Future Sense – Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World
Future Sense – Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World
The US National Intelligence Council (NIC) recently published “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World”, the 4th unclassified report in a series that provides US decision-makers with medium- and long-term assessments of critical global drivers and scenarios. Previous reports dealt with global prospects for 2020, 2015 and 2010. The report utilises the scenario planning methodology and draws upon the views of numerous think-tanks, consulting firms, academic institutions, and hundreds of experts inside and outside of the US Government.
We are pleased to share with you a summary of key report findings, courtesy of our colleagues at the Strategic Policy Office, PSD. The full report, a 33.4MB file, is available here.
Key Findings of “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World”
The international system constructed after WWII will be almost unrecognisable by 2025. This development is likely to be caused by both the decline of the United States, exacerbated by the current financial crisis and the costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the concurrent rise of China, India and other emerging powers such as Russia.
As greater diffusion of authority and power in the international arena is likely to continue with a globalising economy and advanced communications technologies, non-state actors (e.g. businesses, religious organisations, criminal networks) will become increasingly influential and replace ineffective institutions.
The growing multiplicity of actors could strengthen the international system by filling gaps left by ageing post-WWII institutions. However, historically, multipolar systems also tend to be more unstable. Hence, the 2025 order is projected to be more fragmented and chaotic. Multiple actors pursuing diverse interests on the global stage would constrain multilateral cooperation and undercut the United States’ ability to demonstrate global leadership even as it remains the single most powerful country.
Developing countries may look to China’s state-centric model of development, rather than emulate Western models of democracy and free-markets, and erode at the United States’ legitimacy as the world’s leading nation.
Rise of the Rest
The magnitude and velocity at which global wealth and economic power is being transferred from the West to the East is unprecedented in modern history; fueled by the windfall profits generated from increases in oil and commodity prices and the shifting locus of manufacturing and more service industries to Asia due to lower operating costs and enlightened Government policies.
Should current trends persist, Brazil, Russia, India and China (the BRICs) will collectively match the orignal G-7′s share of global GDP by 2040 – 2050. By 2025, China is projected to overtake Japan as the world’s second largest economy and not only become the largest importer of natural resources, but also the biggest polluter in the world. India and Russia are likely to increase its economic clout as much as China.
However, it is likely that India, Russia and China’s rise will not be straightforward. India must safeguard itself from terrorist threats / insurgencies and Russia needs to diversify its economy away from oil and gas. China will need to cope with domestic expectations of high growth and restructure key sectors to be less reliant on the US and EU economies.
Complex Transnational Challenges
As the global economy continues to grow, there will be greater competition for strategic resources such as energy, food and water. Demand is projected to outstrip available supplies over the next decade or so. Already, the oil and gas production of many traditional energy producers is declining. The World Bank estimates that demand for food will rise by 50% by 2030, as a result of growing world population and rising affluence, and the lack of water for agricultural purposes reaching critical proportions makes this situation even more challenging.
Climate change is expected to exacerbate these resource scarcities, particularly water and agricultural output. Such a complex and unprecendented syndrome of problems could overload decisionmakers, making it difficult for them to take action in time to enhance good outcomes or avoid bad ones.
New technologies could provide solutions to viable alternatives to these strategic resources, but there is often an “adoption lag” for major technologies. The best hope for a relatively quick and economical “energy transition” comes from better renewable generation sources (photovoltaic and wind) and improvements in battery technology.
The multipolar world is likely to be threatened by terrorism and competition for scarce strategic resources. Although terrorism is unlikely to disappear by 2025, the rise of unemployment and the lack of legal means for political expression will precipitate greater radicalism, particularly amongst youth.
Terrorist groups existing in 2025 will likely be a mix of descendants from more established organisations (e.g. Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah) and newly emergent collections of angry and disenfranchised groups that become self-radicalised.
Due to the greater proliferation of technologies and scientific knowledge, terrorist groups are likely to have bio-chemical weapons in their hands – a situation which will stress a multipolar world even more. Already, Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons and ongoing clashes between Pakistan and India suggest that the possibility of nuclear war in the future cannot be foreclosed.
The potential conflict over increasingly scarce strategic resources could interact with growing multipolarity to create further international stresses. China and India have already been building up naval capabilities due to maritime security concerns. Such pre-emptive moves and counterbalancing acts will create increased tension or, possibly, opportunities for multilateral cooperation. However, as water scarcity is a growing problem in Asia and the Middle East, the prospects of cooperation to manage water resources is likely to be increasingly difficult within and between states.
The threats of terrorism and scarce resources suggest that the US’ role as the security enforcer and regional balancer in Asia will be of greater importance, even as its power declines.