14 December 2008

This may only interest me but...

the National Intelligence Council released its report called "Global Trends 2025." In it, they make predictions based on the current international system. This report makes predictions as to how the international system will look in the year 2025. The report is long and I have not read much of it, but I would encourage everyone to at least look at pages 10 and 11. It is there that the NIC gives a general summary of what developments will take place over the next few years and the consequences of these changes. You can go here to read it:

A few thoughts:
Based on what I have read so far, I have trouble imagining the emergence of China, India, and Brazil to the extent that this report believes. While many will argue that the growth of these nations indicates a dramatic shift in international relations and economics, I think that they will be hampered by a state-led capitalist system. China is growing at a rapid rate, 11% GDP growth last year and between 8% and 9% this year, but there are two things to remember. First, China is still an emerging market and rapid growth always occurs. For example, when the USSR was beginning to industrialize it had growth years of up to 15%. As we now know USSR was unable to maintain this growth and unwilling to make the proper changes to continue. China is different in this respect because it has begun to lightly embrace capitalism, but the state still is a major player in the countries markets. Second, China is so large in terms of population that it must grow at a rapid rate. As the population continues to grow (despite laws concerning the number of children that a family can have), the need for more and more jobs must be met. 
According to the World Bank, China must maintain a rate of 8% growth per year in order to avoid this. However, with the financial crisis in the United States and the lower demand for imported goods, China will find it hard to continue this level of growth. With a large class of peasants and farmers, China is vulnerable to a revolution (think France in the late eighteenth century).
That is not to say that China is unable to make the necessary changes in order to maintain growth and emerge as an economic superpower, but there would need to be a systemic change. The NIO argues that China will lead the globe into a new form of state-led capitalism, but I see that as the impediment to growth. The government of China must allow for internal growth and the creation of a legitimate middle class that reflects that of the West. Once achieved, China would not need to rely so heavily on exporting goods. 
But, as long as China can maintain a steady level of growth that will allow the individuals who are realizing success, there is no real reason to push harder. To do so would expose the existing middle class and especially the upper class. As more multinational corporations come into being, the only thing that really matters is the continuance of the current economic system. Companies can now operate outside of the jurisdiction of countries and also find willing partners with less that honorable workers rights laws.
The United States is certainly losing its ability to have full control over the world economy and the current crisis has exposed some of the weaknesses. I will not claim to be some sort of economic expert, but a nation that relies heavily on imported goods will inherently rely on the nations that export the goods. Hopefully this will change with the emergence of new industries such as energy.
In the end, the report is informative and brings forward the fact that there is now a shift towards a true multi polar system. This to some scholars will signal a growing instability as many nations will be vying to achieve hegemony. They may argue the re-emergence of wars, but would certainly say that opposing forces would become more adversarial.