Tom Silva
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The World in 2030

By 2030, no country—whether the US, China, or any other large country—will be a hegemonic power. So opens a new study, by the National Intelligence Council. The product of 4 years of research, the report offers a number of pronouncements: A return to pre-2008 growth rates and previous patterns of rapid globalization looks increasingly unlikely, at least for the next decade; China alone will probably have the largest economy, surpassing that of the United States a few years before 2030; the US, European, and Japanese share of global income is projected to fall from 56 percent today to well under half by 2030;  today’s roughly 50-percent urban population will climb to nearly 60 percent, or 4.9 billion people, in 2030; and the worldwide middle class will continue to be bigger better educated and have wider access to health care and communications technologies like the Internet and smartphones. That may be the best news of all in the report. “The growth of the global middle class constitutes a tectonic shift. For the first time, a majority of the world’s population will not be impoverished, and the middle classes will be the most important social and economic sector in the vast majority of countries around the world.”

In reading the report, I was struck by how definitively it seemed to herald the close of the American century (not quite a hundred years if you consider WWII the dawn of American supremacy) and the peace it promised – the Pax Americana. The world today is infinitely more complex and power is not discrete and binary but multivalent and shifting. The report details for us the good, the bad and the ugly of geopolitcs. Developing nations will become especially important to the global economy, including Brazil, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa and Turkey (the developing world already provides more than 50 percent of global economic growth , 40 percent of global investment and 70% of  global investment growth). Aging countries will see a period of decline over the next two decades, including Europe, Japan, South Korea, Russia and Taiwan, which could slow their economies further. And at least 15 countries are described as being  “at high risk of state failure” by 2030, among them Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, Uganda and Yemen. In terms of global hotspots, the widespread use of new communications technologies will become a double-edged sword for governance. On the one hand, social networking will enable citizens to coalesce and challenge governments, as we have already seen in Middle East; at the same time, better surveillance tools will allow closer monitoring of civilian populations.