Global Trends 2025
National Intelligence Council, November 2008
Edited by Andy Ross
— A global multipolar system is emerging. The relative power of nonstate actors will increase.
— The shift in relative wealth and
economic power from West to East will continue.
United States will remain the single most powerful country but will be less
— Continued growth will put pressure on energy, food, and water resources.
The number of countries with youthful populations in the "arc of
instability" will decrease.
— The populations of several youth-bulge
states are projected to remain on rapid growth trajectories.
potential for conflict will increase owing to rapid changes in parts of the
— Terrorism is
unlikely to disappear by 2025, but its appeal could lessen.
an energy transition away from oil and gas is completed during the 2025 time frame
How quickly climate change occurs and the locations where its impact is most
— Whether mercantilism stages a comeback and global markets
— Whether advances toward democracy occur in China and Russia
Whether regional fears about a nuclear-armed Iran trigger an arms race and
— Whether the greater Mideast becomes more
stable and whether the Arab-Israeli
conflict is resolved peacefully
— Whether Europe and Japan overcome
economic and social challenges caused or compounded by demography
global powers work with multilateral institutions to adapt to the transformed geopolitical landscape
The international system — as constructed following the Second
World War — will be almost unrecognizable by 2025 owing to the rise of
emerging powers, a globalizing economy, an historic transfer of relative
wealth and economic power from West to East, and the growing influence of
Historically, emerging multipolar systems have been
more unstable than bipolar or unipolar ones. Despite the recent financial
volatility — which could end up accelerating many ongoing trends — we do not
believe that we are headed toward a complete breakdown of the international
system, as occurred in 1914-1918 when an earlier phase of globalization came
to a halt.
transfer of global wealth and economic power now under way — roughly from
West to East — is without precedent in modern history. This shift derives
from two sources. First, increases in oil and commodity prices have
generated windfall profits for the Gulf states and Russia. Second, lower
costs combined with government policies have shifted the locus of
manufacturing and some service industries to Asia.
for Brazil, Russia, India, and China (the BRICs) indicate they will
collectively match the original G-7 share of global GDP by 2040-2050.
China is poised to have more impact on the world over the next 20 years than
any other country.
For the most part, China, India, and Russia are
not following the Western liberal model for self-development but instead are
using a different model, state capitalism. Other rising powers — South
Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore — also used state capitalism to develop their
Many other countries will fall further behind
economically. Sub-Saharan Africa will remain the region most vulnerable to
economic disruption, population stresses, civil conflict, and political
instability. Latin America will continue to lag behind Asia and other
fast-growing areas in terms of economic competitiveness.
Africa, and Latin America will account for virtually all population growth
over the next 20 years. Europe and Japan will continue to far outdistance the emerging powers
of China and India in per capita wealth, but they will struggle to maintain
robust growth rates because the size of their working-age populations will
Resource issues will gain prominence on the international
agenda. Unprecedented global economic growth will continue to put pressure
on a number of highly strategic resources, including energy, food, and
water, and demand is projected to outstrip easily available supplies over
the next decade or so. Climate change is expected to exacerbate resource
New technologies could provide solutions, such as viable
alternatives to fossil fuels or means to overcome food and water
constraints. However, all current technologies are inadequate for replacing
the traditional energy architecture on the scale needed, and new energy
technologies probably will not be commercially viable and widespread by
Terrorism, proliferation, and conflict will remain key concerns
even as resource issues move up on the international agenda. Terrorism is
unlikely to disappear by 2025, but its appeal could diminish if economic
growth continues and youth unemployment is mitigated in the Middle East. In
the absence of employment opportunities and legal means for political
expression, conditions will be ripe for disaffection and growing radicalism.
We believe ideological conflicts akin to the Cold War are unlikely to
take root in a world in which most states will be preoccupied with the
pragmatic challenges of globalization and shifting global power alignments.
The force of ideology is likely to be strongest in the Muslim world.
The risk of nuclear weapon use over the
next 20 years, although remaining very low, is likely to be greater than it
is today as a result of several converging trends. The spread of nuclear
technologies and expertise is generating concerns about the potential
emergence of new nuclear weapon states and the acquisition of nuclear
materials by terrorist groups.
A future use of nuclear weapons
probably would bring about significant geopolitical changes as some states
would seek to establish or reinforce security alliances with existing
nuclear powers and others would push for global nuclear disarmament.
The rising BRIC powers are unlikely to challenge the international system as
did Germany and Japan in the 19th and 20th centuries, but because of their
growing geopolitical and economic clout, they will have a high degree of
freedom to customize their political and economic policies rather than fully
adopting Western norms.
By 2025 the US will find itself as one of a
number of important actors on the world stage, albeit still the most
powerful one. Even in the military realm, where the US will continue to
possess considerable advantages in 2025, advances by others in science and
technology, expanded adoption of irregular warfare tactics by both state and
nonstate actors, proliferation of long-range precision weapons, and growing
use of cyber warfare attacks increasingly will constrict US freedom of
Current trends suggest that a dispersion of power and
authority will create a global governance deficit. Reversing those trend
lines would require strong leadership in the international community by a
number of powers, including the emerging ones.
The postwar period
saw the establishment of a new international system. The development of a
globalized economy has opened a
Back to the Future
China and India are restoring the positions
they held two centuries ago when China produced approximately 30% and
India 15% of the world's wealth. China and India are set to be the largest contributors to worldwide
According to projections, the eight largest
economies in 2025 will be, in descending order: the US, China, India, Japan,
Germany, the UK, and France, and Russia. China has emerged as a new
financial heavyweight, claiming $2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves in
Over the next several decades, the number of people to be in the global middle class is projected to swell from 440 million to
1.2 billion or from 7.6% of the world's population to 16.1%. Most of the new entrants will come from China
Globalization at Risk with the 2008 Financial Crisis?
Proactive fiscal and monetary policies probably will likely prevent an extended
depression. Reduced economic growth could slow the pace of globalization. Developing
countries have been severely
buffeted. Western governments now own large swaths of their financial sectors.
World leaders will be challenged to renovate the IMF and
devise a globally transparent and effective set of rules that apply to
differing capitalisms and levels of financial institutional development.
Science and Technology Leadership
The relationship between achievements
in science and technology and economic growth has been long established, but
the path is not always predictable. More significant is the overall
effectiveness of a nation's National Innovation System (NIS) — the process
by which intellectual concepts are moved toward commercialization for the
benefit of a national economy. According to a NIC-contracted global survey
of scientific experts, the United States currently boasts a stronger
innovation system than the developing economies of China and India.
China and India are expected in 10 years to achieve near parity with the US
in scientific and human capital (India) and government
receptivity to business innovation (China). Companies in China, India, and
other major developing countries have unique opportunities to be the first
to develop a host of emerging technologies.
The explosion in
global economic productivity in recent years has been driven as much by
fostering human resources — particularly through improvements in health,
education, and employment opportunities for women and girls — as by
become a key determinant of countries' economic performance and potential.
The quality and accessibility
of secondary and higher education will be important for
determining whether societies successfully climb the value-added
World population is projected to grow
to around 8
billion people by 2025. India is projected to reach over 1.4 billion people. China is
projected to reach over 1.4
Western Europe could have 25 to 30 million Muslims by 2025. Ongoing tension over integration of Muslims is likely to make European
policymakers increasingly sensitive to the Mideast.
Although the Western paradigm
separating religious and secular authority may still be less compelling to
Muslim publics, a greater emphasis on economics and
greater participation of women in the work force may spur new forms of
Conflict will continue to evolve over the
next 20 years as potential combatants adapt to advances in science and
technology, improving weapon capabilities, and changes in the security
Warfare in 2025 is likely to be characterized by the
following strategic trends:
— The increasing importance of information
— The evolution of irregular warfare capabilities
— The prominence of the
non-military aspects of warfare
— The expansion and escalation of
conflicts beyond the traditional battlefield
The force of
ideology is likely to be strongest in the Muslim world. Religion-based networks may play a more powerful role than secular
transnational groupings in exerting influence and shaping outcomes in the
period out to 2025.
The dollar is vulnerable to a major
financial crisis and its international role is likely to decline
from that of the global reserve currency to a
first among equals in a basket of currencies by 2025.
US ability to protect the global commons and ensure the free
flow of energy could gain greater prominence as concerns over energy
security grow. Many states will continue to view the US as the security
partner of choice.