eli5: Why do Asian countries have such high populations?

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What the title says. India and china alone have almost 3 billion. Asia has over half the worlds population. Why has this historically been the case even though many Asian countries developed far slower than European countries.

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28 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Asian countries – China especially, has the most suitable climate for human species. That suitable climate also ensures multiple harvests in a single year.

Population growth is all about leftover food. In Stone Age, people ate when they managed to hunt or gather something, and starved rest of the time, because you couldn’t preserve leftover food (save for winter if it was cold, but food was scarce in winter, anyway). During agricultural era, people started to domesticate animals, so they could slaughter them only when food was scarce (living animals don’t need “preserving”), and grains that you could keep in granaries (given you drive out the rats and such). This led to leftover food and thus, population growth.

With multiple harvests a year, it’s even easier. And rice, that’s mostly cultivated in Asia, preserves really well. Plus, there’s no terrible climate or diseases that historically caused many babies to die.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Plains of the great Asian rivers in subtropical climate are insanely productive agriculturally. The Mekong delta can yield 3 harvests per year; so since the advent agriculture, these spots were very favorable for human settlement. And when you have a lot of people being able to feed a lot of babies…you get a lot of population

Anonymous 0 Comments

Rice.

Fast growing. Plentiful. High energy yield. Labour intensive but energy yield vastly outweighs the amount of energy needed to produce it.

Massive famines occur when a rice harvest fails.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Large countries with huge areas of farmland which have been able to sustain big populations for centuries.

Anonymous 0 Comments

India and China have existed with large populations and leading cultures for 5,000 years, nothing has changed

Anonymous 0 Comments

China and India together used to account for half of global GDP so they were actually ahead of the rest of the world.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The idea that “Asian Countries developed far slower than European countries” is also a bit misleading. If your frame of reference is the 19th century, then yes, Britain and France were quite a bit more technologically developed than China and India.
But if you’re looking at, say, the 7th century or 13th century, then quite the opposite was true. Europe didn’t really begin to “surpass” Asia in any meaningful technological way until the 17th century.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Rice is insanely energy dense for the effort that goes into cultivating it and for the land is needed to farm it. Humans need energy to multiply and sustain the larger population and rice provided the energy source for that.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Agriculture and geography. Their river valleys gave them flexibility to farm all year. And because they’ve been isolated from the rest of the world because of the mountains and desserts, they were able to civilize more rapidly without dealing with threats from external forces. Most of their conflicts were internal.

Anonymous 0 Comments

One thing I’d like to add to the conversation: In the case of China, at least, it developed far slower than European countries exactly BECAUSE it had such a high population. England needed the Industrial Revolution to solve most of its problems. China just needed an abundance of labor, which it had. Your premise is slightly backwards.