George Friedman is the founder of Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence firm and author of two books about the global future: “The Next Decade” and “The Next 100 Years,” New York Times bestsellers. Prior to joining the private sector, Friedman regularly briefed senior commanders in the armed services as well as the Office of Net Assessments, SHAPE Technical Center, the U.S. Army War College, National Defense University and the RAND Corporation, on security and national defense matters.
In 1991, Friedman wrote a book called the Coming War with Japan The authors argue that with the collapse of the Cold War and with the Soviet Union in disarray, the U.S. will no longer endure Japan’s economic encroachments. Japan, meanwhile, in order to ensure the influx of raw materials and to secure an export market it can dominate politically, will solidify its trading bloc in Southwest Asia and the Indian Ocean, while challenging U.S. hegemony in the Pacific Basin.
This one-sided, sensational book contends that a military confrontation between the United States and Japan is likely within the next 20 years. According to the authors, the issues are the same as they were in 1941: Japan needs to control access to its mineral supplies in Southeast Asia and to have an export market it can dominate. In order to do this, Japan must force the United States out of the western Pacific. There is little effort to explore the substantial differences between the 1940s and the 1990s. One of the authors has published several works of fiction and the other is a national security expert at the Heritage Foundation.
Nextbigfuture thinks that Friedman’s newer forecasts will be as accurate as his 1991 book “the coming war with Japan”.
In the Next 100 years (written in 2009) Friedman predicted Russia and China would fragment.
In the early 2020s, the New Cold War will end when the economic strain and political pressure on Russia, coupled with Russia’s declining population, and poor infrastructure, cause the Federal government of Russia to completely collapse, much like the Dissolution of the Soviet Union. Other former Soviet Union countries will fragment as well.
Around this time, mainland China (PRC) will politically and culturally fragment as well. George says the rapid economic development of China since 1980 will cause internal pressures and inequalities in Chinese society. Regional tension in the PRC will grow between the prosperous coastal regions and the impoverished interior regions. Friedman gives two possible scenarios: that the government will expel outside interests and rule with an iron fist to keep the country from fragmenting, or that China will fragment, with the central government gradually losing much of its real power and the provinces becoming increasingly autonomous. He works on the assumption that fragmentation is the most likely scenario.
In the 2020s, the collapse of the Russian government and the fragmentation of mainland China will leave Eurasia in general chaos. Other powers will then move in to annex or establish spheres of influence in the area, and in many cases, regional leaders will secede. In Russia, Chechnya and other Muslim regions, as well as the Pacific Far East will become independent, Finland will annex Karelia, Romania will annex Moldova, Tibet will gain independence with help from India, Taiwan (ROC) will extend its influence into mainland China, while the United States, European powers, and Japan will re-create regional spheres of influence in mainland China.
In Europe, the European Union as an institution will collapse or redefine itself as a more modest trade zone encompassing a smaller part of the continent. The current free trade structure is unsustainable because its members, particularly Germany, have grown overly dependent on exports. This dependency makes these economies extremely vulnerable to fluctuations in demand outside of their own borders. Germany is the most vulnerable country and will experience economic decline due to inevitable fluctuations in the export market. Consequently, by 2040, Germany will be a second-tier power in Europe. Other countries in Western Europe will be affected by its decline, leading Central Europe, and Poland in particular, to emerge as a major, active power.
Russia will continue to suffer from the effects of declining oil prices. The revenue from this commodity had been used to sustain internal cohesion. With this revenue now severely drained, Russia will devolve into a confederation or even fragment into secessionist parts by 2040. The future of Russian nuclear weapons will become a crucial strategic issue as this devolution takes place.
In Asia, as the decline of China’s competitiveness in the export market continues, high unemployment will become a significant challenge to the Chinese president. The regime will attempt to survive the economy’s downward spiral by tightening its grip on power and sliding back into dictatorship. However, the regional divergences in China are too widespread and not easily suppressed by dictatorship. Therefore, by 2040, China will see a return to regionalism, accompanied by turmoil. As China weakens, a power vacuum will emerge in East Asia, which will be filled by Japan. By 2040, Japan, with its enormous economy and substantial military capabilities, will become the leading East Asian power.
In the Middle East, we do not foresee Islamic State being sufficiently contained in the coming decades. On the contrary, it is likely to expand its territory. Turkey and Iran are the only regional actors with the capability to challenge IS, and Iran is unlikely to do so in any substantial way. Given Islamic State’s territorial aspirations, Turkey will have to engage militarily to defend its borders. As Turkey asserts its military and economic strength, these developments will effectively bring a return of the Ottoman Empire, thrusting Turkey back into the position as the dominant regional power by 2040.
Nextbigfuture disagrees with Friedman about China and Japan.
China is building up the infrastructure for the interior. Again this is a massive effort and China is also connecting to South Asia, Africa, Central Asia and Europe.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.