The Afro-Asian world

It’s 2020. 2050 is close enough that population projections out to 2050 are going to be feasible and you can trust the projections.

In 1950 Europe & its offshoots, North and South America and Oceania, were 35% of the world’s population. In 2050 they will be 20%. It will be an Afro-Asian world.


26 thoughts on “The Afro-Asian world”

  1. One thing I’m wondering about is whether the increasing demographic (and then later, with some lag, economic) clout will translate into a greater influence on the global stage in other ways.

    For instance, China’s rise (economic growth, geopolitical importance) has not seemed to lead to global influence of soft/cultural power or awareness of Chinese culture (paying attention to China is still for instance niche, as we see with talk about how so few people in the west noticed COV-19 until it arrived at their shores).

    Will India or Nigeria, which have the advantage of being plugged in more to the English-speaking world, have soft power to go along with their rising economic/demographic power?

    So far, in particular, Anglo-American culture obviously has and for a long-time being, had a relationship with the rest of the world as an exporter of culture/media for instance — there’s a reason why Bollywood, Nollywood etc. named themselves after Hollywood not the other way around. Most of the world still pays attention to US news (e.g. Trump). Many non-western countries pay attention to the “west” and then their own media, for instance, versus paying attention to other non-western countries’ media.
    It seems like cultural influence lags behind demographic influence (for despite all the talk about rising African power, like Nigeria, for most of the world which consumes globalized media, “black culture” is dominated by the image of black American culture, such as hip-hop and to a lesser extent, other black Anglophone western culture like Jamaican reggae, not African culture).

    Or is the path-dependence of “western” (Europe and its offshoots) so set that even when Asians and Africans come into their own as confidently as they are onto the world stage, they will still be doing so through pre-set cultural molds (e.g. Anglosphere) set out for them by the American/British/European forebears at the start of the era of globalization, even if the torch passes to them.

    I’m thinking about the various ways soft power is slower to change (e.g. the influence of Latin after Rome etc., the influence of French and German as languages of the educated and learned after the torched passed to Anglo-America from continental Europe) etc.

  2. yes i’ve long said cultural is an overhang of economic and military power.

    the thing with china is with 1.4 billion people their own cultural productions can survive/flourish on an internal market. might limit their appeal?

    1. Fair point on the size of China’s internal market, but doesn’t that in itself kind of concede something about global influence if it’s still limited to serving the domestic market while others (including the still culturally influential west) market themselves as “global”.

      For instance, if you are not strong, your homegrown output might be paltry compared to the international competition. If you’re a little stronger, you can not just stave it off but hold your own, so that the internal market is self-sufficient. But stronger still, you do tend to exude your influence elsewhere eventually (whether it’s dominance, like Greek and Latin spread by empire, or prestige like people choosing to learn Latin and Greek and model ones’ buildings and laws after the past prestigous empire; even China in the past did want to extent its influence, sinicizing its neighbors and regionally influencing others).

      When Hollywood was mostly sufficient to depend on the domestic market (large, not as large as of course China or the current US in absolute terms but still at the time relatively big, considering the movie industry and who could watch given the worlds’ wealth not more than a few generations back), it still nonetheless grew in clout when the world noticed the glamor of its stars.

      People chase clout as kids these days say… they still want to learn your language, dress like you, talk like you, when you’re powerful even if you don’t try to go ahead and make them (e.g. everyone wants to learn English even in places England never colonized, people like Japan for its video games, cartoons, pop culture etc. and this cultural clout couldn’t exist until after Japan was rich).

      So, do we anticipate one day westerners desiring to copy Chinese or Indians, Nigerians and other Africans and Asians?

      Maybe I’m wrong and you can be isolationist and powerful or powerful and be content to limit your cultural output but it seems like history does not give (maybe I’m just not as well versed in enough examples) many examples of powerful civilizations, countries, nation-states, etc. that are content to limit their influence (culture or not) to the domestic sphere *if* they can help it. Who knows if the trajectory of the US (or the Anglosphere) is or will be unique in that it was able to capture the global cultural market in the way and that perhaps there will no longer be a global dominant culture anymore in a multi-polar world.

      One possible path I could imagine the west and non-west taking in the (somewhat, but not that) distant future is that while elements of the Anglosphere still remain as dominant, it fuses to a homegrown culture in places like India or Nigeria so that it becomes less clear what’s local and “western” the same way Latin Americans with indigenous and Iberian ancestry, folkways and other cultural elements think of themselves as “Latin American” not Spanish from Spain or Portuguese from Portugal. So Anglo-American culture still survives in its “homeland” or “sourceland” but is outnumbered by what was once the periphery in a hybridized way with indigenous elements.

    2. By the way, Razib, do you have an explanation of why this might be etc. why cultural dominance lags behinds “hard power” like military, economic?

      Any insights from sociology, political science, psychology explaining this? Do cultural institutions have more inertia, are harder to destroy and survive more readily (or are less easily abandoned by holdouts?).

      After all, we do know culture can change rapidly at a more micro-scale or short-term analysis — first generation immigrants rapidly jettison old country habits they find embarassingly, teenagers eagerly uptake what’s hip and cool, slang and fashion changes at the drop of a hat. Even less fickle things like religions (suddenly conversion of a group of people in a few generations), languages can be lost rapidly (eg. a robust minority or tribal language might be lost to the dominant one so that two or three generations ago what was the dominant mother tongue in an area is now something only a tiny fraction of people remembers).

      If so, why doesn’t military or economic collapse and replacement by a new power, make people think “the old culture’s done, let’s hitch our wagon to the new one” as quickly?

  3. Some sobering statistics from Walter Lacquer’s The Last Days of Europe: “Only a hundred years ago Europe was the center of the world. Africa consisted almost entirely of European colonies, and India was the jewel of the British empire. Germany, France, and Russia had the strongest armies in the world, Britain the strongest navy. The European economy was leading the world….The world population in 1900 was about 1.7 billion, of whom one out of four lived in Europe. Europe’s population was about six times that of the United States, which was 76 million at the time.

    According to the estimates of the United Nations and the European Community (“World Population Prospects” and “Eurostat”), the population of France will decline only slightly, from about 60 million at present to 55 million in 2050 and 43 million at the end of the century, but the number of ethnic French will decline rapidly. A similar trend is forecast for the United Kingdom: from 60 million at present to 53 million in 2050 and 45 million in 2100. Most other European countries would fare considerably worse. Thus the population of Germany, 82 million at present, will decline to 61 million in 2050 and 32 million in 2100. The decline of Italy and Spain would be drastic. Italy counts some 57 million inhabitants at present; this is expected to shrink to 37 million at midcentury and 15 million by 2100. The figures for Spain are 39 million at present, declining to 28 million in 2050 and 12 million at the end of the century. All these predictions do not take into account immigration in the decades to come.

    However, in the regions closest to Europe such as North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East, there will be no decline in the near future. According to these projections, the population of Turkey will be 100 million in 2050, that of Egypt 114 million, and there will be 45 million Algerians and 45 million Moroccans. The highest rise will be in the very poorest countries. By 2050 Yemen will have a larger population than the Russian Federation and Nigeria and Pakistan will each have a larger population than the fifteen nations comprising until recently the European Community. Germany, at present the fourteenth most populous country, will have fallen behind Congo, Ethiopia, Uganda, Vietnam, Turkey, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Kenya.

    Russia has at present a population of 145 million, but it will be overtaken first by Turkey and subsequently by many other countries, including perhaps even Yemen and Ethiopia. Yemen (as Paul Demeny pointed out in an article in Population and Development Review in 2003), which had about 4 million inhabitants in 1950, has now some 20 million and, according to the projections based on current fertility rates, will have more than a hundred million by 2050. At the same time, the population of Russia is shrinking annually by 2 percent, which is to say that within fifty years its population will shrink to one-third of its current size. Demeny observes that there is hardly any precedent for such a precipitous demographic collapse in human history.”

    1. “Demeny observes that there is hardly any precedent for such a precipitous demographic collapse in human history.”

      Uh, what about the demographic collapse of the New World population (two Western Hemisphere continents and Oceania) in the light of old world diseases and colonization? Sometimes it’s easy to not remember that three entire continents (of the six inhabited ones) had their own indigenous people and that European settlers weren’t literally the first there (and for the record, I’m not one of those people who likes to point fingers and blame anyone alive today for any past colonialism centuries ago, nor do I particularly cheerlead any demographic change over another in contemporary times).

  4. “And it also seems quite realistic that Europe’s share in the world population will be no more than 4 to 5 percent in 2050, in the lifetime of many of those living now, having been 25 percent in 1900 and 12 percent in 1950.” – Walter Lacquer, The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent.

  5. My pet theory is that countries like Italy, with the help of China, which is going to face demographic headwinds of its own, will turn to artificial gestation to grow their populations.

    In 2100, you might have a central bank like institution controlling national demographics and changing birth rates here and there much like we see happen with interest rates now.

    The state will step in when the society fails to perpetuate itself.

  6. Uh, what about the demographic collapse of the New World population

    yeah but this was due to nature and not their own choice.

    Europe is kind of just dying because they can’t be bothered to raise children…it’s weird

    1. I am not as well read as other commenters here but here are my two cents:
      I have had a heated argument with my fellow graduate students in the US about antinatalism. Apparently antinatalism is growing in popularity (especially in the perpetually guilt ridden ‘left’ leaning young people). I think that these people think they are doing the planet a favor by not bringing up babies.

      In general discussion with my (Indian) female colleagues (successful and with elite educational background) about children, I sense that they don’t want to put up with the work of raising kids at all or till quite late in life. A majority of my well off cousins and friends in their late 30s and above have just one child. My somewhat socially regressive conjecture is that wherever women will get equality/voice a large percentage amongst them will choose not to have babies. My even more regressive (and rather shameful) conjecture is that women in general are not as concerned about their social obligation as men (who volunteer to go off to wars etc much more willingly).

      Japan was the strangest experience for me. Men there were strange, entire metro coaches full of (sad looking, lonely?) men reading manga, so many soaplands, sex-parlors and all sorts of creative sex related stuff catering to men. While there were so many nice girls (who atleast seem on the outside and in social context to be wife/mother material) that someone could date but the Japanese guys are such weirdos(shy? tired? disinterested?) that most don’t date anyone.

      Again these observations are anecdotal and might not be very relevant.

  7. How much can the state help with boosting birth rates? I think many Northern European countries offer a lot of benefits to new parents such as the baby box program of Scotland. Yet it has a much lower birthrate than the US which provides little to no assistance. I think the state cannot financially incentivize higher birth rate. It would have to mandate it. Something like reverse China.

  8. you’re a smart guy Diasporan … nice change from the usual hindu/muslim/caste/jihad foodfights lol 🙂

    Razib’s point on culture as a lagging indicator is strong. i think that india/africa etc will eventually produce emulation-worthy global culture, but it’ll take time. china is a more interesting case … they will do so too, but their historical sensibilities are correctly perceived as *relatively* isolationist. without getting into “argumentative indian” pop-psychology, i do think that *all else being equal*, india would produce more global culture than china. may only have an effect on the margins though, and all things will likely not be equal lol. also path-dependency, as u say, is real. i doubt there will be post Great Divergence level emulation ever again. that was a one time thing.

    razib … aren’t europe’s demographic indicators *not* unique, or at least not likely to remain unique? i know many western conservatives — especially religious ones — attribute demography issues to “civilisational decline”, “losing the faith”, etc, depending on one’s priors, but it seems more like modernity at work … even israel’s better fertility is the only minor exception but it’s hard to generalise from their specific circumstances. even their non-orthodox pop is not churning out 5 kids/woman lol, so not a massive difference. likewise the muslim word is, despite its supposed civilisational vigor, slowly converging with expected trends.

    the question Prats hinted at is interesting — what will the new global mean eventually be w.r.t. children and family structure? will it be barely ~ 1 kid per fam + serial monogamy? idk. david brooks’ somewhat recent article is relevant here, tho i disagree with him

    1. The Iranian actress in that trailer looks quite Bengali or is at least made to look so. Sort of like an elder sister of Sayani Gupta.

      1. I think Pankaj Tripathy is being miscast as the big bad guy. He struggled also in his extended role in Sacred games (perhaps the script). He’s better as the henchman , consigliere type character like GOW

  9. The fusion of current dominant culture (called anglo-American here) with new ideas from future powers seems plausible.

    It is worth noticing that the current dominant culture cannot be called 100% indigenous to the anglosphere as lot of themes and ideas from past civilizations have been incorporated into it and then developed further. There is no reason why that cant continue in future too with other people in driving seat.

    The idea that this Anglo American culture somehow is in exclusive competition with other cultures (and winning at cost of other cultures) is not convincing over larger time frames. In a big picture it can be seen as extension of long history of cultural developments in various parts of world.

    For those familiar to version control, world dominant culture is the trunk with various individual cultures as branches. For some time now most additions to dominant culture can be traced back to the Anglosphere branch but it wont be so forever. On other hand the additions made already are not going to be deleted but developed further by other cultures.

    1. I agree that the current globally dominant culture can’t easily be partitioned into Anglosphere-only and “other” — it is drawn from others and will continue to be, just that it dominates at this time. Perhaps the Anglosphere will be seen as being the hub of global culture in the later 19th, 20th and parts of the 21st century, and parts of it will be inherited and added to by others so much that in hindsight what people think of now as “archetypically” Anglo might be quaint in an Afro-Asian world.

      I was thinking an analogy might be the role that the Middle East/Near East, or what that part of West Eurasia would be called, played in “global” culture millenia ago — there are many things brought to other civilizations in Eurasia, and then later, elsewhere (mostly by Europeans), from there, such as the Abrahamic religions with the greatest number of adherents today, the alphabet (from the Phoenicians), and many staple crops and foods like wheat, bread, beer etc., as well as many people’s ancestries themselves.

      But if you ask an African, white American, Indian or Chinese person whether the importance of “Christianity” or “wheat bread” or the fact that the letters A, B… etc. come from ultimately Middle Eastern roots mean that Middle Eastern culture dominates the world, you’d get confused stares.

      Perhaps it will be like that in the future. Perhaps, a Nigerian and Pakistani conversing one day generations down the line, might realize they share some cultural elements in common that are Anglo-American or western-derived (that ultimately might trace its roots to the late 20th century culture they assimilated into) but it may be as opaquely “western” to them as the fact that the letter A or B, alph and bet, came from early Phoenician renderings of Egyptian.hieroglyphs of an ox and a house, which no one hardly ever thinks of when they use the Latin alphabet.

  10. With my pessimist’s hat on –
    Looking to 2050/2100, it’s ironic that the regions of the world with declining populations are the ones that will be most suited to support increasing populations in the brave new climate-changed world of the future. Northern Europe, Canada and Russia will become increasingly balmy and better places to live, while the rest of the world will battle (take your pick) heat, droughts, desertification, wildfires and floods. Bangladesh will increasingly be lost to the sea, while India obviously will have no plan in place to deal with an increasing number of climate refugees, both external and internal. Maybe a forward thinking leader from the then scarily-crowded India can strike a deal with Russia to populate it’s empty Siberian frontiers, a sort of lebensraum exchange, in exchange for maybe becoming a protectorate of sorts. However more likely is a demagogue who might introduce strict China-style family size norms. I expect the Southern and Eastern Euro nations will band together to protect their borders from an increasing number of migrants and become a Japan-style ethnocentric bloc – if they can set aside their differences. The UK, France and Germany on the other hand will continue to welcome more migrants and this will set the stage for an increasingly fractious EU, which will not survive. And finally, unless humanity as a species collectively figures out nuclear fusion and effective desalination, the quality of life of the average sub-saharan african, subcontinental and latin american will fall even with increasing short term economic development in an increasingly zero-sum world dominated by resource-hungry China.

    Pessimists hat off –
    Personally, I don’t think a falling population is a bad thing, as quality is always > quantity. The paradigm of increasing populations is suited mainly to an agrarian mode of living that will soon become obselete for much of the world which would have rapidly urbanised. The Euro nations will adjust to a new normal, as will Japan, and it’s worth remembering that many countries in Europe and Japan are quite densely populated anyway. In India, large families are a distant memory in most Hindu families for the past couple of generations, and this is fast becoming the norm for Muslims too. Bangladesh and SL have stable growth rates, so an optimist might say that the future even in the subcontinent is one of an asymptotic stabilisation in population rather than growth.

    1. That link makes for some pretty grim reading, Razib. Even if most people don’t live off the land, the overall quality of life will worsen due to salination, increased extreme floods and cyclones, etc. Short of a Dutch-style radical overhaul of the entire urban infrastructure and countryside, I don’t see a way around this.

      Given the direction that India is heading (and Burma is already in), it will most definitely not open its doors to millions of future climate refugees, and both these countries will have enough internal migration issues of their own.

      1. “Short of a Dutch-style radical overhaul of the entire urban infrastructure and countryside, I don’t see a way around this.”

        Do you think this is unlikely to happen?

        Considering so much of the world lives on the coast, I’d assume that there is going to be a massive investment in overhauling urban infrastructure for a post-climate change world.

        They’re not going to let NY, LA, SF drown. Or Hong Kong and Shanghai. Or for that matter Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata.

    1. As old as the Hills. You might as well say “Lothrop Stoddard” was right. 100 years exactly since he published a certain book.

  11. stoddard thought in the old way of white vs. nonwhite. his was a work out of the age of white supremacy. that’s ending. now new things…

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