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Study sees rivals to US power

Analysis of global trends forecasts growth, threats

WASHINGTON -- By 2020 the world's economy will have grown by 80 percent and average incomes will have risen by half as India and China -- which together will account for more than a third of the planet's population -- surpass Europe and compete with the United States as the major global powers, top US intelligence analysts forecast yesterday.

But poor governance, the absence of freedom, and a lack of technological development, among other factors, could mean that some regions will not reap the benefits of the enormous global changes, potentially resulting in a period of ''pervasive insecurity" that will leave no nation unaffected, according to National Intelligence Council analysts, who represent all US intelligence agencies. In particular, international terrorism will continue to pose a major threat, the council said.

In an analysis of global trends -- in politics, economics, security, the environment, and health -- the council portrayed a future that holds tremendous promise to improve lives as well as grave threats that together will transform relations among individuals, peoples, and nations more, perhaps, than did events of the past 200 years.

''The likely emergence of China and India, as well as others, as new major global players . . . will transform the geopolitical landscape with impacts potentially as dramatic as those in the previous two centuries," according to the 100-page study, ''Mapping the Global Future," which was compiled with input from 1,000 specialists who gathered over the past year during 30 conferences on five continents.

The accelerated growth of the world's economy will benefit developed as well as undeveloped nations. Asia probably will displace the United States and Western Europe as ''the focus for international economic dynamism," the study said.

But the benefits will be far from universal and will leave behind especially those countries that harness the technological revolution. The conflicts already rampant are bound to be fueled by a ''perfect storm" of weak governments, lagging economies, religious extremism, immigration, and ''youth bulges," or historic increases in the number of young people, the study said.

The challenges could prove overwhelming for some countries and global institutions such as the United Nations. While the next 15 years will offer opportunities for Middle Eastern countries to become more democratic, for example, some of the emerging democracies of the former Soviet Union and Southeast Asia could backslide and become less democratic, the report said.

In the same period, the report predicts that the key factors that spawned international terrorism, particularly from radical Islamic groups, will show no signs of abating. By 2020, the Al Qaeda terrorist network is expected to be superseded by similarly inspired extremist groups as Islam grows as a political force in the world.

The splinter groups, which will be more decentralized and harder to track, could be even deadlier, seeking to unleash attacks with biological or nuclear weapons.

''Even if the number of extremists dwindle . . . the terrorist threat is likely to remain," the study said. ''The rapid dispersion of biological and other lethal forms of technology increases the potential for an individual not affiliated with any terrorist group to be able to wreak widespread loss of life."

The authors of the report, available at, emphasized that their work is not meant as a prediction of what will happen, but rather, to jump-start the kind of big-picture discussions among nations and world bodies needed to collectively contain the scourge of terrorism and to help ensure that the global convulsions that lie ahead are managed as effectively as possible to guarantee smooth international relations.

They outlined four ''possible futures" to depict the kinds of scenarios they think could result from the tectonic shift occurring in the global landscape.

One scenario, called ''Pax Americana," depicts a world in which US predominance survives the radical changes and helps fashion a new, inclusive world order. In another, ''A New Caliphate," the global movement of radical Islam challenges Western norms and values as the foundation of the world system.

''Cycle of Fear" shows how concerns about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction lead to ''large-scale intrusive security measures" to prevent outbreaks of deadly attacks, ''possibly introducing an Orwellian world."

In the fourth, ''Davos World," robust growth led by India and China creates a broader playing field among powers and erodes America's economic preeminence.

One piece of good news, the study said, is that the likelihood of a major war among large powers in the next decade and a half is lower than in the past 100 years.

The report also predicts that established powers will have much older populations than rising powers; that the number of states with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction will grow; and that energy supplies will be sufficient to meet global demand, but political instability could disrupt supply.

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