a staggering amalgam of racial, ethnic, and religious groups, all participants in the construction of a new civilization."
By Steven E. Levingston |
January 26, 2010; 5:30 AM ET
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