The numbers are known; national demographics can be measured and projected with impressive accuracy into the future. What is unknown, however, should worry all nations invested in the region, including the United States. Will Asia’s aging societies—Japan foremost among them—usher in a future peace dividend in which social security is prioritized over national security? Or, will rapid demographic shifts, imbalances and the fear of decline destabilize societies, giving rise to a violent form of nationalism and, perhaps, to conflict?
Yoichi Funabashi is chairman of the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, a Tokyo-based think tank, and director of The Special Investigation Commission on Population Issues.
Image: Flickr/U.S. Pacific Fleet