The west still rules—but this will change in the coming decades; indeed, geography may cease to matterby Ian Morris / October 25, 2010 / Leave a comment
Published in November 2010 issue of Prospect Magazine
China’s Nanjing Greenland Financial Center, now the sixth tallest building in the world, is one of many recent building projects that advertise China’s growing power to the world. If the rate of global change keeps accelerating, we should expect eastern dominance by 2050. Photo: Jakob Montrasio
The west is still the “best”—if by that we mean richest, strongest, and most inventive. True, China now has the second biggest economy in the world and Japan the third; but Europe and north America still generate two thirds of the world’s wealth, own two thirds of its weapons, and spend more than two thirds of its R&D dollars—all despite having less than one-seventh of its population. The west still rules the roost.
But will this last? No. This much we know, because history tells us so. As Winston Churchill (no mean historian himself) put it: “The farther backwards you can look, the farther forwards you are likely to see.” If we look back far enough (to the last ice age), on a scale big enough (the whole planet), we can indeed identify the forces that drive history—and where they are taking us.