Pull of Unity, Push of Splintering
United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali spoke to Monitor contributor Lucia Mouat in New York:
WE are confronted by two different things. One is fragmentation. When the UN was created we had 51 member states. Today, 50 years later, we have 185 members. The civil war in Yugoslavia is an example of this fragmentation of the family of nations. The UN has participated in this through its role in decolonization.
But at the same time, we are confronted by something new which I call globalization, problems in the field of communication, disease, drugs, environment - Chernobyl is an example - that have no borders.
Over the next 50 years we will be confronted by this dialectic relation where on the one side you will have more globalization, and on the other side we may have more fragmentation.
It is a big challenge, but I believe the UN has the capacity to manage the globalization and contain the fragmentation if it receives the support of member states.
New Borders Belong to the Efficient
Kenichi Ohmae, author of "The Borderless World " (1990), "The End of the Nation-State " (1995), and other books, spoke from Tokyo:
WHAT will happen to the world's nations depends on how well we harness technologies.
The Internet community, for instance, ignores national borders. Companies can use technologies to transfer services across countries. You can have an efficient production plant in South Dakota or in India.
Worldwide autonomous regions of production are being created, from Bangalore to Singapore. More natural units of economy are emerging. The ideal is 3 million to 5 million people, very visible to world investors and consumers, but not so complex to govern.
By 2010, the world will develop into a network of similar production communities, emerging states that don't need military force, large land masses, or natural resources.
New Zealand and Ireland, for instance, are attracting companies because they have enlightened workers who communicate well with the world, a deregulated economy, high educational level, and reasonably high unemployment.
Bangalore uses satellite dishes to connect with the world, avoiding the bad land lines that are common in India. It's wired itself to the world community. It's even building its own small power plants.
In Dalian in northeast China, half of the industrial investment is foreign, and the city is becoming less connected to Beijing.
The emerging states of the world are those with credible management teams.
Over the past 30 to 40 years, national leaders have fought for broader alliances - the EU, NAFTA, ASEAN - to deal with the problems of the traditional nation state. Once you form these alliances, however, the bureaucracy becomes overwhelming to administer the larger unit. This pushes people to find more basic units of commonality with historical, ethnic, linguistic, or technological bonds.
The EU attempt to end nation-state borders has forced its people to establish their identities along ethnic lines. Smaller units will emerge as national borders break down. The identity of Catalonians in Spain is stronger today, and they may form a new state.
As NAFTA grows, what will Nova Scotia have in common with Vancouver? Canada's cities and provinces will look south, not to Ottawa: British Columbia will look to Washington State, Ontario will join the Great Lakes area.
The same is true with Mexico: The northern part can join the US and leave the south isolated from prosperity.
In China, the government cannot control 1.2 billion people under one doctrine, with so many tribes and dialects. The only way is military force to keep unity.
Deng Xiaoping created economic zones with autonomy to deal with foreign investors, but Beijing doesn't get the money. Now it is tightening the controls with national taxes, but to no avail. No one sees the value of central government. The southern provinces have gone too far to be called back by Beijing.
In Russia, that country may not be the optimal economic unit in the 21st century. If Siberia is split into autonomous units, then Russia may prosper. But Moscow will never do it. It'll see a challenge to its authority in Siberia.
Hundreds of New Flags Will Unfurl
Richard C. Carlson is the chairman of Spectrum Economics in Palo Alto, Calif. He is the author of "Twenty Twenty Visions: a Long View of a Changing World" (1991) and, with Bruce Goldman, "Fast Forward: Where Technology, Demographics, and History Will Take America & the World in the Next Thirty Years" (1994).
THE concept of national borders has shifted throughout history and will continue to change. The most rigid concept of borders - a physical barrier that severely limits the passage of people, products, and information - reached its peak during the cold war when several Communist nations - e.g. Albania and North Korea - tried to completely cut themselves off from the world.
This attempt at isolation was both doomed to failure and doomed these nations to ultimate economic and political collapse. No period of human history, before or since, will have had such rigid borders.
The questions for 50 years from now are not just where will the borders be, but which borders will be left, if any, and what will these remaining borders mean? Several things are nearly certain:
*Borders will be meaningless for information flows. Any attempt to stop audio, video, and data from moving anywhere at anytime will be hopeless.
*Money, which now is little more than bits of data, will move instantly and without restriction around the planet. Money in most of the world will be denominated in one to three world currencies.
*Products will move without restriction among developed and undeveloped nations, but there will still be limited residual restrictions on product movements between developed and undeveloped nations.
*Borders will become meaningless for the movement of people among developed nations, but severe border restrictions will remain between the developed and undeveloped world and among undeveloped (and collapsing) nations. Going from England to the United States will be like traveling from Kansas to Nebraska.
*Borders will lose much of their meaning for language. Translation will be automatic, and everyone of consequence under age 30 will probably speak English.
*National citizenship will have two meanings in the developed world: membership in nation-based social-welfare systems (with most of the younger generation opting out of these collapsed or collapsing systems) and national voting.
There will be only one border that really counts by 2050, the border between the modern, developed world and the world of chaos.
The developed world will include most of the Americas (Brazil being the big question mark), Europe, Japan, and much of Asia. Within this world borders will be largely meaningless.
The world of chaos will include most of Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh, parts of India, and parts of China, where demographic, economic, and political troubles will have overwhelmed social order and cohesion. Border conflicts will continue in these tragic parts of the world.
In the interim decades, the world has many border conflicts to look forward to. Borders are far from settled in most of Africa, the Middle East, Central Europe, and most of the former Soviet Union.
China may well attempt to maintain its political cohesion by trying to expand its own borders through military force into Russia and Southeast Asia. Russia, Japan, and the US cannot tolerate such behavior. Any such attempt would only hasten the political collapse and division of China.
Strangely, the world will have more borders as well as fewer. Many large nations will break down into smaller more "autonomous" regions where attempts will be made to protect language and cultural cohesion.
These attempts will ultimately fail under the information onslaught of world technology, but meanwhile the world will see dozens if not hundreds of new flags unfurled from Catalonia (Spain) to Quebec.
Mega-Networks Redraw Asia Map
John Naisbitt, author of "Megatrends" and the soon-to-be published "Megatrends Asia," gave this assessment in an interview from Cambridge, Mass.:
THE cross-border economic activity of the 57 million Overseas Chinese [outside China] is a country all by itself, outranked only by the US and Japan.
Their family businesses in Southeast Asia are networks of companies. They are not a nation-state, but a network of networks. The world is moving from a collection of nation-states to a collection of networks. And Asia is where the action is going to be.