China’s economy will be No. 1 in less than 20 years, US study says

Tabassum Zakaria, Reuters



A Chinese man walks in the central business district in Beijing on November 30, 2012. China’s economy is likely to pull ahead of the U.S. economy in less than two decades, a U.S. report says.    WANG ZHAO / AFP – Getty Images           


 China’s economy is likely to surpass the United States in  less than two decades while Asia will overtake North America and Europe combined  in global power by 2030, a U.S. intelligence report said on Monday. 

“Meanwhile, the economies of Europe, Japan, and Russia are likely to  continue their slow relative declines,” it said.

The report, “Global  Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds,” was issued by the National Intelligence  Council, an analytical arm of the U.S. government’s Office of the Director of  National Intelligence. In addition to U.S. intelligence analysts, the report  includes the views of foreign and private experts.

It is the fifth  report of a series – the previous one was released in 2008 – that aims to  stimulate “strategic thinking” among decision makers and not to predict the  future.

The health of the global economy increasingly will be linked to  progress in the developing world rather than the traditional West, the report  said.

“As the world’s largest economic power, China is expected to  remain ahead of India, but the gap could begin to close by 2030,” it said. 

“India’s rate of economic growth is likely to rise while China’s slows.  In 2030 India could be the rising economic powerhouse that China is seen to be  today. China’s current economic growth rate – 8 to 10 percent – will probably be  a distant memory by 2030.”

Technology innovation Economic growth  in emerging markets was expected to drive technological innovation and flows of  companies, ideas, entrepreneurs and capital to developing countries will  increase, the report said.

“During the next 15-20 years, more  technological activity is likely to move to the developing world as  multinationals focus on the fastest-growing emerging markets and as Chinese,  Indian, Brazilian, and other emerging-economy corporations rapidly become  internationally competitive.”

Technology will help shift power away from  any one country and toward “multifaceted and amorphous networks” to influence  global policies, it said.

“Technology will continue to be the great  leveler. The future Internet ‘moguls’ – as with today’s Google or Facebook -sit  on mountains of data and have more real-time information at their fingertips  than most governments.”

That data will enable private companies to  influence behavior on as large a scale as government entities.

The  widespread use of new communications technologies will mean social networking  will enable citizens to join together and challenge governments, as seen in  Middle East, but will also provide governments “an unprecedented ability to  monitor their citizens,” the report said.

Post Arab Spring In  the Middle East, the youth who drove the Arab Spring will give way to a  gradually aging population and with new technologies starting to provide the  world with other sources of oil and gas, the Middle East economy will need to  increasingly diversify, the report said.

“But the Middle East’s  trajectory will depend on its political landscape.

“On the one hand, if  the Islamic Republic maintains power in Iran and is able to develop nuclear  weapons, the Middle East will face a highly unstable future. On the other hand,  the emergence of moderate, democratic governments or a breakthrough agreement to  resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could have enormously positive  consequences.”

Islamist terrorism might end by 2030, but terrorism is  unlikely to disappear completely because states may use such groups due to a  “strong sense of insecurity,” the report said.

“With more widespread  access to lethal and disruptive technologies, individuals who are experts in  such niche areas as cyber systems might sell their services to the highest  bidder, including terrorists, who would focus less on causing mass casualties  and more on creating widespread economic and financial disruptions.” 

Spread of lethal technologies The next two decades will see a  spread of lethal technologies and a “wider spectrum of more accessible  instruments of war” especially precision-strike, cyber and bioterror weapons,  the report said.

“A cyber arms race is likely to occur” as states seek  to defend infrastructure against cyber attacks and to incorporate cyber weapons  in their arsenals.

“The degree to which cyber instruments will shape the  future of warfare is unclear, however,” it said.

War historians believe  cyber power may end up similar to early 20th century projections of air power,  which played a significant role but did not turn out to be the war-winning  capability that some enthusiasts had predicted, the report said.

“The  potential opened up by information technology is for future ‘do-it-yourself’  revolutions conducted by networked social movements that employ information  technologies which communicate and collaborate with like-minded individuals,” it  said.


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