Will this be the Asian Century as many pundits have predicted? Not according to George Friedman in his latest book The Next 100 Years.
Indeed, he sees China, India, and even Russia playing little more than a peripheral role on the global stage as America maintains and extends its superpower status while Poland, Japan, Turkey emerge as major regional powers. The latter two countries even become strong enough to launch a pre-emptive strike against the US in 2050, in much the same way that Japan struck at Pearl Harbor and with similar results.
Friedman lays out his case with a cold and remorseless logic from what he calls a geopolitical perspective, making demographics, location, sea power, economics, and history the key planks of his thesis. With its growing population and economic might, Turkey will thus regain the leadership position in the Middle East (and some parts of Europe) that it had when it ran the Ottoman Empire, and because of its declining population Japan will once again get itself entangled in China in order to increase its access to labor.
Such predictions are interesting, not least because they are contrary to most conventional wisdom, but they are not particularly convincing – particularly his discounting of China and India. Both these countries are only at the start of their development curves, and in very different ways they have the political and cultural cohesiveness to deal with the challenges they will inevitably face as they seek to regain their place at the word’s top table.
Strangely, the tone of the book changes abruptly when it reaches the world war that the author predicts with pseudo-scientific precision will break out “on November 24 around noon” in 2050.
All of a sudden, Friedman enters the realm of science fiction with his breathless descriptions of “hypersonic” weapons, robots, and massive “Battle Stars” in space “command(ing) swarms of satellites ….. as well as orbiting pods that will be able to fire missiles at the ground and at other satellites.” This is all very entertaining, but it seriously undermines the credibility of all his previous hard-nosed geopolitical calculations.
Overall this is a thought-provoking book, but I can’t help wondering whether the author would have been better off confining his predictions to the first half of the century and then following up with a novel on the next global conflict.