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May 2015

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Revolution: the "peak births" theory
by Laurent Chalard

The beginning of the year 2011 was the theater of two revolutions in the Arab world, in Tunisia first, then in Egypt, that nobody forecasted. They seemed to be a great surprise for most experts and politicians studying these countries. In just a few weeks, two long-lasting dictators were ousted from power. These events triggered a question; is there a hidden factor that could explain these revolutions?

In the media, unemployment of youth appears to be one of the main arguments used by experts to explain the origins of the revolutions. However, there are no detailed studies about the existence of a real link between demographics and revolution in these countries, there are only hypotheses.

What are the specific demographic indicators relevant to revolution?

This article proposes a new theory; the existence of a link between birth levels and revolution, that could be applied to Tunisia and Egypt but also elsewhere in the world. This link may permit the forecasting of revolutions.

I) The theory : Revolution is linked to the volume of births in a country

This article seeks to demonstrate that revolution could be linked mainly to the volume of births, and not to other demographic indicators.

1.1) Why study the volume of births ?

At first, studying the volume of births could seem strange for a geopolitician. Indeed, it is far from being considered a statistical indicator as important as GDP per capita. It is a kind of data reserved to demographers in love with figures. So studies trying to link a specific demographic indicator (such as the volume of births) with geopolitical evolution on a global scale are uncommon. Specialists of some countries have shown that demographics are a factor of political evolution, but they never extended their findings to other nations.

For example, researchers have shown that in Kosovo, the growing number of Albanese compared to a declining Serbian population, explains why Kosovo acquired its independence from Serbia. In Northern Ireland, the IRA rebellion was linked to the fact that Catholics were growing quicker than Protestants. In the Middle East, some analysts consider that lower Jewish birth rates, relative to Palestinian birth rates, explain why Israel was compelled to evacuate Cisjordany and Gaza. Another example is South Africa, where the growing number of blacks relative to whites, who had a lower fertility rate, was a factor explaining the end of apartheid. Other studies have been done in the rest of the world. However, most of those studies concern a comparison between the growth rates of two ethnic groups. Furthermore, they often used several indicators (global rate of growth, fertility rate or birth rate), without a special justification.

The inquiry into demographics and geopolitical evolution is not common, with the exception of one theory: the "youth bulge", which links the age structure of population with geopolitical evolution. This theory considers that a higher proportion of young males (16-30 years old) in a country could lead to a revolution. Because it stands largely alone, this theory has caused the percentage of youth to be the main indicator of interest. In my opinion, it is necessary to complete this theory, by studying the impact of another demographic indicator; the evolution of the number of births, one of the four factors of global growth of a population (the others being deaths, immigration and emigration).

The yearly volume of births in a country gives us essential information; the approximate volume of manpower that will be in the marketplace twenty-five years later (excluding the possibility of massive migration), infant mortality being marginal in developed countries and low in most emerging countries, except in the poorer countries of the world, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. For example, there were just 28 infant deaths for 1000 births in 2010 in Egypt.1 So, the number of births is often a better indicator in forecasting the geopolitical fate of a country than other more traditionally used demographic indicators, such as global growth rate, birth rate or the fertility rate, whose interpretation can be misleading.

For example, the year with the highest number of births has the largest generation, but it could be a year with a declining fertility rate and birth rate. In Tunisia when the number of births peaked, the fertility and births rates were strongly declining (the fertility rate has declined to 4.3 children for every woman in 1986 and the birth rate to 31 children per thousand), so some specialists of this country believe that demography did not play an important role in the recent revolution. Indeed, there is often a misunderstanding of demographics by researchers coming from other disciplines; there is not an immediate correlation between the decline of fertility and the decline of the number of births. In the middle of the demographic transition, fertility rates are so high that they have to decline very strongly to lead to a diminution of the number of births. As long as the fertility rate is above the replacement level, the number of births could potentially increase. However, in most cases, the decline of the fertility rate is so brutal that, after a peak, births diminish because the childbearing generation is not very numerous, having come from a smaller population at the beginning of the demographic transition.2 The peak is very visible in the population pyramid. For all these reasons, the volume of births is the most useful indicator in understanding the role of demography in geopolitical evolution.

A higher number of births could be due to several factors:

  • the demographic heritage, which could explain the importance of women at the age of child-bearing;
  • the fertility rate ;
  • the immigration of people at the age of child-bearing, which leads to a higher number of births, a phenomenon which played and continues to play an important role in the volume of births in the U.S.

1.2) A higher number of births; chance or calamity?

Now that we have addressed the importance of looking at the evolution of the volume of births, we should question ourselves about the significance of a higher number of births. Is this a good thing, favourable for a country, or a bad thing, that could lead to a revolution? In fact, this depends greatly upon the kind of country studied. Indeed, in a rich country where the economy is prosperous a higher number of births does not have the significance it would in a poor country where the economy is in a bad shape.

In rich countries, a higher number of births has several positive impacts:

  • the growth of the number of consumers, which stimulates GDP growth rate
  •  growing future manpower
  •  greater potential for innovation (the higher number of young people, the higher number of innovative people)
  • and a military reserve…

For countries with an equal level of development, the evolution of the number of births could have important consequences for their economic hierarchy. A country whose volume of births overtakes another, is likely to have a higher GDP in 25 years, if there are no major changes in the development level between the two countries for other reasons.

Conversely, a higher number of births in a poor country could have several negative consequences if the government mismanages the economy, or is authoritarian or privileged an economy of annuity, as was shown by the theory of youth bulge, i.e the fact that...

  • it could be favourable to contestations whatever their type (democratic, conservative, or socialist) and so lead to revolution, especially when the government is authoritarian;
  • it could lead to mass emigration toward richer countries, which creates more jobs;
  • or it could lead to the impoverishment of the population, with more people having to share the same global revenue.

The evolution of births is an important factor in history, and could lead to dramatic events. If there doesn't exist complete determinism between evolution of births and geopolitical evolution, it is probably the most underestimated factor of historical evolution. As this article is about the link between the volume of births and revolution, we will study the countries where a high number of births could be considered a problem.

1.3) How to determine the moment when births are a calamity?

In this part, we will identify the countries in which a higher number of births are a calamity, and when that calamity could trigger a revolution.

1.3.1) Countries studied: poor and authoritarian

According to what we have seen previously, a higher number of births could lead to revolution in poor countries with authoritarian regimes. So, our study is going to be about the poor countries whose governments could not be considered as really democratic, even if they have some pretensions to democracy or some nascent democratic institutions.

The first step is to define a poor country. We have chosen to define as poor a country with a nominal GDP per capita lower than the world average, which was  $8985 per capita in 2010, according to the IMF. Indeed, the world average is very far from the standard level of life in developed countries (more than $30,000 per capita), so being under the world average is a substantial hardship for many people.

Concerning the second element, authoritarian regimes, they are defined according to the 2010 democracy index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The index defines four types of regimes: full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes, and authoritarian regimes. Among the 167 countries studied by the index, authoritarian regimes account for 55, or a third of the world. They are found especially in the Muslim world and in sub-Saharan Africa, but also China, the most populated country in the world.

We could not study all of these countries for a very simple reason; the problem of data collection. Unfortunately, official data does not exist for many countries in the world, because there is no collection, by the state, of vital statistics. So, we are compelled to study countries where data exists and seems coherent (for example, Libya was ousted from the study because of the incoherence of births data). The best source of births statistics is the demographic yearbook of the United Nations, which has compiled information given by the national statistical office of each country of the world since 1948. We used it to create a statistical table for the countries with data.

Eleven countries were studied for this paper, only one of which is in the Americas; Cuba. There are five in the Muslim world; Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Iran. There is one in non-Muslim Asia; China. There are four in the former USSR: Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Data starting in 1970 was used whenever possible. For some countries, there is only partial data (e.g. China), but it was still sufficiently significant to be kept in this study.

1.3.2) Birth calamity: 25 years after births peaked

How to determine the moment when births could lead to revolution? My methodology is based on two main arguments.

The first argument is the peak of births. The generation that is the more numerous is the generation that is more prone to revolution. Indeed, the power of  numbers is very important, and could lead to a total collapse of the government. It is very difficult to put down massive demonstrations in large cities. In the studied countries, this study first selected the year that births peaked. Then, it looked at the two years before and after the peak of births. Among these years, only the years with a difference in the number of births less than 10% of the peak year were retained. So, there are several years that could be called the birth peak years.

The second argument is that the revolution could arrive about 25 years after the peak of births. Indeed, some scholars contend that individuals ages 15 to 20 are the most revolutionary. This was true in the past, when people were not in school as long and married younger. Nowadays, the age of disillusionment is older, because individuals are in school longer and marry later (for example, at 25.9 years for men in Egypt). So, it is at about age 25 that young people, and especially young men, become disillusioned in a dictatorship that provides no jobs, administers terrible injustices, and finally realize that their life will not be better.

Hope, its existence or absence, is crucial in avoiding or making revolutions. When young people can hope to have a better situation in the future, as in a country with an economy growing steadily and a democratic government, they have less cause for revolution. The absence of hope is the worst thing for people. For example, in the U.S., the perception of the possibility to have a better life has always been a favourable element that explains why the United States has not yet seen a rebellion of poor young immigrants.

After articulating these two arguments, this study identified the period with the highest number of births for the countries studied, then added 25 years to make an estimation of the probability of a youth revolution. For example, if births peaked in 1983-1986, the demographic window favourable to revolution would be in 2008-2011. That means that the possibility of revolution in those years is much more higher than before or after.

Is this theory confirmed in real life?

II) The results of the study

Looking first at the two countries that have recently seen a revolution, Tunisia and Egypt, it can be shown that each country's revolution can be explained by the combination of authoritarian rule, a poorly performing economy, and a peak of births 25 years ago.

3.1) Case studies of Tunisia, Egypt: peak births explains Revolution

3.1.1) Tunisia

For Tunisia, we have complete data regarding births since 1970, so we can determine without difficulty the birth peak years. In 1970, Tunisia had 186,000 births, a number which increased slowly in the 1970's, and the first years of the 1980's, peaking between 1984 and 1987 at about 230,000 births. The fertility rate declined slowly at this epoch, so the volume of births continued to increase. The peak year was 1986 (234,736 births). Then there was a strong decline in the number of births until 1999 with 160,000 births, because of a very quickly declining fertility rate. In 2007, this number was 174,000.

According to the theory of this paper, the demographic window for revolution was between 2009 and 2012. The Jasmine Revolution of December 2010 to January 2011 is right in the middle of this period.  Tunisia combined an authoritarian regime and a poor economy with a population surge that sparked revolution.

Concerning the political regime, according to the democracy index, Tunisia, though a Republic, was ranked only 144th in the world, as bad as Mugabe's Zimbabwe, not really a model regime. Tunisia acquired its independence from France in 1957. The new regime was a Republic headed by Habib Bourguiba, declared president for life in 1975. A military government, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali arrived at power in 1987 after a coup d'etat ended the rule of Bourguiba, declared unfit to rule by doctors. He instituted a police state, with a powerful service secret, and massive corruption. Opposition was forbidden. Islamists were suppressed. He was re-elected with Stalin-like scores—89.62 % in 2009. He did not tolerate criticism of the regime and censored the internet.

The economy seemed to fare better, but the GDP remained low compared to developed countries. According to the IMF it was only the 97th country in the world, with about $4,160 by inhabitants in 2010, the same as Ecuador or Belize. France, the former colonial power, was $40,591. Tunisian's living standard was far under the world average: $8,985 per person globally. Youth unemployment was very high. The main industry, textiles, depended upon low wages for workers. Tunisia never succeeded in diversifying toward industries with more value, like East Asian countries.

The combination of a favourable demographic window, an authoritarian regime and a poorly performing economy could favour revolution by young people--and it did. Everything began with the self-immolation of a young, male, street vendor, at Sidi Bouzid on December 17, 2010: Mohamed Bouazizi, who was born in 1984, - during the peak years! He died on January 4, 2011. On January 3, 2011, protests in Thala broke out, mostly driven by young people, among them some students. After several weeks of massive protests, on January 14, 2011, Ben Ali left power. Young people, and not only students, were at the origin of the revolution. Males, ages 20-30 years, were numerous among the demonstrators.

3.1.2) Egypt

As is the case for Tunisia, we have complete data for Egypt regarding births since 1970 so there are no uncertainties. In 1970, there were 1,161,000 births in Egypt. Then, the number of births increased steadily in Egypt in the 1970's and the first half of the 1980's and peaked to 1.9 million for four years between 1985 and 1988. For comparison, it was about  half  the U.S. birth-rate during these years, whereas the Egyptian population numbered only one-quarter of the U.S.population! The fertility rate remained high during this period. Then, there was a reduction of births at 1.5 million in 1992 because of the acceleration of fertility rate decline in the 1990's. In 2007, the number of births was once more at 1.9 million because the 1985-1988 generation was reproducing.

If we apply our theory to Egypt, revolution could occur about 25 years after 1985-1988, meaning between 2010 and 2013. As in the case of Tunisia, the revolution of January-February 2011 in Egypt is exactly the demographic window favourable to revolution.

The same conditions that in Tunisia caused revolution had the same effects in Egypt. On the political level, Egypt acquired its independence from United Kingdom in 1922. It was not a democracy, but a kingdom, until the 1952 Revolution. In 1953, The Republic was declared and in 1956 Gamal Abdel Nasser arrived in power. He adopted a pro-Soviet Union policy, rather than a democratic one. When he died, he was replaced by Anwar Sadat, who turned to the U.S. Sadat was assassinated in 1981 by an Islamist extremist. He was replaced as president by the military, led by Hosni Mubarak, in October 14, 1981. Mubarak was re-elected five times and had ruled the country for almost thirty years as of the beginning of 2011. He headed a very authoritarian regime with a military junta. There was a permanent emergency law since 1957, and massive corruption. Consequently, Egypt was ranked 138th  country in the world for democracy.

At the same time, the economy was in bad shape. Egypt's GDP per capita was ranked 116th in the world, at $2,771 per capita in 2010, about the same as Guatemala or Paraguay, both less populous countries. Egypt suffered from over-density because the population flocked to spaces in the Nile valley and delta. There were difficulties in feeding the population. The economy rested on four main resources: oil (though not a major producer like Saudi Arabia), trade along the Suez Canal, migrant reversals, and tourism. Industry was very limited and undiversified for a country so populous.

As in Tunisia, the combination of a favourable demographic window, an authoritarian regime, and a poorly performing economy favoured revolution by young people. The revolution took eighteen days to succeed. It began the 25th of January with a demonstration in Cairo against the regime. Hosni Moubarak was ousted on February 11, 2011.

Table 1. Years favourable to Revolution in countries studied


Birth peak years

Years favourable to Revolution



































3.2) What  about other dictatorships?

This article has shown the link between the peak of births and revolution in Tunisia and Egypt.  Is there a demographic window for revolution in other dictatorships? The analysis that follows looks at authoritarian regimes with poorly performing economies, then, searches for the existence of a demographic window in the near future favourable for  revolution.

3.2.1) In the Arab world and Middle-East

As the recent revolutions concerned two Muslim countries, what of other countries of the Muslim world? Are other revolutions possible soon? Indeed, according to the domino theory, the revolution could continue in other countries. Unfortunately, and as previously discussed, we do not have data for many nations.

Concerning the Maghreb, where revolution began, Morocco ranked as the 116th country in the world on the democracy index. It is a constitutional monarchy, but very unlike those of some European countries. The country has been ruled by a king, who is also the religious leader, since independence, so it is doubly legitimate. During the rule of Hassan II, the regime was very authoritarian, and infamous for its terrible jails, like Tazmamaght. Opponents like Medhi Ben Barka disappeared. With Mohammed VI, who succeeded his father Hassan II in 1999, the rule became a bit less authoritarian, though it remained a dictatorship. Bureaucracy is inefficient and corruption is everywhere, as shown by the common used of the word "baksheesh," which means the economy is the worst performing in the Maghreb.

Morocco is the 113th country of the world in terms of GDP per capita, with $2,868 per capita in 2010. It ranks with  Guyana or Guatemala. Misery is everywhere, with big shantytowns around the main cities, especially the most populated city; Casablanca. The country lives only on tourism, which is insufficient to provide jobs for everybody. Other resources are phosphates, textile and food industry (vegetable exportation). Unemployment of youths is massive. The country doesnot profit from the proximity of Europe, which drives strong emigration. This situation could lead to revolution, as shown by the importance of the Islamist party, which is against the regime. Morocco is the backward country of the Maghreb, and this is also the case in its demographics. 

Birth data for Morroco is incomplete. Demographic transition begins later and the fertility rate remained at a high level for long. Births peaked from 1992 to 1995, meaning that a revolution is not likely soon, but could occur between 2017-2020

Another country of the Maghreb, Algeria, is characterized by an authoritarian regime, with generals leading the country. It's the 125th country in the world in terms of democracy. The regime is a republic with a semi-presidential system. In fact, the role of the military is considerable, since the civil war with Islamist insurgents in the 1990's that they won. The president is a civilian, Abdelaziz Boutelika since 1999, but power is kept behind closed doors. He was re-elected in 2004 with 84.99 % of vote and in 2009 with 90.24 % of vote. The military constitutes an oligarchy, which siphons hydrocarbon revenues. 

Algeria hugely depends on natural resources, mainly oil and natural gas. The country cannot feed the population on its own. Whereas it has the most important resources of the Maghreb, it's standard of living is about the same as its neighbours, because there is no industrial diversification. The GDP per capita of Algeria is the 92nd in the world, with $4,477 per capita, about the same as Ecuador. Consequently, there is massive youth unemployment and significant emigration to France, its former colonial power.

Is there a demographic window in Algeria favourable to revolution? We have complete data since 1970. Algeria had a natalist policy since its independence, which led to a very high fertility rate during the first phase of demographic transition, so the number of births exploded in the 1970's and peaked in 1980-84. As in other countries, the government, fearing overpopulation in the 1980's adopted a Malthusian policy, which led to a diminishment of the fertility rate.

The demographic window favourable to Revolution in Algeria has passed: it was 2005-2009. So, it seems it is too late for a revolution to occur in Algeria.

In the Middle-East, Iran ranked as the 158th country in the world for democracy. It's an Islamic republic. The country is ruled by an Islamic dictatorship, a kind of theocracy, since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. There is a civil leader: the president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and a religious leader: the supreme guide Ali Khamenei. The regime imposes a lot of constraints on individual liberties.

For a country with plenty of oil, the economy performs badly. Iran is 90th in the world for GDP by per capita, with $4,484 per capita in 2010, less than Jamaica, a country without important natural resources. Yet the economy rests on oil. Without oil, Iran dies. Rich Iranians invest in the Emirates (especially Dubaï) because they have no confidence in the future of the nation.

Concerning Iran's demography, we have complete data since 1970. The number of births peaked just after the Islamic Revolution, which was natalist in 1980-82. The very high fertility rate led to an explosion of the number of births. Then, the births declined in the 1980's and 1990's because of the adoption of a Malthusian policy, the government being afraid of overpopulation in a context of economic crisis.

So, it seems it is too late for a revolution to succeed in Iran. According to our theory, Iranian revolt should have been a few years ago in 2005-2007. This could explain why the demonstration against the contrived re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 didnot succeed. The leadership was challenged by young people, especially young women, but they failed to overthrow the Mullahs.

3.2.2) In the former USSR

The former USSR is characterized by numerous authoritarian regimes. It has been difficult for democracy to thrive in these former communist countries.

In Europe, Belarus ranked 130th in the world according to the democracy index, which is the worst regime on this continent. The regime is a presidential system, centred around Alexander Lukachenko, who has been president of Belarus since July 1994. He created a police state, which resembles former communist countries and crushes opposition.

The state plays a dominant role in the Belarus economy, thus limiting modernization. Belarus is the 79th country in the world in terms of GDP per capita, with $5,607 per capita in 2010, a low level for Europe. Being a country without natural resources (except Potash), Belarus needs to be open to thrive, but the economy is closed. The main sectors are mechanics and chemicals, inherited from the former USSR.

Could revolution occur in Belarus?

Studying the demography (we have complete data since 1970), the fertility rate having declined very early, the number of births was increasing very slowly in the 1970's, and peaked in 1983 at 173,000. Then it decreased to 85,000 in 2003. So, the demographic window favourable for revolution was 2006-2010. Revolution was almost the case in Belarus, as was shown by the demonstrations against Lukachenko's re-election with 79.67 % of vote in December 2010. December 19, 2010, the day the election results were announced, violent demonstrations against the regime erupted and the government was attacked. But, the government suppressed the revolt.

Belarus is another example proving that our theory works. Revolution arose in Belarus, but failed.

Kazakhstan is the 132nd country in the world in terms of the democracy index. The regime is a presidential system. The country has been ruled by Nursultan Nazarbayev since its independence from USSR in 1991. In 2005, he was re-elected with 90 % of the vote. In 2007, he acquired lifetime powers.

Corruption is widespread in Kazakhstan. This oil country has a GDP per capita that remains just under the world average, with $8,326 per capita in 2010, making it the 64th country in the world. However, in the 2000's, the economy was performing well and the prospect of a growing price for oil could assure relative prosperity in the future for Kazakhstan. So, a Kazakh revolution is perhaps not on the agenda, due to economic factors unfavorable to revolt.

However, when studying the evolution of births in Kazakhstan since 1979 (there are no data before), the risk of a revolution remains real. Kazakh births peaked between 1985-1989, so revolution is possible in 2010-2014.

Uzbekistan ranked 164th country in the world for democracy, similar to Burma. Only three countries in the world are worse, showing the degree of authoritarianism in this country. Uzbekistan is supposedly a presidential republic headed by Islam Karimov, president since December 29, 1991. The authoritarian Karimov crushes every kind of opponent, especially religious ones, such as the Islamist insurgency in Ferghana valley, which is hard hit by economic crisis, in a very densely populated environment. The revolt of Andijan in 2005 was bloodily repressed. Ethnic tensions are high.

The most populated country of Central Asia, Uzbekistan is also one of the poorer ones, being the 132nd country in the world for GDP per capita, with $1,335 per capita in 2010. Unlike Kazakhstan, the country has no important natural resources. The economy is based on three raw materials: cotton, gold and a little natural gas. Industry is limited. The economy seems very fragile.

We have demographic data for Uzbekistan only after 1979. The number of Uzbek births peaked between 1985-1989, so revolution is possible in 2010-2014.

Tajikistan is the 149th country in the world for democracy, at the same level as Afghanistan. It is a presidential system with one party dominant: People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan, so it is a kind of socialist regime. The president has been Emonalu Rakhmonov since November 6, 1994. He came to power after a civil war opposing different factions, among them an Islamist insurrection. In 1999, he was re-elected with 98% of vote and in 2006 with 79%. These results are typical of an autocrat.

Concerning the economy, Tajikistan is the poorest country among these studies. It is the 153rd country in the world for GDP per capita, with $732 per capita in 2010. This is a little more than in Haïti, and like a lot of sub-Saharan Africa countries. The two main resources are cotton and aluminium. Industry is in ruins. So, the country is ripe for revolution, judging from economic indicators.

But does demography indicate a possible revolution in Tajikistan?

Birth data for Tajikistan has been available since 1979. The number of births peaked later than in other Central Asian Republics in 1989-1991, because the country enters demographic transition later, keeping an high fertility rate in the 1980's (over 5 children per woman). This fact means that a demographic window favourable to revolution could occur between 2014-2016.

3.2.3) In the rest of the world

In the Caribbean, Cuba is ranked as the 121st country in the world for democracy. It's a socialist republic with a single-party communist state. Fidel Castro was president since December 3, 1976 and prime minister since January 1, 1959. He was replaced by his brother Raul Castro in 2006, because of Fidel's illness. That didnot change much concerning the authoritarian character of the regime. This is a corrupt regime.

Due to the socialist system  running  Cuba, we have no data for the GDP per capita. Nevertheless, there is a large chance that it is under the world average, given the state of the economy, which is closed to the rest of the world, and the high emigration to the U.S. Cuba's economy is very limited: tourism, sugar cane, nickel extraction, and a bit of pharmaceuticals (the only success of the communist regime). Cuba was hard hit by the end of USSR's aid after its dissolution. It survives on immigrants remitting from the U.S. Shortage of everything is the common life of Cubans.

So, Cuba's political and economic system indicates revolution is possible.  But is Cuba's demography favourable?

Demographic data on Cuba has been available since 1970 due to the good quality of the statistical administration in communist countries. When we look at the evolution of births in Cuba, we have a different result in comparison with countries studied so far. Indeed, the number of births is lowering since 1970, because of the Malthusian policy of the communist regime. Very early, it permitted people to have fewer children. So, the peak birth was in 1971. That means, that the demographic window favourable to revolution was in 1995-1997, and so has past. A revolution seems unlikely.

In Asia, China is the 136th country in the world for democracy. As in Cuba, China is a socialist state with a single-party communist state. The head of state is Hu Jintao. The name is clear about the kind of political regime: a People's democratic dictatorship. Since the communists took power in 1949, the country has been ruled by an authoritarian oligarchy, which suppresses freedom and exerts repression on opponents as in the Tiananmen square demonstrations in 1989. Free speech is forbidden and the state tries to control the internet (cf google). The ruler changes, but the political system endures.

Concerning China's economy, it is common to talk of China as a future superpower, but analysts often over-estimate the real standard of living of the Chinese people. Indeed, it remains well under the world average, at $4,283 per capita, compared with $47,132 in the U.S. China's living standard  ranks only 95th in the world, like Ecuador or Belize. Furthermore, GDP figures are rigged (according to the World Bank, GDP is 40 % over-estimated) like in the former USSR. Hundreds of millions of people are under-employed. As social inequalities are growing strongly along with GDP growth, social tensions could lead to an implosion in the country. Growth rests on exportation  because the interior market has remained limited.

Revolution in China seems possible, given the demographic mass of this country. Data about births are incomplete, but sufficient to determine the birth peak. The evolution of births confirms this eventuality. The number of births peaked in 1990, which means that the demographic window favourable to revolution is 2013-2015, so very soon. The Chinese government has good reason to feel ill at ease about the situation in Egypt, because it could be next. The context is different, but social tensions are still considerable in China.

This article demonstrates that there is a strong link between the peak of births and the moment a revolution may happen, as shown by the recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.  25 years after the peak of births, there is a demographic window favourable to revolution in a political context of dictatorship combined with an insufficiently performing economy. In these conditions, there is a strong chance that the revolution will succeed.

This factor shows that revolution is possible in the near future in other countries of the world, even those as important as China, if the economy deteriorates or if the government persists in ruling via authoritarian regime. Indeed, several countries are approaching the demographic window favourable to revolution. The international community should pressure these countries to democratize before a catastrophe arrives. The aim is to lead to peaceful change of regime, which is better for everybody. Dictators should understand their time has past.bluestar


1 World population data sheet. 2010, Population Reference Bureau.

2 There are even some cases where births will never diminish because the decline of fertility rate is slow.

The author would like to acknowledge Frank Pry for checking the spelling of this essay.

American Diplomacy is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to American Diplomacy.

Author Laurent Chalard, fellow at the European Center for International Affairs, holds a PhD in geography from Sorbonne University in Paris. He is expert in political geography, population geography and urban geography. He has had opinion pieces published in major French newspapers, including Le Monde, Le Figaro, Libération and Les Echos. He has published several articles about geopolitics and political demography and is author or co-author of 80 publications.

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