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Will China be ‘triumphant’ in 2050? US must prepare for it, think tank says

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The United States should prepare for an "ascendant" Communist-led China, according to a report released by Rand Corporation, the US government-funded think tank.

The compilers of China's Grand Strategy: Trends, Trajectories and Long-Term Competition examined how successful the Chinese Communist Party was likely to be in achieving the goals it has set for the country by 2050.

They considered four possible futures in which China is "triumphant" (having achieved all of its goals), "ascendant" (having achieved some), "stagnant" (having failed in its ambitions) or "imploding" (the regime is under threat).

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Compiled for the US military and published last week, the report concluded that "ascendant" and "stagnant" were the most likely outcomes.

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And while the researchers failed to go so far as to say China's leaders would be completely triumphant and achieve all of their goals, they said the US should be ready in case that occurred.

"Preparing for a triumphant or ascending China seems most prudent for the United States because these scenarios align with current PRC (People's Republic of China) national development trends and represent the most challenging future scenarios for the US military," it said.

Diplomatic relations between the US and China are at one of their lowest points in decades, with the two sides clashing on a host of issues, from trade and technology to human rights and Hong Kong.

The researchers eliminated the possibility of the two nations enjoying a "close partnership" in the future, saying that although it had always been unlikely, it had now "faded from even remote possibility."

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The sort of relationship the two countries had in 2018 could be achieved in the future only in the event of a "stagnant" China, the study said.

In the event of an ascendant China, economic, diplomatic and military ties between the two countries would be hard to predict in the medium to long term, it said.

"As such, there will be a fine line between parallel partners and colliding competitors in this most likely future - a line that could be crossed for any number of reasons as the relationship evolves," it said.

The study recommended an increase in military funding in the Indo-Pacific region and better joint-force combat capabilities.

"Because China probably will be able to contest all domains of conflict across the broad swathe of the region by the mid-2030s, the US Army, as part of the joint force, will need to be able to respond immediately to crises or contingencies at various points of contention," it said.

China intends to achieve military advantage from key technologies such as quantum computing and communications, artificial intelligence and biotechnology
Rand Corporation report

That would mean the US military would have to "optimize key units and capabilities for available airlift and sealift to get soldiers to the fight quickly or to a hotspot before the fight breaks out."

Despite China facing a "more severe economic downturn than expected," the report said it would continue to prioritize the development of its military for the next 10 to 15 years.

"China intends to achieve military advantage from key technologies such as quantum computing and communications, artificial intelligence and biotechnology," it said.

"Success in these and related areas will, to a great extent, determine the nature of US-PRC, and global, military competition over the next 30 years."

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