John Ibbitson, writing in the Globe and Mail, touches on a couple of issues that always concern me: restoring correct relations, including free(er) trade with China and immigration policy, and he revisits his thesis, in his recent book (with Darell Bricker), Empty Planet, which says that global populations are declining, even collapsing, in China’s case.
“Canada’s frozen relations with China are, at root,” Mr Ibbitson says, “collateral damage in a much greater confrontation between Washington and Beijing, a trade war in which the Trump administration seeks to contain the Middle Kingdom’s burgeoning growth and power … [but, he adds] … that trade war is based on a false assumption. China is not destined to grow. It is destined to decline … [because] … The country’s birth rate is collapsing. A May report co-published by Global Demographics and Complete Intelligence, two private-sector forecasting firms, states that China has fallen off a “maternity cliff,” with 2 million fewer births last year than the year before … [and, therefore] … As a result, the report concludes, the population of China will start to decline in 2024, five years earlier than previous estimates. At around the same time, the world’s most populous country, at 1.4 billion souls, will fall to second place, behind India.” He cites experts who suggest that these data mean that we should sell our shares in companies that make baby-formula because population decline is a global phenomenon: Japan and South Korea are already in crisis, China is following and India will, too.
“Having fewer people will help China reduce carbon emissions and combat pollution. But the economic costs could be high … [because] … Fewer young people means fewer taxpayers to sustain pension and health-care costs of a society that gets older, on average, every year … [a problem which also besets Canada, see below, and] … Fewer young people also means fewer young consumers purchasing a new car or a gym membership … [which will hurt General Motors‘ profits because it has invested heavily in China and] … It might also mean growing civic unrest, as young workers chafe at the taxes they must pay and support they must provide their elderly parents … [which could also, even more likely, happen in Canada, because we do not have a Confucian ethos underlying our culture, but] … Reversing declining fertility – as governments from Sweden to Japan have discovered – is extremely difficult and expensive. Government-subsidized parental leave and child care may encourage some couples to have a child, but no developed country has succeeded in pushing its fertility rate back up to 2.1 through such programs, which are often cut back during economic downturns.“
John Ibbitson says, and I agree, that “The only solution to population decline brought on by low fertility is immigration. This is what keeps Canada’s population growing despite a fertility rate of only 1.7, well below replacement rate. Immigration also powers growth in the United States, where the fertility rate has fallen to 1.7, a record low, according to a recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics … [but, he adds] … China does not welcome immigrants, conferring a major geopolitical advantage on the United States … [and by way of example he reminds us that] … In the 1980s, Americans envied and feared Japan’s economic juggernaut. But Japan sank into three decades of economic stagnation, brought on in part by its low birth rate and aging population … [thus, he says] … Fears about China might be equally misplaced. In about five years, the Chinese will start to grow fewer. And once that shift begins, it will never end,” and Donald Trump’s trade war will have proved to have been a complete waste of time and effort, as I believe all trade wars always are.
The Chinese urban working and middle classes are still going to be huge for the rest of my lifetime and all of yours’ and all of your kids’ and grandkids’ lifetimes, too, and they will remain eager consumers of food and of goods and of services from all over the world. They will also be producers of food, good and services which they will want (need) to export to the world.
Canada needs to continue to grow. We need to import people (and their talents) to make our economy even better so that we and our children and grandchildren can enjoy the blessing of our great land and the fruits of all of our labours … hopefully in peace. My contention is that we need (Canada needs) to grow to a population of 100 Million by the year 2100. There is no way, unless something very remarkable, actually unprecedented, and really quite unbelievable happens ~ to wit that our birthrate grows from <1.5 to >2.1, that we will do that without a substantial increase in planned, legal, proper, regulated immigration. And good people, especially good people from China, India and the Philippines, still want to come to Canada and to work hard to make this a bigger, better country.
If Messers Bricker and Ibbitson are correct and the global population rise will halt and then contract, then Canada (and Australia and the USA) will be better placed than China and India to prosper because we have “room” (both physical and social (attitudinal) to grow while others, including Europe, do not. Many Asians are culturally uncomfortable with diversity and it appears that many Europeans are, too. Americans, Australians and Canadians seem, to me, to be more tolerant IF they are convinced that newcomers have “waited in line” rather than jumped the queue. My, personal, sense ~ based on purely anecdotal evidence gathered by conversation and observation in Australia, Canada and the USA, is that most people in those countries are (relatively) unconcerned about race or creed so long as the other person obeyed (and continues to obey) the rules. Those same people, however, object to the notion that someone is taking advantage of them and their laws and systems. I have not heard anyone, beyond a few rabid supporters of the UN Global Compact on Migration, say that there is a pressing need for Canada to accept tens of thousands of unscreened, unqualified migrants just because they want to leave their homes or current places of refuge. I have affirmed, several times, that Canada needs to reverse course on migration: we need more proper, screened, selected, by us, immigrants; we need to do better at helping real refugees but bringing them to Canada is neither the only nor the best solution, and we need to secure our own borders. These are three separate problems and three separate and distinct solutions are required.
I am certain that immigration, refugees and migration are all going to be issues in the 2019 campaign. My, personal, sense is that the Trudeau Liberals are perceived to be on the wrong side of both the immigration and migration questions, by most Canadians, but I am not sure that the Conservatives are seen to be on the right side. A recent Public Square Research and Maru/Blue poll for CBC News suggests that “More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of respondents … agreed that Canada should do more to encourage skilled labourers to immigrate to the country, while 57 per cent said Canada should not be accepting more refugees … [and] … The results come as no surprise to immigration experts and advocates, who point to a negative shift in tone on migration around the world, especially when it comes to refugees. They say that trend is stoked by media coverage in Canada of asylum seekers crossing the country’s border with the U.S.” That suggests, to me, that, maybe, Canadians are waking up to the fact that the issue of immigration differs, substantially, from the issues of refugees and migrants and that each can and should be treated differently.
The other issue that Mr Ibbitson raises is China’s future power in the world. As I have said before, China’s rise is inevitable … no matter what Donald Trump might think. He should, I think, have broadened his concern to discuss the global power structure from, say, 2050 (only 30 years from now) to 2150.
I think it is fair to say that in 1850 the world was having another “unipolar moment” but Britain was on top. Only 50 years later it appeared that Britain was sharing the top spot with America and Germany, but Britain was in serious decline and America and Germany were rising powers. Fifty years after that, in 1950, Germany (and France, Italy and Japan) lay beaten and bleeding, America was, pretty much, the top dog, although the USSR (Russia) was challenging, in some areas, but from a position of great socio-economic weakness. In the year 2000 America was nearing the end of its “unipolar moment” and by 2050 I anticipate (guess) that:
- America and China will be the greatest (and most important) national powers in the world. They will have settled their trade war and will be (reluctant but effective) cooperators in maintaining some semblance of global peace and security;
- China will be supreme in East Asia and the East and South China Seas. America will have, largely, withdrawn its military from the Asian mainland ~ the Korean peninsula will be reunited under South Korea, and American forces will have left South Korea ~ but it will still have a very strong naval-air ‘picquet‘ … … stretching from Japan to Australia, anchored on Guam through which it will “contain” the Chinese military beyond the China Seas;
- India will be a major regional economic and military power, “containing” China (West of the Malaysian peninsula and Sumatra) and asserting its influence in Africa, too;
- The European Union will have split, regrouped and reformed. It will, by 2050, be a global economic-trading superpower, rivalling, even surpassing, America and China, but its common foreign and defence policies will be shallow to non-existent;
- Latin America and the Middle East will both remain in turmoil … the major difference is that North Africa and the Middle East will be in the midst of a decades-long series of internecine wars;
- Russia will be, essentially, a European power … potentially rich but still ill-governed. Siberia will still be Russian, in name, but it will be Asian (Chinese dominated) in fact; and
- Africa will be rising.
Oh, and Canada?
By 2050 I hope that Canada will have shaken off the lingering socio-economic influences of the Trudeaus (père et fils) and will be, again, a leader amongst the small and medium powers, trading, globally, in, especially, resources, including energy, which it has in abundance, and in services, and producing finished goods as part of a highly integrated North American market. Successive governments ~ moderate, liberal, Conservative and equally moderate (Manley) Liberal ~ starting in 2020, will have tamed the endless demands of the “culture of entitlement,” balanced the books, restored the foreign service, reformed and reinvigorated the Canadian Forces and will, by 2050, be playing an active and productive role in the world.
By 2100 I hope that America will have shaken off the last effects of its 20th-century decline and will be growing, again, in power and influence. China, I hope, will have stabilized and will be playing a productive role in the new order, which will be global but, largely, conservative … not Canadian Conservative, by which we mean classically liberal, but, rather, interest-based, more intent on safeguarding and exploiting the gains that the 20th century, US-led liberal world order provided and even being a bit Confucian in its precepts. Europe will, I hope, have two or three or even four quasi-federal unions giving it a few more coherent voices in the world.
I hope that by 2150 the wars in the Middle East will be over and the Islamic equivalents of our reformation (15th and 16th centuries) and our enlightenment (17th and 18th centuries) will be underway, thereby defusing the most serious threats to global peace and security during the past 150 years. I hope that the United Nations will still exist, especially its very good, independent member agencies, but the Security Council will have disappeared, replaced by periodic meetings of all or subsets of an ad hoc Big Six: America, China, India, one of the European Groups, a new, also reformed ASEAN and a new, fairly small (say 10-15 country) African Group. The aim of the United Nations will be unchanged after 200 years: “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”
I do not expect foreign and defence policy to be a big issue in 2019, but I do hope that some political leaders have a long, strategic view, even if they keep it to themselves.