A colleague of mine (and classmate) has posed a first stab at the next great powers in 50 years in the comments. They were so cogent, I felt compelled to post them directly for additional comment.
Picking the world leading powers for the next fifty years seems easy, yes? Well don't be too sure. Fifty years in our modern age is a lifetime. The Soviet Union rose and fell in just under 80. The Third Reich did the same in about fifteen years. So who will the great powers be and what will they be concerned with? Will Islam remain a destabilizer in the world? Will we still be dependent on hydrocarbons as a fuel source? Extra points to those who cite references in their analysis!
50 Years: *THE* World powers: Not in order.1. USA; USA Profile We have been counted out before but the US economy is HUGE! The technology base is uniformly spread across every aspect of our society, and the basic nature of "Americans" is still scrappy (we LOVE to compete). The Governmental system is still self correcting (if a bit slow for the A.D.D. society), and generally speaking, there isn’t anything better out there.2. The EU: EU Profile IF they don't devolve into civil war they will be players. They are slowly beginning to run into the same issues the USA ran into. Only for them it is much worse. The surrender of one's sovereignty is difficult. In the USA we have a much more forward looking mind set than in Europe. The EU nations are much more focused on the past. And, in my opinion, there will be a transitional time when some member countries will decide they want to opt out of the Union. Perhaps even to form a separate Confederation in order to maintain their sovereign rights to manage internal and external commerce and taxation. Though, if trends continue on their current path, the caliphate will declare victory in Europe and THEN things will get very interesting. A review of Muslim birth rates and the accepted multi-cultural societal structures in Europe can only spell the current EU's doom. Civil/Cultural war will be rampant. IF the EU can overcome these issues, World power status. If not, I think they will remain interesting also-rans.3. Korea: North Korea Profile Unification after Kim's death. Economic power house already. Add the North's resources and BAM! Major Player.4. Japan: Japan Profile A resurgent Korea and stronger China will FORCE Japan to rearm. These folks HATE...no, LOATH each other. Unless you have spent some time with them, you can not fully understand this. They would sell each others souls in a heart beat. Japan's Navy could probably take down China's in an afternoon. But quantity has a quality all its own. Japan is already positioning it self to rearm. Its initial forays into armed deployments has begun. Watch the multi-national fight over the Spratley islands for indicators and warnings. They remain FIERCELY nationalistic and are rivaled only by the Koreans in the area of homogeneity. They are the GROUP THINK KINGS!5. China: China Profile There are so many ifs here I am reticent to put them on the list, but: IF they can drag their population out of the stone age and subsistence farming. IF they can educate their population without a haves vs. have-nots civil war. IF they can keep their nationalism in check and not provoke a catastrophic war with their neighbors and the USA (Japan, Taiwan, Korea, India, Thailand, etc. etc.) IF Islam does not take root and create a civil war. IF the Southwest does not revolt. IF the Northeast does not revolt. Then, I think they will be true powers. Right now they have money, people, and resources. They lack a uniform technology base, uniform basic education, and an involved population. As the education levels rise, the population will DEMAND a more active voice. Additionally, the traditionalists, though thinned dramatically during the cultural revolution WILL make themselves felt as their country moves towards industrial/imperialism. And yes they WILL get imperial. Every nation does. Its like the terrible twos. All WE can do is try to influence without appearing imperial ourselves (hard to do when every military HQ has a map of the world displaying the areas of responsibility for each of the military governors, err, I mean regional combatant commanders. China sees this, measures it against its long history of European (and yes, US) intervention, and it maneuvers to prevent it from ever happening again.Semper Fi!