Japan leads, chased closely by South Korea, with China, on a vastly larger scale, not far behind. Not as mercantilist development states nor as threats to America's high-tech industry, but rather as the world’s most rapidly aging societies.
A wave of unprecedented demographic change is sweeping across East Asia, the forefront of a phenomenon of longer life expectancy and declining birthrates that together yield a striking rate of aging. Japan already confronts a shrinking population. Korea is graying even more quickly. And although China is projected to grow for another couple of decades, demographic change races against economic development. Could China become the first country to grow old before growing rich? In Southeast Asia, Singapore also is confronting a declining birthrate and an aging society. Increasingly, Asia’s aging countries look to its younger societies, such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and India, as sources of migrant labor and even wives. Those countries in turn face different demographic challenges, such as how to educate their youth for global competition.
The third Stanford Kyoto Trans-Asian Dialogue will focus on demographic change in the region and its implications across a wide range of areas, including economies, societies, and security. Asia’s experience offers both lessons and warnings for North America and Europe, which are facing similar problems. Questions to be addressed include:
- What are the inter-relationships between population aging and key macroeconomic variables such as economic growth, savings rates, and public and private intergenerational transfers?
- How and why do policy responses to population aging differ in Japan, South Korea, and across different regions of China?
- What are the effects of demographic change on national institutions such as employment practices, pension and welfare systems, and financial systems?
- What policies can or should be pursued to influence future outcomes?
- How will demographic change affect security in the Asia-Pacific region?
- How have patterns of migration impacted society and culture in East Asia, in comparative perspective?
- How will demographic change influence the movement of people across the region and the prevalence of multicultural families?
- What lessons can Asia, the United States, and Europe learn from each other to improve the policy response to population aging?
The Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (Shorenstein APARC) established the Stanford Kyoto Trans-Asian Dialogue in 2009 to facilitate conversation about current Asia-Pacific issues with far-reaching global implications. Scholars from Stanford University and various Asian countries start each session of the two-day event with stimulating, brief presentations, which are followed by engaging, off-the-record discussion. Each Dialogue closes with a public symposium and reception, and a final report is published on the Shorenstein APARC website.
Previous Dialogues have brought together a diverse range of experts and opinion leaders from Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, India, Australia, and the United States. The first Dialogue examined the global environmental and economic impacts of energy usage in Asia and the United States. It also explored the challenges posed by competition for resources and the possibilities for cooperating to develop sustainable forms of energy and better consumption practices. Last year’s Dialogue considered the question of building an East Asian Community similar in concept to the European Union. Participants discussed existing organizations, such as ASEAN and APEC, and the economic, policy, and security implications of creating an integrated East Asia regional structure.
The annual Stanford Kyoto Trans-Asian Dialogue is made possible through the generosity of the City of Kyoto, the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, and Yumi and Yasunori Kaneko.