Strategic Power’s Inverse Relationship to Population Increase

Strategic Power’s Inverse Relationship to Population Increase
People in line at a supermarket in Adelaide, Australia, on Nov. 18, 2020. (Brenton Edwards/AFP via Getty Images)
Gregory Copley

Australia’s unprecedented population growth in the year to March is a measure of its relative strategic decline, despite separate attempts to boost defense preparedness, which is only one measure of strategic resilience.

Australia’s population grew by 2.2 percent in the year to March, adding 563,000 people through immigration.

The immediate effect must be a decline in per capita gross domestic product, a factor accompanied by a progressive decrease in Australian productivity levels over recent years. Already, Australian economic growth had declined precipitately against its key Indo-Pacific neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and, particularly, China and India. So, with a population on Sept. 17 estimated at 26.5 million, do Australian officials actually believe that—if power is linked to population size—Australia could, under such metrics, compete with its neighbors?

This is the premise of the Australian government (mirrored by the current U.S. government’s belief in population mass versus population cohesion and productivity). And yet Australia’s regional strategic advantage had always lain in its ability to project superior military force based on a more productive and efficient economy, confident in its agricultural and energy surpluses.

One of the remaining myths to be punctured in assessing strategic power and strength is the widely entrenched belief that national economic growth is directly proportional to population growth and population size. If that were true, then China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Nigeria would have been the greatest world powers. But they weren’t and aren’t, even though they’ve occasionally performed well on the world stage because of governance rather than mass.

Inorganic population growth—that is, population growth by migration—takes decades to become efficiently integrated into societies and assumes conscious measures to harmonize migrants with the host society. In the case of Australia (and the United States and European Union) at present, there are no significant measures to achieve language and cultural integration—quite the reverse. Thus, unfettered immigration—undertaken without regard to filtering by skillsets, cultural and linguistic compatibility, and so forth—substantially changes the character of the receiving state. There’s reason to believe that this is consciously sought by some host politicians, who see political advantage in changing core population characteristics and creating a dependent population.

At the height of its global power and as arbiter of the “rules-based world order” under Pax Britannica in 1890, Britain had a population of only 37.7 million (when far less influential Austria had a population of 41.3 million). Despite this, populist political parties in Australia and the United States argue in favor of increasing population numbers, arguing that local core populations—the repository of culture and national values—are failing to replace themselves by natural means. It’s as though these populist leaders seek to actually replace rather than enhance the core population and cultures that gave their nation-states their historical level of performance.

Population growth through immigration can, and often does, contribute powerfully to strategic growth but only when an inherent national education and cultural assimilation system ensures that the original national values aren’t unduly distorted. What has been seen in Australia, the United States, and other Western societies is that those educational and assimilation practices, including an emphasis on language commonality, have been abandoned, leading to a larger, poorer, and far less productive overall society.

Australia, the United States, and other Western states have seen a significant level of deindustrialization in recent decades. While this gives the opportunity for the start of a reindustrialization using new technologies, it’s the same population-growth governments that insist on legal constraints on the economy, which deter market-oriented investments. To a large extent, this thinking can be attributed to urban-republican political short-termism.

To a large extent, populist urban politicians tend to think of population growth as the key to the retention of power. The issues of long-term population cohesion and the durability of a core culture are rarely considered. Earlier patterns of U.S. and Australian skill-based recruitment of foreign migrants had once addressed some of the needs for national productivity. Where once the United States and Australia exuded appeal based on personal freedom, they now stress the reverse: dependence on government largesse.

The U.S. strategic prioritization of the transfer of advanced semiconductor manufacture from Taiwan to Arizona has seen those plans set back by a year—probably more—because TSMC, the manufacturer, has stated that the United States can’t provide the skilled worker base for such factories. This is despite the massive influx of unskilled, non-English-speaking migrants encouraged by Washington.

So is the United States more globally influential in late 2023, with a population of 340 million, than in 1950, when it had a population—less assisted than today by technology—of 150 million? A similar question could be posed for Australia.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Gregory Copley is president of the Washington-based International Strategic Studies Association and editor-in-chief of the online journal Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy. Born in Australia, Copley is a Member of the Order of Australia, entrepreneur, writer, government adviser, and defense publication editor. His latest book is “The New Total War of the 21st Century and the Trigger of the Fear Pandemic.”
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