October 8, 2014

"In the future, the GDP of China, Japan, and India will be greater than that of the US and the EU", noted Hans-Christian Hagman, director of strategic analysis for the Government of Sweden, warning that the world eleven years from now will inherently look different than today's world. On October 7, as part of their ongoing "Transatlantic Partnership for the Global Future" project with the Government of Sweden, the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security's Strategic Foresight Initiative hosted a number of panels on the theme Transatlantic Interests in the Asia Pacific in 2025. During the discussion titled "Outlook to 2025: The Transatlantic Partnership in Asia," panelists Hans-Christian Hagman, Kathleen Hicks, Leo Michel, Shuja Nawaz, and moderator Mathew Burrows attempted to forecast out to 2025 the geopolitical shifts and ripples of Asia's upcoming economic and political rise.

They came out of the discussion with ideas of where the fault lines will lie and what the challenges and opportunities for the transatlantic partnership in East Asia will be. Both Kathleen Hicks, senior vice president and director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Shuja Nawaz, director of the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center, emphasized the importance India will play in Southeast Asia in the coming years, predicting that demographics will be one of the major trends to watch, potentially hobbling China economically while boosting India whose massive youth bubble will simultaneously be a potential hotbed for terrorism. Leo Michel, of the National Defense University, still saw a vital role for the transatlantic partnership in Southeast Asia but warned that both its "allies and enemies in Asia were watching very closely how the US, EU, and NATO respond to the crisis in Ukraine." Yet all the panelists agreed that nothing beyond immediate opportunity could serve as a basis for an alliance between China and Russia.

All the panelists responded to the director of the Strategic Foresight Initiative Mathew Burrows' question: will "the transatlantic idea of how you construct a world order still be relevant in 2025? Or will the emerging powers have a different idea of what the world order should look like and will that be more relevant?" Dr. Hagman explained that when China and India have a larger (or the largest) say in international affairs the possibility for multiple norms would give actors multiple options, completely undercutting the legitimacy of any single world system and leading to disorder. According to Dr. Hagman, the transatlantic partnership's single best option is "convincing emerging powers to adopt our norms as their own, as being in their interest [which is why] we will need new global forums that better reflect economic and political realities." Though Dr. Hicks doesn't think that Asia "has a revisionist attitude" she warned that if international institutions "fail to handle upcoming crises and reform, the next ten years will be sustained chaos." The entire panel warned that the transatlantic partnership needs to use the influence it has now to ensure that the next global system is still considerate of Western values of economic, political, and social freedom. When asked whether the glass was half empty or half full in Asia, Mr. Nawaz replied, the important question is, "how quickly is the glass growing?"