Twenty-First-Century Hyper-power, China or USA: Is Demography the Determinant?

Date01 December 2021
Published date01 December 2021
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
25(2) 143 –166, 2021
© 2021 Jadavpur University
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/09735984211035180
China or USA: Is
Demography the
Narottam Gaan1
In the aftermath glow of the end of the Cold War was seen faintly the
swaggering footsteps of a triumphant USA ready to architect a new
world attic with the mortars and bricks of its own politico-economic
ideology. But the engendered vibe and euphoria bedecking America
proved to be ephemeral with its dismal economic straits, failure of
overseas military adventurism, terrorist attack on its trade center and
loosening grip over global events, rise of other powers, and unwillingness
of the world to kowtow to American lines. China, in contrast, showed
ascendancy in economic growth, rising productive forces, military
modernization, and ambitious global designs, giving rise to the neorealist
zero-sum understanding that eclipsing USA has lent to the ascent of
China in the global scene. But this kind of analysis is mostly founded
on traditional paradigm of politico-military and economic power. What
is primarily ignored or marginalized in the analysis of power structure
in global politics is the demography, that is, aging population structure.
1 Department of Political Science and Human Rights, Indira Gandhi National Tribal
University (Central University), Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh, India.
Corresponding author:
Narottam Gaan, Department of Political Science and Human Rights, Indira Gandhi
National Tribal University (Central University), Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh 484886,
144 Jadavpur Journal of International Relations
The present article focuses on aging population structure of the USA,
China and other great powers and tries to challenge this traditionally
ingrained understanding of power structure and holds on to the view
that if the current population structure is any indication, America will
rule the roost in global politics.
One child policy, rising public debt and growth slowdown, strains on
military buildup, economic decline, demographic exceptionalism
The developed world, petrified by the Malthusian devil and Ehrlich’s
bomb in population growth, is now found enveloped in the cusp of a new
era of hyper -aging and population decline. A decade ago, population
aging was hardly in the radar screen of policymaking of great powers.
Today, it has assumed such an impetus and momentum of such a
magnitude that it is ready to push the coping stone off the citadel of
global power structure on which the USA has been investitured since the
Second World War. Now, the world is witnessing a demographic
transformation in terms of age structure. The population, age structure,
and its variance in terms of cohort size with decline in fertility rate and
fall in mortality rate is going to cast its influence in defining, reshaping,
and determining reconfiguration of power structure in the world (Urdal
2012). While the developed world is going to mark a surge in aging
population, the developing countries are going to be crowded by growing
youth bulge of cohort size. This kind of demographic transformation in
the developed world and demographic transition in developing countries
are going to foster a dramatic power shift in global politics (Jackson and
Howe 2008. CSIS Global Aging Initiative).
In the USA, the baby boomers are becoming ‘the grayest generation’,
and similar imbalances between the number of working-age people and
their dependent elders will soon affect Western Europe, Japan, Korea,
Russia, China, and others. Can the growing number of elderly people
outnumbering the youths in China in comparison to that of the USA, be
a significant factor in reshuffling the world order, so far architected by
America? Taking a leaf from the demography as a new focus of research,
the present article is a novel attempt to answer the main research question

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