The Future of Asia: Forces of Change and Potential Surprises – Areas of Scanning

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The Future of Asia - Phase 1

The Future of Asia - Phase 2


The Future of Asia - Phase 1

The Future of Asia - Phase 1

Asia has re-emerged as a global centre of influence. However, Asia’s future trajectory is still uncertain as it is subject to regional social and economic complexities, as well as global environmental, technological and political forces. The interactions of these forces could lead to surprises impacting the region and the world. Policy Horizons Canada teamed up with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in Australia to produce a joint foresight study [The Future of Asia: Forces of Change and Potential Surprises] exploring the forces of change shaping Asia and implications for Canada and Australia over the next 10 to 15 years.

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Areas of Scanning

Supporting Material:

The Future of Asia - Phase 2

The Future of Asia - Phase 2


Asia will play an increasingly important role in the world because of its huge market that could drive global growth and has its increasingly well-educated population that could be a major source of innovation in all spheres of human endeavour. Changes in the social, technological, economic, environmental, and political and security realms will reshape Asia over the next decade. For Canada, whose future will increasingly entwine with Asia, a good first step would be to explore the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Between May and December 2014, Horizons collaborated with a range of federal organizations on a foresight study to explore the increasing importance of Asia and its impact on Canada.  The process had two distinct phases: the scanning phase (May – August 2014) and the foresight phase (September – December 2014).

The study was a dialogue-based foresight process that used modern foresight tools to engage knowledgeable participants in exploring alternative plausible futures and their potential implications. This unique method allowed participants to explore the forces of change taking shape in Asia and their potential implications for Canada. The results have been compiled within the report MetaScan 4 – The Future of Asia: Implications for Canada. For additional findings, please read the supporting foresight studies.

Key Product

Supporting Foresight Reports

Supporting Material


Project Background


Asia will play an increasingly important role in the world in terms of driving global growth, innovation and contributing significant resources and expertise to solving global problems. However, the reverse of these core planning assumptions (and many others) are also plausible. Changes in the social, technological, economic, environmental, political, and security realms will reshape Asia over the next decade, which may result in quite different and potential surprises - both positive and negative. In its 2013 foresight study, The Future of Asia: Forces of Change and Potential Surprises, Horizons explored the forces of change shaping Asia and implications for Canada and Australia over the next 10 to 15 years. Some of the insights uncovered as part of this study’s areas of scanning are included below.



We are entering into a critical period of time for the ecological system and resources of Asia. We are exploring certain areas that are indicating plausible shifts in the production or consumption of energy. These areas include:

  • technology
  • resources
  • environmental change
  • politics
  • trade

Horizons Insights

Other Insights

External Links

Transforming China’s Grid: Will Coal Remain King in China’s Energy Mix? (link is external)” The Energy Collective.

China dedicates billions to address massive water pollution and scarcity (link is external).” CleanTech Finance.

China Braces for Blackouts (link is external).” Forbes.

30,000 Citizens "Occupy" Highway in China to Protest Coal Pollution (link is external).” Treehugger. (Video)


Asia is home to the second and third largest economies in the world (China and Japan respectively). This part of the world is the fastest growing economic region. In ten to fifteen years, China will likely have the largest GDP and India might take the third spot. During the course of this study on the future of Asia, Horizons will explore the whole Asian economic system. We will look at the following:

  • Global and regional trade
  • Infrastructure investment
  • Diverse economic strategies
  • Financial system

Horizons Insights

Other Insights

External Links

Review of Developments in Transport in Asia and the Pacific 2011 (link is external). United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

The Elusive Quest for Inclusive Growth: Growth, Poverty, and Inequality in Asia (link is external). International Monetary Fund.

South-South Trade: Vital for Development (link is external). Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.


The concept of governance is usually understood as institutions exercising power delegated by public authority. This includes the analysis of decision-making in many areas (economy, environment, social), the development and efficiency of policies and institutional structures, the accountability and transparency of governments, the respect of citizens for the institutions and the level of participation from others stakeholders. We are scanning in the following areas:

  • National and Global Institutions
  • Democracy
  • Rule of Law
  • Civil service efficiency
  • Accountability and Transparency
  • Corruption

Horizons Insights

External Links

Asia Development Dialogue (link is external), Democratic governance in Asia 2030. (Video)

The Role of East Asian Regional Organizations in Regional Governance: Constraints and Contributions (link is external). Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Special Issue: Knowledge-building in Asian Public Admin Research, Education, and Practice: Current Trends & Future Challenges (link is external). Public Administration and Development.


Security issues within Asia abound regionally, nationally and internationally. They can be integrated into three areas of concern:

  • traditional security threats such as territorial disputes both historically rooted and emerging;
  • new aspects of recognized non-traditional security threats such as cyber security or disaster response becoming more than simply response but now involving planning and risk management; and
  • emerging security risks including food, water and energy security.

Horizons Insights

Other Insights

External Links

Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community (link is external), 2013. Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 

CSCAP Regional Security Outlook 2013 (link is external). 2013. CSCAP


Asian societies are changing through demographic shifts, urbanization, rising inequality levels, shifting participation in education, and the influence of social media and new technologies, among other trends. Some areas to watch for signs of social change include:

  • Changing values and norms (e.g. intergenerational differences, gender equality, notions of success)
  • Social contract (legal, political and social arrangements including social protections, healthcare, labour, taxation)
  • Cohesiveness  (e.g. management of diversity, demonstrations of nationalism, risks of extremism)
  • Management of information flow and control (e.g. censorship)

Horizons Insights

Other Insights:

External Links

Social Media Censorship Offers Clues to China’s Plans (link is external).” MIT Technology Review.

City singles in no hurry to tie knot (link is external).” Bangkok Post.

Singaporean PM Outlines Key Policy Adjustments, Revamps Medical Insurance Scheme (link is external).” CRI English.