The World in 2025

Earlier this year, private intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor (www.stratfor.com) , recently published its Decade Forecast in which it projects the next 10 years of global political and economic developments.

While international analysts often try their hand at predicting the major events of the coming year, Stratfor believes that it’s identified the major trends of the next 10.

You can get a copy here.

Here’s an exert on their views of the future in East Asia,

East Asia

China has ceased to be a high-growth, low-wage economy. As China’s economy slows, the process of creating and organizing an economic infrastructure to employ low-wage workers will be incremental. What can be done quickly in a port city takes much longer in the interior. Therefore, China has normalized its economy, as Japan did before it, and as Taiwan and South Korea did in 1997. All massive expansions climax, and the operations of the economies shift.

The problem for China in the next decade are the political and social consequences of that shift. The coastal region has been built on high growth rates and close ties with European and American consumers. As these decline, political and social challenges emerge. At the same time, the expectation that the interior — beyond parts of the more urbanized Yangtze River Delta — will grow as rapidly as the coast is being dashed. The problem for the next decade will be containing these difficulties.

Beijing’s growing dictatorial tendencies and an anti-corruption campaign, which is actually Beijing’s assertion of its power over all of China, provide an outline of what China would like to see in the next decade. China is following a hybrid path that will centralize political and economic powers, assert Party primacy over the military, and consolidate previously fragmented industries like coal and steel amid the gradual and tepid implementation of market-oriented reforms in state-owned enterprises and in the banking sector. It is highly likely that a dictatorial state coupled with more modest economic expectations will result. However, there is a less likely but still conceivable outcome in which political interests along the coast rebel against Beijing’s policy of transferring wealth to the interior to contain political unrest. This is not an unknown pattern in China, and, though we do not see this as the most likely course, it should be kept in mind. Our forecast is the imposition of a communist dictatorship, a high degree of economic and political centralization and increased nationalism.

China cannot easily turn nationalism into active aggression. China’s geography makes such actions on land difficult, if not impossible. The only exception might be an attempt to take control of Russia’s maritime interests if we are correct and Russia fragments. Here, Japan likely would challenge China. China is building a large number of ships but has little experience in naval warfare and lacks the experienced fleet commanders needed to challenge more experienced navies, including the U.S. Navy.

Japan has the resources to build a significantly larger navy and a more substantial naval tradition. In addition, Japan is heavily dependent on imports of raw materials from Southeast Asia and the Persian Gulf. Right now it depends on the United States to guarantee access. But given that we are forecasting more cautious U.S. involvement in foreign ventures and that the United States is not dependent on imports, the reliability of the United States is in question. Therefore, the Japanese will increase their naval power in the coming years.

Fighting over the minor islands producing low-cost and unprofitable energy will not be the primary issue in the region. Rather, an old three-player game will emerge. Russia, the declining power, will increasingly lose the ability to protect its maritime interests. The Chinese and the Japanese will both be interested in acquiring these and in preventing each other from having them. We forecast this as the central, unsettled issue in the region as Russia declines and Sino-Japanese competition increases.

Post-China Manufacturing Hubs

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International capitalism requires a low-wage, high-growth region for high rewards on risk capital. In the 1880s it was the United States, for example. China was the most recent region, replacing Japan. No one country can replace China, but we have noted 16 countries with a total population of about 1.15 billion people where entry-level manufacturing has gone after leaving China.

While you may disagree with some or all of their views, the report certainly provides lots of thoughtful information which you can use to test your own forecasts. Check out the report by accessing the link above.