The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Does The Anglosphere Still Rule?

I’ve been attending a State Department lunch for British prime minister David Cameron today and found myself thinking about some recent points Joel Kotkin and Shashi Parulekar have made about the prospects for the English speaking world.

China’s rapid growth over the last decade, coupled with the world financial crisis that has left Western states struggling to overcome political gridlock over mounting debt, has led many to forecast the end of Western global hegemony. Predictably, as the creators of the modern liberal world order, the Anglosphere states are the prime target of the declinists’ ire. Via Meadia has been closely following this issue for some time and believes that declinists’ claims are grossly overstated. Luckily we are not alone. In a recently published article in City Journal, Joel Kotkin and Shashi Parulekar take the naysayers to task over their predictions of doom and gloom for the Anglos.

Kotkin and Parulekar begin their case with economics. The authors set out to debunk the myth of the rapid success that pseudo-capitalist emerging economies like China have had recently by pointing out that the Anglosphere still “accounts for more than one-quarter of the world’s GDP—more than $18 trillion” and that “the vast majority of the world’s leading software, biotechnology, and aerospace firms are concentrated in English-speaking countries.” Where is the Apple of China, the Google of Russia, the Facebook of Brazil?

In addition to noting the economic and cultural advantages the Anglosphere still enjoys, perhaps the most interesting part of their article is their discussion on demographics. Much has been said about the huge population of China and how they will dwarf anything the Anglos can produce. But often overlooked is how rapidly China will age. “China now has a fertility rate of 1.6, even lower than that of Western Europe.” The graying of society will be a huge economic issue in the 21st century, and how countries deal with that will decide their success or failure. Bolstered by immigration, Anglo countries like the United States and Australia will be able to avoid the age-related issues that closed societies like China and Japan face.

Published on March 14, 2012 2:07 pm
  • Richard Quigley

    Is it necessary for the Anglosphere to “rule” for it to be a potent influence on civilization? Would not preeminence satisfy?
    One hopes that your failure to include Canada in the final sentence was an error due to space restrictions or some such technicality.

  • Jim.

    The obvious question here is, will countries in the Anglosphere have the confidence in their own cultures to assimilate those immigrants, and remain the Anglosphere? (I don’t have a single drop of Anglo blood in me, by the way… 100% assimilated, and proud of it.)

  • Anthony

    The Walrus and the Carpenter’s cultural heritage yet maintains mileage – but your/article’s point about demographics figuring prominently in 21st century competing arrangements warrants attention.

  • Brett

    Good essay. The closest Chinese company that I can think of as being a recognizable “giant” is Foxconn, and that’s a Taiwanese company.

  • TimG
  • Kris

    Indeed, Where are the Yahoo of China, the Apple of the “Arab world”, the Google of Russia?

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    “China is likely to grow Old before it grows Rich” is a comment I have been seeing.

    I have also noted that without Democracy to force a change in direction (flexibility) when policies aren’t working, and to disrupt the systems of patronage and corruption that develop over time, China’s management of its economy is much less efficient than the Anglosphere’s.

    In fact no culture that doesn’t adopt the Three Pillars of Western Culture
    1. Capitalism (Free-Enterprise)
    2. Democracy
    3. The Rule of Law
    Will ever be able to compete long term with the Anglosphere. Sure they can play catch up very quickly because the technological trail has already been blazed for them. But to actually break trail past the Anglosphere, would take the cultural attributes of creativity, entrepreneurial activity, and support for the feedback of competition, which are not present in the backward and inferior cultures the declinists are always touting as the next hegemonic power.

  • Jbird

    Chinese culture will become so destabilized due to a lack of women, there is no way that things can continue on as they do now. They will either collapse internally due to a restive population or they will channel that energy outward and become more militaristic.

  • Mrs. Davis

    Been a lot written about China‘s aging problem.

  • Roy Lofquist

    China’s one family one child policy is an unmitigated disaster. The progression is geometric. Under this policy, if fully enforced, the next generation will have only half the number of child bearers, the one after that only one quarter. With the current fertility rate of 1.6 extinction become inevitable after about 30 years.

  • http://www.wikistrat.com TMLutas

    I work part time at wikistrat.com , a geopolitical analysis and forecasting group. We’re currently running through an exercise on PRC decline. We came up with over 90 ingredients contributing to a likely PRC decline, everything from pollution, to demographics. The demographics are the ultimate killer as they’re already starting to run out of workers and will equalize with US manufacturing salaries on a productivity adjusted basis in just a few short years. At that point, competition for jobs and economic growth moves decisively to legal environments, an area where the PRC has great room for improvement as well as a high risk of provoking revolution if they misstep. My personal projection is that they’re going to lose their nerve and adopt half measures, falling behind.

  • Robert Arvanitis

    Believe it was Mark Steyn who first said “China will grow old before it gets rich.”

    To Jbird – there is a race between two catastrophes – (1) a shortage of women, and (2) too many well-educated Chinese women fail to find hypergamous mates, ending up as “shengnu.” (James Taranto in yesterday’s WSJ.)

  • Howard McCarthy

    Putin is advocating child birth benefits to reduce Russia’s population decline and I expect china to do the same. China has loosened up the restriction. Minorities are exempt and couples may seek exemption when their first is 9 years old.

  • FrankL

    >”Bolstered by immigration, Anglo countries like the United States and Australia will be able to avoid the age-related issues that closed societies like China and Japan face.”

    Well, that’s a clanger, isn’t it?

    “Bolstered by immigration”, the United States will cease to be an “Anglo” country by the middle of this century.

    I suggest you read Heather MacDonald’s article “California’s Demographic Revolution” in the latest City Journal before you celebrate the triumph of the Anglo-sphere.

  • Lawrence

    “Where is the Apple of China?”

    Do not be so quick to dismiss China.  China produced 44% of world steel production in 2011. The Chinese produced 683 million tons of steel. The USA produced a mere 86 million tons of steel.  

    China is ranked second in world shipbuilding. China built 33% of the ships built worldwide in 2011.

    The Chinese don’t need an Apple or Facebook to become a military superpower.  You don’t fight a war with iPads.   You can’t defeat enemy tanks with your Facebook “Like” button. 

    Given that China currently has a steel industry 6 times as large as America,  Chinese eventually may end up building six times as many tanks, aircraft and ships as we have.  

    Meanwhile, Obama slashes the size of our military and shrinks our fleet. 

  • Dave

    Kris’ point above about the contributions of immigrants to the Anglosphere is telling. There was an article in the London Daily Telegraph a couple weeks ago that alleged that Americans are the least xenophobic people. We regard a foreigner as “Americans in training”. Note that the article didn’t allege that Americans are perfect in that regard, just that we’re ahead of second place.

    If we can keep that attitude, the contributions of people from other cultures still be primarily made inside the Anglosphere.

    And others will wonder why we continue to be so lucky.

  • gringojay

    Anglo-sphere can sustain it’s viability in commerce even as it alters nations’ social composition.
    China-sphere viability will continue to ascend since demographics for spare Han chinese males is being offset by bringing in brides. The elite already are getting waivers for more offspring.
    It is outsourcing China that will eventually rely on for competitive labor costs to hold up their profits. The outsource model already props up ageing nations when there is no starvation.
    If China’s ruling class doesn’t follow western pattern of idealistic spending they’ll sustain genuine viability. To assume that the ruled populace determines determine economic fate doesn’t even match up with reality in our Anglo-sphere.
    .

  • EvilBuzzard

    I think about this from the perspective of what sort of future are we producing for ourselves.

    1) Our debt will soon be larger than our economy.
    2) Over 50% of the children born to women under 29 are [illegitimate].
    3) The sugggested solution to #2 above is not self-discipline or familial piety. It’s subsidized contraception at the expense of people not whelping or producing said [illegitimate children].
    4) Our educational system has become so expensive that our college graduates go into 15-25 years of debt serfdom after graduation (it’s that short if they find employment)
    5) Our proposed solution to #4 above is “Pay my [profanity removed] Loan For Me or I’ll Occupy Wall Street!”

    If I were an investment professional, I’d be building some sort of hedge fund that would allow the adults in the room to short the Anglosphere while there is still some carnage left to feast upon.

  • http://www.allenmitchum.com Allen Mitchum

    Demographics are destiny.

    One of the often overlooked advantages of the Anglosphere is in computer programming. The dominance of English in computer programming places China at a disadvantage and creates an imperative for any IT reliant society to learn English.

  • FrankL

    >”We regard a foreigner as “Americans in training”.”

    Which is insufferably stupid of us on many different levels.

  • https://stpeter.im/ Peter Saint-Andre

    Dear Allen Mitchum: computers are programmed in machine languages, not natural languages.

    Notwithstanding, the Anglosphere does have a great advantage in the English language: not only is it the world language of commerce, science, and diplomacy, but it is more open to the creation of new ideas and the assimilation of foreign words than any other major language. That is: our language reflects our underlying culture of freedom.

  • Victor Erimita

    Where is China’s Apple? Umm, they actually, you know, make all of Apple’s products. And how much actual wealth does a Facebook create? How many jobs? I agree that the Sinophiles, people like Thomas Friedman vastly underestimate China’s massive structural problems, demographics being perhaps the worst. But it’s hard to see how the Anglosphere prospers by making nothing, hyping “innovative” companies that create no real wealth and giving each other yoga lessons.

  • Jim.

    @21-

    Not our culture of freedom, but our culture of picking up and using anything that looks useful. You can see this in the West all the way back to Herodotus.

    Our language also reflects a culture of ignoring well-meaning, tyrannical obsessives who wish to force novel concepts upon us, on the grounds that they would make things “better”. Our language is as our Common Law ought to be.

  • http://Calwatchdog.com Wayne Lusvardi

    Dr. Mead
    You might want to read my rejoinder – not rebuttal – Heather MacDonald’s “California’s Demographic Revolution.”

    It is titled “Are Hispanics Moving Up or Down the Social Scale?” posted at Calwatchdog.com – link:

    http://www.calwatchdog.com/2012/04/23/are-hispanics-moving-down-the-social-scale/