WASHINGTON: The rise of China and India as global players is heralding an Asian Century in place of a receding American Century, a US intelligence report said on Thursday.
In a far reaching projection, the CIA-commissioned report compared the rise of the two Asian giants to the advent of a united Germany in the 19th century and a powerful United States in the 20th century, and said the event will transform the world’s geopolitical landscape, with impacts potentially as dramatic as those in the previous two centuries.
“In the same way that commentators refer to the 1900s as the ‘American Century,’ the 21st century may be seen as the time when Asia, led by China and India, comes into its own,” the report titled ‘Mapping the Global Future,’ observed. “A combination of sustained high economic growth, expanding military capabilities, and large populations will be at the root of the expected rapid rise in economic and political power for both countries.”
The report is the third in a series of five-yearly forecasts of global trends published by the National Intelligence Council, a group of senior intelligence analysts who report to the CIA director. The earlier reports were for 2010 and 2015. The forecasts for 2020 were based on consultations with more than 1,000 non-government experts at 30 conferences on five continents over the past year.
Expectedly, the 2005 report for the 2020 projection reflected the post 9/11 changes, but it also contained a degree of certitude not seen in the two previous studies, including a more upbeat assessment for India. “Barring an abrupt reversal of the process of globalization or any major upheavals in these countries, the rise of these new powers (China and India) is a virtual certainty,” it predicted.
The report said while most forecasts indicate that by 2020 China’s gross national product (GNP) will exceed that of individual Western economic powers except US India’s GNP will have overtaken or be on the threshold of overtaking European economies.
But the rise of India also will present strategic complications for the region, the report suggested. Like China, India will be an economic magnet for the region, and its rise will have an impact not only in Asia but also to the north-Central Asia, Iran, and other countries of the Middle East.
As India’s economy grows, governments in Southeast Asia—Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and other countries—may move closer to India to help build a potential geopolitical counterweight to China, it said. At the same time, India will seek to strengthen its ties with countries in the region without excluding China.
Although the 114-page report is replete with references to the rise of China and India, it contended that despite daunting challenges “the United States will retain enormous advantages, playing a pivotal role across the broad range of issues—economic, technological, political and military—that no other state will match by 2020.” But in several places in the report, the analysts conceded that the western world will see significant decline.
Dubbing China, India, and perhaps others such as Brazil and Indonesia, as ‘arriviste’ powers, the report said they “have the potential to render obsolete the old categories of East and West, North and South, aligned and nonaligned, developed and developing.”
“Traditional geographic groupings will increasingly lose salience in international relations. A state-bound world and a world of mega-cities, linked by flows of telecommunications, trade and finance, will co-exist,” it said.