President Obama is trying to revive the struggling U.S. economy while China’s economy is growing

Just two and a half weeks after he was elected and before he even set foot in the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama was presented with a 120-page report that was supposed to help him to peer into the future.


The top analysts at the U.S. National Intelligence Council had spent a year surveying other experts and studying global trends in a bid to give the president-elect an over-the-horizon view of the year 2025.

The international order is in the midst of profound change, the report, Global Trends 2025, concluded.

U.S. economic and political clout will decline over the next 15 years; the world will become a more dangerous place; food, water and energy shortages could spark regional conflicts and, while the appeal of terrorism might decline, terrorists themselves will become more deadly and dangerous thanks to new technology, the report says.

“The international system — as constructed following the Second World War — will be almost unrecognizable by 2025,” the study predicted.

New powers, especially China and India, will grow in influence and the world will be transformed by a globalizing economy and a historic transfer of wealth and economic power from West to East.

The report identified a great “arc of instability” stretching from sub-Saharan Africa through North Africa into the Middle East, the Balkans, the Caucasus, South and Central Asia and parts of Southeast Asia.

The power of non-state actors — businesses, tribes, religious organizations and criminal networks — will also increase.

By 2025, droughts, food shortages and scarce water resources, related to climate change, could plague large areas of the globe, from China to the Horn of Africa, triggering mass migrations and political upheavals.

The influence of the United Nations, the World Bank and a host of other international organizations that have maintained political and economic stability since the Second World War will also plummet. The world will enter an increasingly unstable and unpredictable period in which the advance of Western-style democracy is no longer assured, the study said.

“The United States will remain the single most powerful country but will be less dominant,” the report said. “Shrinking economic and military capabilities may force the U.S. into a difficult set of trade-offs between domestic versus foreign policy priorities.”

In the wake of the then just erupting 2008 global financial crisis, “the better economic performance of many authoritarian governments could sow doubts among some about democracy as the best form of government,” the report predicted.

It was a far cry from the triumphal-ism that dominated U.S. foreign policy just 20 years ago, when Washington witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

In the immediate post-Cold War world the United States found itself the world’s lone superpower, unrivalled economically and militarily.

Francis Fukuyama, then deputy director of the U.S. State Department’s policy planning staff, wrote a celebrated essay, The End of History, in which he trumpeted the triumph of Western liberal democracy.

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