Japan, not China, is Asia's sleeping giant, and the Chinese Communist Party's days are numbered, according to predictions for the next three decades in a US magazine.
The threat posed by China and nuclear-armed North Korea may force Japan to regain its military power, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara said in his forecast in Foreign Policy magazine released Monday.
The controversial Ishihara said Japan could not depend on the US for its survival because of its "limited capability" as a superpower, raising the possibility of the Japanese regaining the "spirit and backbone" of the traditional samurai warriors.
The Chinese, North Korean threats and other regional tensions and uncertainties "may finally stimulate Japan to emerge from its futile passivity and become a strong nation willing to accept sacrifices," said Ishihara, a strident nationalist.
"When Japan again exhibits the backbone that helped it become the first non-white nation to modernize successfully, the balance of power in this region will change dramatically," he said.
"Japan, not China, is the region's sleeping lion," said Ishihara, among 16 "leading thinkers" asked by Foreign Policy to speculate on ideas, values and institutions that may disappear in 35 years.
The bimonthly magazine is published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a nonprofit US foreign policy analysis center.
Minxin Pei, a senior associate at Carnegie, said chances of the ruling Communist Party in China staying in power for another 35 years were slim.
"If economic success does not end one-party rule in China, corruption probably will," he said. "Governments free from meaningful restraints on their power invariably grow corrupt and rapacious. That is true in China today."
Pei said the experience of General Suharto's Indonesia suggested that "predatory autocracies" had trouble turning high economic growth rates into political stability.
"There, even 30 years of impressive growth wasn't enough to save the regime," he said. Suharto was ousted in 1998 after a financial crisis swept the region.
The Chinese Communist Party underwent a major transformation once, during the Cultural Revolution, which nearly destroyed the institution, but it reinvented itself by adopting a distinctly non-communist policy of market reforms.
Pei said elites in Chinese President Hu Jintao's (
"If the fortune tellers are being honest, they'll tell China's leaders the future isn't bright," he said.
In his piece, Singapore's former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew said demography, not democracy, would be the most critical factor for security and growth in the 21st century.
Noting that booming populations were a drag on developing nations and low fertility rates were sapping growth in developed societies, Lee said sex, marriage and procreation might not be beyond the reach of government influence for much longer.
"Governments facing population explosions and implosions will soon have no choice but to grapple with matters generally considered private," Lee said.