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World Power Center Shifts Toward Pacific Rim, Study Says

BY the year 2010 Japan will have emerging military might. China will have risen near the top of the superpower ranks. The Soviet Union's share of the global economy will diminish, while the United States' share will stay about the same. These are among the key trends in world power for the early 21st century, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

Prepared for presentation to the Department of Defense, the study says that gradual change in the next 20 years will have dramatic geopolitical effect.

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Economic and military power will continue to shift to Pacific Rim countries.

``The orientation of Japan and China toward the United States and each other - whether they are allied, friendly, neutral, or belligerent - will be no less important for US interests than is the continued adversarial posture of the Soviet Union,'' the RAND report concludes.

Japan's economic rise has already been accomplished. Today this small island nation has a gross national product about the same as that of the gigantic Soviet Union. With continuing strong economic growth and a relatively low birthrate, Japan will surpass the US in one key indicator of economic strength, per capita GNP, by 2010, according to RAND predictions.

Perhaps more surprising is Japan's predicted rise to a middle-rank military power. Although Japan devotes a relatively small slice of its GNP to defense, it is growing so rich that by 2010 its military budget will approach that of West Germany and other principal NATO allies.

If in response to some perceived threat Japan boosted defense spending only slightly, to some 3 percent of its GNP, by early next century its military budget would be more than 70 percent of that of West Germany, the United Kingdom, and France combined.

China's military spending will also rise significantly. By early next century the Chinese defense budget will be about half that of the US or the Soviet Union, predicts RAND, particularly if economic modernizations continue to be successful.

Increased tensions, and a possible arms race, between Japan and China are one danger the US must watch for in 2010, RAND warns.

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It is also likely that the Chinese domestic economy will soon overtake that of the Soviet Union. China is so large and its economic growth rate so strong that by 2010, RAND predicts, it could even pass Japan and become the second largest economy in the world, after that of the United States. With its large population China would still have a low per capita GNP, perhaps only 10 percent that of the US.

THE Soviet Union will likely continue to struggle economically. The political change now sweeping that vast nation makes any economic forecast uncertain; but under almost any scenario RAND envisions, the Soviet economy falls to fourth largest in the world.

The US, by contrast, will be running in place. Today the US GNP accounts for roughly 22 percent of all the goods and services produced in the world; RAND foresees the same US slice in the year 2010.

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