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Niall Ferguson

China's Demographics Spell Decline Not Domination

American mortality is up while fertility and immigration are down. Unlike China’s baby bust, however, at least one of these is fixable.

Aging gracefully?

Aging gracefully?

Photographer: Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images

Demography isn’t destiny. If population size was history’s major determinant, China might have conquered Europe in the 15th century, and Britain certainly would not have conquered India in the 18th.

Little countries are capable of great things. Wee Scotland, the population of which was perhaps 1.3 million in the mid-18th century, made an outsized contribution to the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the expansion of the British Empire. Big countries can amount to very little. By population, Indonesia is the world’s fourth-largest country. But most Americans are barely aware of its existence.