Editor’s Introduction

This issue of World Affairs features a number of stellar essays on familiar themes. Professor Karen Dawisha, author of Putin’s Kleptocracy, lays out how Vladimir Putin and his cronies have come to power using a system of “massive predation on a level not seen in Russia since the czars.” Christopher Walker of the National Endowment for Democracy puts forward the ironic proposition that authoritarian regimes, including Putin’s, are using a containment strategy, not unlike the one the West used to fight Communism, to diminish democracy and democratic values to protect their hold on power. And Jamsheed and Carol Choksy of Indiana University explain in unsettling detail how Saudi Arabia supports Wahhabism around the world with deeds and cash, including in the US, while officially denouncing jihad and violent extremism in word.

One essay in particular, however, touches on a topic we don’t often address: demographics, and, in this case, how over the past 35 years China’s forced one-child policy has disfigured the country’s population with abnormalities sure to have dramatic consequences in and outside the country for generations. As Gordon Chang reports, the workforce is already in decline, and toward the end of this decade or soon after, China’s population will begin to shrink. This shrinkage will be compounded by the country’s growing scarcity of women because pregnant mothers, driven by the one-child rules and a parental bias toward sons over daughters, have aborted millions of unborn females in a perverted, some might say horrific, government-coerced nationwide gender selection process. Now, the country’s leadership faces an awkward and perhaps historically unprecedented gender imbalance. Depending on which data you want to believe, there are somewhere between 34 and 51 million more males than females in China. And, in 25 years or so, projections suggest about a fifth of China’s adult males will have no prospects for a spouse. There’s much more to the story in this fascinating essay. Demographics, once baked into a society, are extremely difficult to change, so social disorder and a declining economy in China, and a rising India in the region, are probably in the cards.

We hope you enjoy these and other excellent articles in the issue. As always, we welcome your feedback. 

— James S. Denton

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