Make Medicine, Not War: Why Longevity Medicine Could Be the Key to Global Stability

By Dylan V. Livingston

The ongoing demographic shift across the globe has far-reaching consequences that touch various aspects of society, specifically global politics. As nations face the challenges of aging populations, they must grapple with the need to maintain a stable and productive working-age population while simultaneously addressing the growing costs of age-dependent entitlements. The demographic and aging population crises can be observed as key drivers behind Russia’s war in Ukraine and China’s impetus to invade Taiwan. In contrast, longevity medicine emerges as a potential solution to address these challenges, offering a more sustainable approach to managing aging populations and their impact on global stability, while simultaneously avoiding the needless loss of life that results from war and territorial expansion.

Russia is facing a severe demographic crisis as a result of low birth rates and a declining working-age population. Over the past few decades, the country has experienced a steady decrease in fertility rates, which has led to a shrinking and aging populace. In fact, Russia has only seen population growth in 3 years since 1991. The current birth rate stands at around 1.5 children per woman, which is below the replacement level of 2.1, indicating that the population will continue to decline without intervention. This demographic trend is putting immense pressure on the Russian economy, as a smaller workforce struggles to support the growing number of retirees who depend on social entitlement programs. The dwindling working-age population not only hampers economic growth but also threatens the sustainability of the country’s pension system and healthcare services. Moreover, Russia is grappling with the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, which contribute significantly to the country’s high mortality rate. This not only affects the life expectancy of the population but also limits the ability of the older population to contribute to the economy, further exacerbating the demographic crisis.

The war in Ukraine can be seen as a strategic move by Russia to address its demographic challenges. By acquiring territory with a relatively younger population, Russia aims to augment its own working-age population, thus providing an immediate boost to its labor force. Ukraine, with a population of approximately 44 million people and a median age of around 41 years, could offer Russia a substantial addition to its working-age population. The integration of a younger Ukrainian population into the Russian economy could alleviate some of the pressure on the nation’s social entitlement programs, as the influx of workers would contribute to the funding of pensions and healthcare services. The acquisition of Ukrainian territory could serve as a short-term solution to the social entitlement burden. As the younger Ukrainian population enters the workforce, they would pay taxes and contribute to the Russian economy, which in turn would help support the growing number of retirees. Relying on territorial expansion as a means of addressing demographic challenges is not a sustainable long-term solution and is a completely unacceptable means to solving this demographic problem. Aside from the clear moral and mortality-related reasons for why this approach is wholly unacceptable, the underlying causes of the aging population and shrinking labor force would still need to be addressed in the future.

China is experiencing a demographic crisis that shares some similarities with Russia’s situation. The one-child policy, implemented in 1979 to control population growth, has had lasting consequences on the nation’s demographic landscape. By the time the policy was relaxed in 2015, it had resulted in a birth rate of 1.6 children per woman, significantly below the replacement level. The policy led to a skewed age distribution, with a rapidly aging population and a shrinking labor force. This demographic imbalance has put a strain on China’s economy, resulting in a slowdown in economic growth and an increased burden on social spending to support the aging population. The aftermath of the one-child policy has left China with a significant shortage of young workers, which has contributed to a decline in productivity and innovation. Moreover, the imbalance in the age structure of the population has created social issues, such as a widening gender gap and a growing number of elderly citizens who require care and financial support. These demographic challenges have intensified the need for China to explore alternative solutions to secure its future economic growth and social stability, including the potential invasion of Taiwan. Interestingly, China’s population started declining earlier than expected due to the zero-COVID policy. While it was projected in 2020 that the population would decline in 2029, it actually began to decrease in 2023, adding urgency to China’s efforts to address its demographic crisis.

The potential invasion of Taiwan by China can also be seen as a strategic response to its demographic crisis. Taking control of Taiwan would provide China with significant geopolitical and strategic advantages. Obviously, it would weaken the influence of the United States and its allies in the region and reinforce China’s claims over the South China Sea and its resources. More importantly, by annexing Taiwan, China would gain access to a younger and highly skilled workforce. Taiwan has a population of approximately 23 million people, with a median age of around 42 years, which is slightly younger than that of China. Taiwan boasts a well-educated population with expertise in various advanced industries such as technology, manufacturing, and research. Integrating this pool of talent into the Chinese economy could help offset the shrinking labor force on the mainland and contribute to increased productivity and innovation. It is also crucial to consider that the window of opportunity for China to invade Taiwan is shrinking due to its declining population. As the labor force decreases, so will China’s ability to project power both economically and militarily. This demographic pressure adds a sense of urgency to China’s strategic calculations and may contribute to the country’s willingness to take risks in pursuit of its goals. Unfortunately for China and potentially the rest of the world, relying on territorial expansion and the acquisition of a younger workforce to address demographic challenges is not a sustainable long-term solution and is a completely unacceptable way to address its self-made demographic crisis.

Longevity medicine offers a promising and sustainable solution to the demographic challenges faced by countries like Russia and China. By focusing on extending healthy lifespans and delaying age-related diseases, longevity medicine could transform the way societies manage the consequences of an aging population. One of the primary benefits of longevity medicine is its potential to extend healthy lifespans, allowing individuals to remain productive and engaged members of society for a more extended period. This would reduce the burden on age-dependent entitlements such as pensions and healthcare services, as people could continue to contribute to the economy and delay their reliance on social support systems. In theory, the introduction of a viable longevity medicine would increase the productivity of the working-age population. By delaying the onset of age-related diseases and maintaining cognitive and physical abilities, workers would be able to remain active in the labor force for longer, mitigating the effects of a shrinking workforce. An also often-overlooked aspect of longevity medicine is its potential impact on female fertility. By extending the window of fertility for women, these advancements could lead to higher birth rates and help address the population decline that contributes to demographic crisis. This, in turn, could help stabilize population growth, providing a more sustainable solution to the challenges faced by countries with aging populations.

The development and implementation of longevity medicine could have profound implications on global politics, serving as a stabilizing force in a world grappling with the challenges of aging populations. This innovative approach offers a more ethical and sustainable solution, as it addresses the root cause of demographic challenges, helping nations manage the economic and social consequences of an aging population more effectively. By focusing on longevity medicine, nations such as Russia and China could redirect the resources they allocate to military conquests towards research and development in this field. This could yield better results for their economies and save innocent lives, ultimately reducing the incentive for territorial expansion as a means to acquire younger workforces or access to additional resources. Longevity medicine research can also promote international collaboration on aging research. As countries recognize the potential benefits of extending healthy lifespans and improving population health, they may be more likely to invest in joint research efforts and share knowledge in the field of longevity science. This collaborative approach can foster a sense of global unity and help mitigate geopolitical tensions by focusing on a common goal that benefits all nations. Furthermore, by supporting population growth through increased fertility, longevity medicine can contribute to a more balanced demographic landscape. As countries with aging populations see a rise in birth rates, they may experience greater social and economic stability, reducing the likelihood of conflicts fueled by demographic pressures.

Lawmakers in the United States and the West must view these invasions as responses to the collapsing demographics of these countries. Once seen in this light, the sense of urgency to be the world leader in the creation of longevity medicine will become apparent. Not only will leading the world in the development of these drugs potentially result in the most significant economic boon ever, but it will also provide the United States with real leverage against potentially belligerent opposing powers like Russia and China that are desperately trying to mitigate the issues caused by an aging population. By investing in research and development in this field, the United States can contribute to global collaboration and stability while securing a brighter future for all. So, let’s make longevity medicines, not war.