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The Future of Power

CAMBRIDGE – Global government is unlikely in the twenty-first century, but various degrees of global governance already exist. The world has hundreds of treaties, institutions, and regimes for governing interstate behavior involving telecommunications, civil aviation, ocean dumping, trade, and even the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

But such institutions are rarely self-sufficient. They still require the leadership of great powers. And it remains to be seen whether this century’s great powers will live up to this role.

As the power of China and India increases, how will their behavior change? Ironically, for those who foresee a tri-polar world of the US, China, and India at mid-century, all three of these states – the world’s most populous – are among the most protective of their sovereignty.

Some argue that our current global institutions are sufficiently open and adaptable for China to find it in its own interests to become what Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, once called a “responsible stakeholder.” Others believe that China will wish to impose its own mark and create its own international institutional system as its power increases.