The world is heading towards 2030 with much greater uncertainty as epochal trends and paradigm shifts are playing out. That's according to the latest report by the Washington D.C -based National Intelligence Council - "Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds" dated December 2012.
The report admits that global economic power is definitively shifting to the East and the South, reversing the historic rise of the West since 1750.
By 2030, the developing world will account for over 50% of the world's economy with China displacing the United States as the largest economy.
Power will become more diffused in a multipolar world, including individuals and other non-state actors, characterised by unprecedented urbanization, rise of the middle-class, new, disruptive, or lethal technologies, resource constraints, more aging populations, and risks of more crises and conflicts.
America will lose its global dominant position but is likely to remain primus inter pares amongst all nations. By all accounts, a great re-balancing of the world will be taking shape, perhaps not dissimilar to the European "long peace" set in motion by the Congress of Vienna in 1815, which was also a mutli-polar period of rapid social, economic, technological and political change. However, many a black swan could change the game along the way.
According to the report, how America will navigate this changed world is likely to shape its fate, including that of the United States itsef, for better or for worse.
Extracts of the most salient tabular summaries are here.
The NIC report may be put into better perpective with reference to the so-called soaring EAGLEs (Emerging and Growth-Leading Economies) here
Or when read in conjunction with the latest World Bank Report "China 2030: Building a Modern, Harmonious, and Creative High-Income Society", which was undertaken jointly with the Development Research Centre of the State Council. Click here
The following China-centred dynamics are also relevant -
(a) According to Goldman Sachs, by 2050 the top ten economies in the world will be, in descending order, China ($70 trillion), US (about $38 trillion), India (about the same as the US), Brazil (barely over $10 trillion), Mexico (just under $10 trillion), Russia, Indonesia, Japan, United Kingdom, and, lastly, Germany (about $5 trillion). Only four of the G7 would thus remain on this list. Except the US, the other three G7 countries, Japan, UK, and Germany, would fall to the bottom. The combined economic weight of the six so-called Emerging and Growth-leading Economies (EAGLEs), what may be called the E6, would be over two and half times more than the remaining G4. Amongst the EAGLEs are the so-called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), of which China's economy is bigger than the rest of the BRICS combined.
(b) According to Huang Renwei, Vice President of Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, compared with a rising China, the relative strategic power of the United States is declining due to-
(i) its mounting debt exceeding sustainable limits, threatening the status of the US Dollar as the world's dominant currency;
(ii) its increasingly constrained financial capacity is likely to reduce its military capacity, its R & D expenditure and hence its ultimate technological lead;
(iii) the American-dominated global alliance may come apart in a decade or two if the United States becomes less and less able to provide most of the public goods holding such alliance together; and
(iv) geopolitics are giving way to geo-economics where China is building a China-centric regional economic infrastructure (read regional production and supply chain) reinforced by such economic alliance as ASEAN-China Free Trade Area, the largest in the world by population.This is happening while the West, including Japan, struggles to re-start their weakened economies by one form of quantitative easing or another (read money-printing).
See Huang's remarks (in Chinese) on Xinhuanet on 20 December 2012 here
(c) Rapidly being ""internationalized", the RMB, though remaining non-convertible on the capital account, is already ipso facto "eclipsing" the U.S. Dollar as the world's "reference currency". Click here
(d) according to “World Intellectual Property Indicators 2012” released by the Switzerland-based WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) on 11 December 2012, China tops the world in 2011 patent applications. China also leads head and shoulders in trademark applications as well as industrial design. As a developing country, China is therefore well on track to overcome the Middle Income Trap. Click here
(e) As the world is increasingly becoming eco-conscious, China is starting to lead in a number of renewable energies, including solar, wind and hydro. In particular, China is pushing for the rapid development of electric cars, through heavy state subsidy towards private ownership and intensive research and development, including green battery technologies. This promises to revolutionize the world's entire auto industry.
(f) Shale gas is set to change the shape of the world of energy. Click here for "The Golden Age of Gas" In addition, the widespread use of abundant shale gas in America and China will weaken the strategic clout of the Middle East and other oil-producing countries, with all that implies. As the world's leading energy consumer for a long time to come, China is well poised to benefit from America's expected shale gas bonaza and her own vast shale gas reserve, the world's largest, provided problems of water scarcity, groundwater pollution and lack of advanced fracking technologies can be overcome.
In sum, provided China continues to maintain an even keel in the run-up to 2030 (though that is by no means a foregone conclusion), the country, together with or in addition to America, is set to influence, if not shape, global dynamics much more than the National Intelligence Council report seems to imply.