Letters: China has peaked

15 May 2021

9:00 AM

15 May 2021

9:00 AM

China has peaked

Sir: Niall Ferguson makes some good points about the nature of Xi Jinping’s imperial aspirations but misses two important parts of the picture (‘The China model’, 8 May). First, the Chinese Academy of Science predicts that China’s population will peak at 1.4 billion in 2029, drop to 1.36 billion by 2050, and shrink to as few as 1.17 billion people by 2065. They even forecast that China’s population might be reduced by about 50 per cent by the turn of the next century. And second, China’s economic rise is stalling. Rather than being on track to displace the United States as the next economic superpower, China now finds itself ensnared in a classic ‘middle income trap’ — a situation in which rapid growth is followed by a period of stalled growth and failure to achieve the status of high-income country. As a result, China is not fated to become the world’s economic middle kingdom. Indeed, it will be lucky if it escapes the fate of countries like Brazil and South Africa that have also fallen into this economic trap.

The bottom line is that while China’s rise has been meteoric and strategically consequential, it is not destined to continue. China has already peaked and is destined to falter — and to do so long before displacing the US as the world’s leading power. This week, the most recent census shows China’s population growing at its slowest pace in decades. The question that should keep US strategic thinkers up at night is how America should deal with a China that is beginning to sense that the brass ring of global primacy is fated to recede from its grasp. Ominously, the world’s experience with similar faltering contenders — Germany in 1914 and Japan in 1941 — suggests that when a dominant power assumes it is confronting a rising power when actually it is confronting a faltering contender, catastrophic war can ensue.
Andrew A. Latham
Professor of International Relations and Political Theory, Macalester College, USA

Deflecting blame

Sir: Having read the ‘From Lament to Action’ report, it is very hard to swallow the simplistic defence offered by the Revds Arora and Barron (Letters, 8 May) against Michael Nazir-Ali’s penetrating critique (‘Bad faith’, 1 May). Glossing with biblical quotations a hermeneutic analysis borrowed from a political theory intended to destroy not only the traditional family but society and Christianity as well will not cut it, and shows either the naivety or the disingenuousness of the authors. One is left wondering whether this is another exercise in deflecting blame from the shameful failures of the C of E leadership by branding the rest of the church racist, white-privileged, and in need of unconscious bias training. Institutional incompetence, yes; institutional corruption, perhaps; secrecy and saving face, certainly.
The Revd R.C. Paget
Brenchley, Kent

Moore and moor

Sir: West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service want to ensure accurate reporting of our role, particularly regarding the Marsden Moor fire to which Charles Moore referred (Notes, 1 May). I must highlight firstly the use of the outdated term ‘firemen’. Our increasingly diverse workforce comprises both men and women who work as ‘firefighters’. We work closely with landowners and interested parties to protect our beautiful moorland. We campaign to promote moorland fire safety, and work with our partners to enforce legislation.

Finally, our crews did not ‘knock off at 8 p.m.’ as reported. It is accepted good practice to minimise numbers on the moor in hours of darkness. The natural temperature drop suppresses the fire and allows for a watching brief and reduced firefighting activity, with the provision to increase resources again if needed, before we ramp back up during daylight hours.
Dave Walton
Deputy chief fire officer/director of service delivery, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue

Isolated incidents

Sir: As much as stress and ‘mental health issues’ are flavours of the month, I don’t agree that the problem is overstated just now (‘Britain’s mental health problem’, 8 May). In the past year my husband and I have dealt — as mere amateurs and friends — with three different people considering or attempting suicide. That’s three more than in the past 40 years of welcoming many people through our home. I know you can’t use anecdotes as evidence, but it’s blatantly obvious that each of these three situations was exacerbated by isolation.
S. Rose

Corporate pass-agg

Sir: Fiona Mountford is too generous to ‘the providers’ (‘Customer disservice’, 8 May). Usually, they do not apologise for ‘the’ inconvenience caused but rather for ‘any’ inconvenience. Presumably the genesis lies in advice from in-house lawyers who wish to make the actual incidence of inconvenience deniable in case of customer claims. The subtext is ‘We reject your assertion of inconvenience but we’re sorry you feel that way’, displaying the passive aggression Ms Mountford identifies. It has annoyed me for decades.
Dr Julian Critchlow
Ditcham, Hampshire

The sound of spring

Sir: Charles Moore mourns not hearing the cuckoo in April for the first time in his life (Notes, 1 May) and questions whether the unseasonably cold spring is the cause. Sadly, the real reason for the cuckoo’s decline is the result of modern farming techniques which over the years have destroyed its main source of food, the hairy caterpillar. Here in rural Dorset I have not heard the evocative call announcing spring’s arrival for three years. Yet on a visit to Exmoor in April a couple of years ago the air resonated to the sound of cuckoos on the natural moorland.
Julian Bunkall
Buckland Newton, Dorset

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