The political map of the world changed drastically at various periods of the 20th century including after 1918, after 1945 and in the 1990s. While the young 21st century has yet to experience these kinds of cataclysmic changes to the world’s political geography, based on current geopolitical trends one can prognosticate where these changes will arise as the century moves forward. With this in mind, here is a list of (both recognised and unrecognised) political entities that will likely cease to exist by 2050.
China’s economy already boasts the world’s strongest Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) by a significant margin while the country’s GDP is expected to outpace that of the United States to become the strongest in the world before 2040. As China’s economic and military superpower status continues to grow, it remains inconceivable that in the long term, a hostile and widely unrecognised political entity will continue to operate from Taipei.
As China becomes the undisputed leader of the global economy and as the Renminbi gradually supplants the US Dollar as the primary global reserve currency, it will become ever more difficult for Taipei to conduct trade with the wider world. At the same time, China’s success will mean that many Chinese living in Taiwan will in fact want to politically reunite with the rest of the country and drop the pretence of a separate regime. As sure as money talks, the future generations born on the island of Taiwan will likely seek the path to the greatest material and social advantage which by mid-century will unambiguously be attained only through peaceful re-integration and political harmonisation.
While the current US administration is doing all it can to prolong cross-strait separatism, the longer term future is one that looks to be guided by peaceful re-integration on the basis of dialogue and in the medium term on the basis of the one country-two systems model.
The political map of Ukraine has never had any bearing on the historic realities of the regions incorporated into the artificial state. Moreover, while Yugoslavia was a consciously artificial state which sought to band together disparate people into a common destiny with the enticement of peace through prosperity, Ukraine is increasingly becoming an economic basket case operating on the basis of enforcing the supremacy of an artificial ethnicity on the entire nation in spite of the fact that much of the country continues to embrace its historic Russian identity.
The economic insufficiency of the current Kiev regime when combined with its repressive tactics used against those with a Russian or Russophone identity has already led much of the Donbass region to declare itself independent of Kiev rule. As pro-autonomy or pro-independence rallies have become commonplace since 2014 in places including Odessa, Mariupol, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk in spite of crackdowns from the current regime, it appears inevitable that a state whose borders and identity have always been artificial will simply not be able to sustain itself amid an atmosphere of suppression and economic collapse. It therefore appears to simply be a matter of when rather than if when it comes to the country dividing itself between Russia to the east and centre and the European Union in the former Polish and Hungarian territories to the north west and south west, respectively.
Kosovo is increasingly becoming a political entity that will cease to exist even before its current leadership attains the global recognition that thus far has proved illusive. An historic part of the Serbian nation that in terms of ethnicity is divided between an ethnic Serb population living mostly in the north and an ethnic Albanian population living in the remainder of the province, the idea that such an entity could function as a successful independent state was always dubious to the point of being redundant.
As even Serbia’s current President Aleksandar Vučić has suggested dividing Kosovo and Metohija along ethnic lines, it would appear inevitable that in future generations, much of the province will become part of the Republic of Albania while other parts will remain part of Serbia. Now that Albania is as much of a US client state as the widely unrecognised Kosovo regime itself, even Pristina’s main benefactor will likely consent to this shift (in some guise) in future decades.
4. South Sudan
While South Sudan is the world’s youngest nation, its vast growing pains are already ironically leading it back towards reconciliation with Khartoum. With South Sudan’s own civil war making a mockery of the country’s sovereignty, a new peace agreement once again makes Khartoum the only natural arbitrator of stability throughout the region.
Throughout its tumultuous short existence, South Sudan has been more of a “failed experiment” than a functional state. It is now likely that South Sudan might exit the world’s political map almost as rapidly as it appeared.
5. Indian Occupied Kashmir
As India continues to use ever more repressive tactics against the Muslim majority population of the parts of Jammu and Kashmir under Indian occupation, the calls for the national self-determination of Kashmiris to be respected will continue to grow louder.
Furthermore, as the Hindutva government of Narendra Modi continues to awaken multiple semi-latent self-determination movements throughout India, New Delhi may be forced to let go of Jammu and Kashmir in order to fight against independence movements in parts of the country whose status is not directly disputed with a neighbouring state. Thus, while received wisdom is that ‘if India lets Kashmir go, other regions will follow’, in reality Jammu and Kashmir is a special case given the fact that the peculiarities of British enforced princely rule over the region led to a series of chaotic events in the 1940s whereby Kashmir’s last “independent” ruler Hari Singh signed an instrument of ascension to India while the actual views of ordinary Kashmiris, the vast majority of whom are Muslim were ignored.
As new movements for independence in Indian Punjab continue to gain strength, India may be forced to come to the negotiating table over Jammu and Kashmir even before 2050 in order to focus on other self-determination movements in India whose destiny is not inherently bound up with that of Pakistan.
The nation still often referred to by its former name Swaziland is Africa’s last absolute diarchy and one of the world’s least advanced countries in terms of human development. Recent decades have seen a spiralling in the levels of HIV and AIDS with nearly 30% of the entire population suffering with the autoimmune disorder.
While there are no serious challenges to King Mswati III’s rule, it is difficult to see how such an anachronistic and self-evidently dysfunctional regime can last into the middle of the 21st century without drastic reforms that may well involve a total re-imagination of the country’s political identity. The formation of some sort of union state with South Africa cannot be ruled out by any means.
The example of Taiwan demonstrates that it is not only poor or underdeveloped political entities whose form of existence is subject to radical change. While Belgium is a comparatively wealthy western European state that is home to the major institutions of the European Union, the country itself remains bitterly divided among ethno-political lines. The Flemish speaking north and the French speakers of Wallonia in the south are so divided that even the seemingly simple task of forming a national government has often proved difficult.
As independence movements throughout Europe including the suppressed but still active Catalan independence movement continue to gather stream, the future of Belgium as a united country is anything but assured in the 21st century.
There will almost certainly still be a Spain by 2050 but unless substantial reforms are made in order to reform the present constitution and offer greater forms of autonomy to historically distinct regions including and especially Catalonia, Madrid could see Barcelona finally making good on its 2017 declaration of independence and forming an independent state within the framework of the European Union.
Libya has long since ceased to exist as a state and its road to failure has been both geopolitically dramatic and tragic for its citizens. What in 2011 Libya was Africa’s most prosperous nation, it is now a failed entity where multiple weak political regimes compete with gangs of slave traders, organised criminals, petro-pirates and international terrorist organisations for influence over the country’s valuable natural resources.
Making matters more difficult, unlike Taiwan and Ukraine, Libya has no natural mother country to re-integrate into with the exception of a pan-Arab union or a pan-African union – neither of which represent a viable alternative at present.
Because of this, while Libya remains a geographical expression on the map, it has long since ceased to be anything resembling a functional state. With no clear roadmap to restore its statehood, the failed Libyan entity may continue to blight the political map for years to come.
10. Northern Ireland/Great Britain
The United Kingdom might be a wealthy state but recent trends have exposed the weaknesses of its unity. The protracted process of Britain exiting the European Union has exposed fault-lines in the long contested province of Northern Ireland while Scotland’s autonomous leadership have expressed a renewed desire to form an independent state, thus ending the concept of Great Britain as a political entity.
Unless Britain reaches an accord with the EU that preserves its membership in all but name, it would seem as though the unification of Ireland and the breakup of Britain through Scottish independence are events that may occur well before 2050.