Summary of China's Futures

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  • Innovative
  • Background
  • Engaging


Authors James Ogilvy and Peter Schwartz (and writer Joe Flower) supply the usual graphs and projections in this look at China’s possible futures, but they also color their work with brothel madams, mass executions of judges and rock stars, satellites shot down, civil war between factions of the New Chinese Mandarins, an all-out naval assault on Taiwan and China at war with India. These timelines are presented as realistic scenarios of China’s possible evolution over the next 20 years. "Scenario planning" sounds a lot like science fiction, but the authors apply the same kinds of projections that companies use in financial forecasting to the future of China. Novelistic narratives - another hip practice that businesses are using - show each future. They read and sound a lot like science fiction, but are very entertaining and illustrate their scenarios graphically. Is a novelist’s pen at work? getabstract recommends this great read even to random China watchers, and notes that it is must reading for anybody who wants to invest or do business there.

About the Authors

James Ogilvy and Peter Schwartz are partners in Global Business Network (GBN), a consulting and research firm that is devoted to helping clients develop business strategies that fit the emerging realities of global markets. Joe Flower is a professional writer.



Why China?

China is the world’s biggest story. And because of its size, the direction that China goes - whether it evolves into a bigger, peaceful version of Singapore or falls into corruption and military rule - affects the whole world. The success or failure of a fifth of humanity will affect everyone on the globe in ways that are hard to grasp and impossible to calculate fully.

This is the conclusion not of futurists or even experts on China, but of practitioners of the art of scenario planning. These scenarios were derived by the same methods used in 20 years of creating scenarios for some of the world’s largest organizations, including Royal Dutch/Shell, AT&T, IBM, Motorola, Monsanto, ARCO, Xerox and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. "Scenarios are alternative environments in which today’s decisions may be played out. They are not predictions. Nor are they strategies. Instead they are descriptions of different futures specifically designed to highlight the risks and opportunities involved in specific strategic issues."

Using this method to look 20 years into China’s future, three different scenarios emerge. Of course, no research today bears a 2010...

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