“The project of the century” is how Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi touted the Belt and Road Initiative to the world when addressing the UN General Assembly on 21 September. It was only the latest in a series of pronouncements and events, including a Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in May and the ninth BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in Xiamen in early September, choreographed to position China at the vanguard of a new stage of globalisation. Step by step, China is demonstrating that the Belt and Road is now the guiding framework for its international economic statecraft.
By 2024, India will slip past China to become the most populous country and must rapidly prepare for a fast-changing economy.
India will likely hold that rank throughout the 21st century. Its population is 1.34 billion, nearly a fourfold increase since independence 70 years ago. China’s population, at 1.41 billion, roughly doubled over the same period. The pace of India’s population growth, now at 15 million per year, is the world’s largest. The two nations alone have more than a billion people, and their population gap is projected to widen to 500 million by 2100. By comparison, the third and fourth most populous countries in 2100, Nigeria and the United States, are projected to have populations of nearly 800 million and 450 million, respectively.
The long-term growth of India’s population, largely a function of fertility rates, is less certain. UN population projections indicate a range of possible scenarios. For example, if India’s current fertility of 2.3 births per woman remains constant, its population would grow to 1.8 billion by 2050 and 2.5 billion by 2100. Even under the instant-replacement fertility variant, with the country’s fertility assumed to fall immediately to 2.1 births per woman, India’s population would reach 1.9 billion by the century’s close.
For the EU, the EPA would demonstrate its ability to deliver concrete results despite the numerous crises it faces.
Last week the EU and Japan announced an ‘agreement in principle’ after four years of talks on an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the two economic giants. Yet the reaction to this news has not befitted a mega-trade agreement covering over 30% of world GDP and 40% of global trade. This is partly because news emanating from Washington dominates the headlines, but mostly because there is still a long way to go, with the two parties to the agreement bracing themselves for a set of difficult negotiations to finalize the deal.
The agreement in principle means that the chances of the deal falling through are slim, as long as talks are kept at the same level of political priority that made last week’s announcement possible. If agreed, the deal would mark a historic shift in the quality of economic and political relations between the two partners, with far-reaching consequences for third parties as well.
President Donald J. Trump has strongly criticized the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate reached by President Barack Obama’s administration, arguing that the global deal to cut back carbon emissions would kill jobs and impose onerous regulations on the U.S. economy. As a result, in June 2017 he announced that the United States will exit the agreement. With the United States producing nearly one-fifth of all global emissions, the U.S. withdrawal from the accord could undercut collective efforts to reduce carbon output, transition to renewable energy sources, and lock in future climate measures.
Debate over the impact of withdrawal continues. While Trump has rolled back climate regulations at a federal level, thirty-four states, led by California and New York, have undertaken their own ambitious carbon reduction plans.
What is the status of the Paris Agreement?
The Paris Agreement was finalized at a global climate conference in 2015, and entered into force in November 2016 after enough countries, including China and the United States, ratified it. The nearly two hundred parties to the deal—only Syria and Nicaragua have failed to sign on—committed to voluntary reductions in carbon emissions with the goal of keeping global temperature increases below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), a level that the assembled nations warned could lead to an “urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet.”
In 1970, Chinese women were having an average of nearly six children each. Only nine years later, this figure had dropped to an average of 2.7 children per woman. This steep fertility decline was achieved before the Chinese government introduced the infamous one-child policy. Today, at 1.5 children per woman, the fertility rate in China is one of the lowest in the world. Such a low fertility level leads to extreme population aging–expansion of the proportion of the elderly in a population, with relatively few children to grow up and care for their aging parents and few workers to pay for social services or drive economic growth. China’s birth-control policies are now largely relaxed, but new programs are needed to provide healthcare and support for the growing elderly population and to encourage young people to have children. It will be increasingly difficult to fund such programs, however, as China’s unprecedented pace of economic growth inevitably slows down.
China’s Fertility Decline
Most of China’s fertility decline took place in the 1970s, before the government launched its one-child policy in 1980 (see Figure 1). During the 1980s, fertility fluctuated, for the most part above the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman, which would maintain a constant population size. Then in the early 1990s, fertility declined to below-replacement level, and since then it has further declined to around 1.5 children per woman today. If very low birth rates persist, eventually the population starts to shrink, and it can shrink very quickly. Today’s low fertility could lead to a decline in China’s population by as many as 600 million people by the end of the 21st century.