Long time readers of this blog will know how much I like Peter Schwartz’s approach to thinking about the future in The Art of the Long View. He thinks we should not build one future forecast but 3 or 4 radically different scenarios that encapsulate key ways the future might develop. By these means we can ‘learn from the future’.
Thinking in these terms about China and our future relationship with China, here are some possible scenarios I have gathered from my recent reading about China:
- Authoritarian Hyer State Capitalism: continuing on the current path, China becomes the dominant global power mid 21st century, without becoming democratic. China becomes rich before it grows old.
- Hayekian China: the free market finally brings democracy on a western basis
- Collapse: environmental pressures end growth and cause civil war and disintegration
- China becomes old before it becomes rich and stagnates like Japan is now doing: standstill without collapse
- Something Completely Different? Just as the UK invented the modern industrial nation, it is possible China will invent something new as a result of its fast drive to modernity, efforts to become educated in science and technology, and its sheer scale and population
Of course the future might be none of these or some combination of them. But at least with these in mind we can start thinking about how we might react if any of these play out, or even more ambitiously try to influence, which one comes to reality to the extent we can. Of course we might want to think about some alternative scenarios for the US or Western Europe to complement this approach.
And here is a way to think about China’s provinces in terms of their size relative to other national economies as projected to 2020.