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The international system will be almost unrecognizable by 2025 owing to the rise of emerging powers, a globalizing economy, an historic transfer of relative wealth and economic power from West to East, and the growing influence of nonstate actors, says a publication of the Atlantic Council.

Despite the recent financial volatility-which could end up accelerating many ongoing trends-we do not believe that we are headed towards a complete breakdown of the international system-as occurred in 1914-1918 when an earlier phase of globalization came to a halt.  But, the next 20 years of transition to a new system are fraught with risks, the authors say. There is a shift in wealth distribution from West to East. Growth projections for Brazil, Russia, India, and China indicate they will collectively match the original G-7's share of global GDP by 2040-2050. If current trends persist, by 2025 China will have the world's second largest economy and will be a leading military power.

For the most part, China, India, and Russia are not following the Western liberal model for self-development but instead are using a different model, "state capitalism." The World Bank estimates that demand for food will rise by 50 percent by 2030, as a result of growing world population, rising affluence, and the shift to Western dietary preferences by a larger middle class.

Despite what are seen as long odds now, we cannot rule out the possibility of an energy transition by 2025 that would avoid the costs of an energy infrastructure overhaul. The greatest possibility for a relatively quick and inexpensive transition during the period comes from better renewable generation sources (photovoltaic and wind) and improvements in battery technology. 

Islamic terrorism is unlikely to disappear by 2025, but its appeal could diminish if economic growth continues and youth unemployment is mitigated in the Middle East.

The risk of nuclear weapon use over the next 20 years, although remaining very low, is likely to be greater than it is today. If nuclear weapons are used in the next 15-20 years, the international system will be shocked.

Greater Asian regionalism-possible by 2025-would have global implications, sparking or reinforcing a trend toward three trade and financial clusters that could become quasi-blocs:  North America, Europe, and East Asia.  Establishment of such quasi-blocs would have implications for the ability to achieve future global World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements. 

By 2025 the US will find itself as one of a number of important actors, albeit still the most powerful one, on the world stage. Despite the recent rise in anti-Americanism, the US probably will continue to be seen as a much-needed regional balancer in the Middle East and Asia. | read in depth | Montreal Review


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