Air Force 2025 – Chapter 6 King Kahn

Sent to us by Tom.

While the twentieth century has been called the American century,1 the world of King Khan has seen the dawning of what appears to be the Asian Millennium. The United States is beset by economic problems; the American world view is clearly Domestic (fig. 6-1).  

Figure 6-1. Strategic Planning Space for King Khan

Technological advances are at the slowest rate of the six worlds, because most of the world’s economies are unable to sustain significant investment in research and development. The one economy that can support such an effort, Khan, is primarily concerned with infrastructure improvements. DTeK is highly Constrained. The World Power Grid is Concentrated and dominated by the Asian Colossus. Its member states, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mongolia, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Indonesia, comprise the world’s only superpower.2 The evolution of this world seems sudden to its residents, yet the chain of events that led to this conclusion began long ago.

Plausible History

The sequence of events commenced in 1994 when the governors of Texas and California complained to the federal government in Washington that the flood of illegal immigration had to be stopped (fig. 6-2). The illegal immigrants nearly bankrupted California. As a result the governor lobbied for passage of Proposition 187, which would have denied all welfare and social benefits to non-US citizens. Supported by 58.8 percent of the California electorate,3 the proposition passed, only to be struck down in federal court.4 The case was appealed,5 and after much debate, the Supreme Court finally ruled that all illegal immigrants were entitled to welfare.6

Figure 6-2. Plausible History for King Khan

The Mexican recession of 2002 produced an immigration tsunami across US borders, driving social spending out of control. This sent federal budget deficits soaring and led to the cancellation of numerous programs, including the F-22 program in 2005.7

By this time, social scientists were well aware that much of the national wealth of Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Malaysia resided in the hands of ethnic Chinese.8 Yet when these four nations joined with China to jointly produce the “Harmony” fighter in 2009,9 based on the designs of the canceled F-22, the US government reacted with surprise. No substantive American reaction was possible. US budget deficits had risen so high and federal borrowing was so extensive that a serious recession began that year.

The Korean governments were also surprised by the Harmony fighter production plans. Fears ignited by the collaboration between the other Asian powers sparked discussions which led to the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula in 2011.

In the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, the incumbent US leadership tried to prime the economy with a federal spending surge. The attempt failed. The federal debt hit $10 trillion in early 2013, and on 2 July the stock market crashed and a depression began.10 While Europe was affected, Southeast Asia was such a large creditor region they escaped relatively unscathed. China’s gross domestic product passed $15 trillion in 2014,11 the same year the yuan became the de facto international currency standard.

In 2016, US unemployment reached 18 percent, and the government faced the “great dilemma”: Should it allow banks to foreclose on homeowners, creating millions of new homeless people, or should it protect homeowners and risk bank failures?12 It chose the latter. In the aftermath, over 10 thousand banks failed and the government scrambled to keep the monetary system afloat.

Meanwhile, the Harmony project was a great success. An outstanding technical achievement, it sparked a desire for the Asian powers to work more closely together. They began annual economic conferences in 2017, at which time a framework for regional free trade was established.

In 2018 the United States Supreme Court reversed its 1990s immigration rulings, paving the way for a reduced federal budget. Riots resulted as non-US citizens violently protested the sudden loss of welfare and other social benefits. The National Guard had to be mobilized to quell the disturbances. Over the next four years, the Congress and the president completely streamlined and restructured the Washington bureaucracy. The financial markets began to react positively, and in 2022 the economic recovery began.

At the same time, Taiwan and China set aside their past differences and merged peacefully. Following that merger, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia began to push for economic unification with China. Beijing hosted a conference in 2023 where a series of agreements were signed leading to the formation of a new confederation. In 2024 China, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia merged into the largest economic power the world has ever known.

The Nature of Actors

The Khanian Confederation is the world’s only superpower. Economically and militarily over six times the size of the United States,13 it dominates international relations. It is a commanding presence in global fora such as the United Nations and the G-8 (former G-7 plus Khan). Khan maintained its economic strength and its explosive growth during the years of the US depression, partly because many multinational corporations relocated to Khan where the taxes were lower and more business-friendly.

The United States remains a major actor in this world of 2025, but has become analogous to the United Kingdom of 1996. The US continues to have global trade interests but lacks the military power to unilaterally pursue these interests when they conflict with Khan’s. Further, America’s continued economic recovery is dependent on access to major markets including Khan, Japan, and Russia.

Japan and Korea remain independent nations but are increasingly worried by Khan’s growing economic and military might. Japan has become the “Taiwan” of 2025.

Some nongovernmental organizations are major actors in this world. Amnesty International and Greenpeace are actively trying to mitigate human rights violations and environmental damage. They concentrate their efforts on Khan but with limited success. Khan’s economic development has spurred improvements in human rights issues, and most of the world believes Khan is “democratizing.”14

The Nature of International Politics

The focal point of the World Power Grid, Khan has displaced the United States at the center of the international arena. Khan’s rising standard of living and enormous population strains world oil and rare mineral production capacity. Khan has the power to ensure they and their closest trading partners, such as Southwest Asia, get more than their share of these resources. This leaves others with reduced access, including the United States.15

Fears of Khanian domination keep Russia, Japan, and India on edge. They attempt to balance Khan’s superpower status by forming an alliance, but to be effective they need US support. Khan is more powerful than any of these nations but cannot counter all four simultaneously.

The United States has difficulty playing the role of the balancing power, because the average US citizen does not view Khan as a threat but rather as a supplier, a market, and a valued customer. Further, the United States needs access to both Khanian and Japanese markets to continue its economic recovery. As a result, the United States finds itself in a diplomatic high-wire act with no safety net.

Elsewhere, the international community continues to split along traditional North-South boundaries. The economic expansion of Khan and the economic recovery of the Western powers exacerbated economic disparities between North and South. Parts of Latin America and much of Africa have been left behind.16 These “have-not” regions lack the economic or military clout necessary to effectively compete for the resources prerequisite to growth. The disparity between haves and have-nots is great, shows no signs of decreasing, and is an occasional source of heated debate in fora such as the UN.

The Nature of US National Security Strategy

The strategic challenge in King Khan is the emergence of the Asian colossus. Due to its recent economic problems and the corresponding decrease in military spending, the United States must ensure its national security through alliances. The US is not strong enough to act unilaterally; it must contain Khan’s expansionist tendencies through diplomacy.17 Finally, the United States has reverted to a strategy of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) as its ultimate means of ensuring national survival. Because of their low operations cost, the US has maintained some intercontinental ballistic missiles as its only means of nuclear deterrence.

The Nature of Humanity

In this world, average Americans find themselves struggling to maintain the basic necessities of life. Strong racial and ethnic tensions have emerged amidst this struggle as citizens compete for limited employment opportunities.

US citizens and businesses are also finding it difficult to adjust to the loss of superpower status.18 Americans are having to learn to cope in a world where their standard of living is no longer the highest, and several other countries are sustaining faster economic growth. Establishing alliances with people or governments in other countries has become difficult because Americans no longer exert the dominant influence in policy decisions. As a result, mastering other languages and cultures has become important to individual and corporate survival.19

The Nature of Technology

Technological development in this world occurs slowly. DTeK is Constrained due to the severe US economic problems and subsequent worldwide repercussions. Additionally, Khan’s emphasis on raising the standard of living of its interior population has hindered research and development, as its funds were spent on developing infrastructure.20 Fossil fuel-powered motorcycles, automobiles, trains, and planes still provide for most transportation. As a partial solution to its infrastructure problems, Khan developed ground-effect vehicles (GEV) which ride on a cushion of air over poor roads and small rivers.

In this world, the US has lost its edge in technology and can no longer use it to leverage capabilities against potential adversaries. Khan has not completely grasped the potential for DTeK leverage and thus is still relying on large conventional forces for its security. This flattening of the technological edge among nations leaves open an opportunity: the first nation with the leadership and resources to recognize and exploit the potential for renewed technological leverage will enhance its position relative to potential enemies. The US challenge is to identify those technologies or programs worth pursuing now that its economy is recovering.

The Nature of the Environment

Population pressures, economic competition, and inattention have led to great environmental damage. Clean drinking water is scarce and competition over water rights has become a source of conflict in Africa and Southwest Asia. Khan added 400 million refrigerators and 200 million air conditioners based on chloroflourocarbon (CFC) technology, which has decimated the ozone layer.21 Nuclear power production and the resulting waste storage problems have increased worldwide because Khan’s increased fossil fuels consumption forced other nations to switch to alternate energy sources for electricity.22Meanwhile, global warming caused by continued “greenhouse” pollutant emissions changed world weather patterns, creating severe droughts in Africa23 and flooding in the coastal regions of the world, such as India, Bangladesh, the Netherlands, and Florida.24

Global food production has suffered as a result of climate changes, Khanian agricultural practices, and loss of low-lying lands.25 Nations which can produce surplus food for export lack adequate distribution systems to transport that food to starving regions.26 The UN is besieged with requests for help, but cannot act without granting favors to Khan, which suffers occasional food problems of its own.27

The Nature of the Defense Budget

The American recession in 2009 and the depression which began in 2013 caused an increase in social programs and welfare spending. Combined with lower revenues, this left little for defense after 2010 (fig. 6-3). The modernization budget nearly ceased to exist. In 2022, the economy and DOD spending began to recover in the wake of government restructuring. The recovery was enhanced by lower social outlays following the Supreme Court decision to eliminate welfare for non-US citizens. Economic problems held the US to an average annual growth of 1.3 percent during the 30 years from 1996 to 2025. Extremely austere DOD budgets caused most force levels to be reduced by two-thirds during the period between 2010 and 2022. Consequently, the US could not afford its overseas presence, and all ground forces were brought home. The US abandoned, and left to decay, all overseas fighter bases. DOD spending represents less than 1.5 percent of GDP by 2025.

Figure 6-3. DOD Budget (Constant FY95 $B) for King Khan


In contrast to the United States, Khan can afford enormous military capabilities with a GDP estimated at over $70 trillion (1995 dollars).28 Even adherence to the Japanese model of capping military spending at 1 percent of GDP yields real Khanian defense expenditures at approximately three times the level of the United States in the mid-1990s. This gives Khan the ability to field a military twice the size of US forces during the height of the “Reagan buildup.” As the United States emerges from its depression and seeks to resecure its position in this world, it will require several capabilities.

Because of Khan’s numerical superiority, the United States will need to leverage technology to bridge the quantity gap. This may prove difficult, as United States research and development funding has slumped in recent years. The only affordable approach is through the exploitation of commercial technologies, but many commercial enterprises are now in Asia-giving Khan swifter, if not sole, access. While leveraging technology is difficult under these circumstances, it is necessary.

With the DOD budget cuts between 2010 and 2022, little was allocated for upgrades to space-based assets. As a result, the United States enters 2025 with an aging satellite fleet with reduced capabilities. Intelligence data in this world is crucial, and the United States needs alternate sources of information. Understanding Khan’s plans is particularly important; therefore, insightful HUMINT is vital.

The United States needs an inexpensive deterrent strategy to check the colossus. Since it is unable to balance Khan with conventional forces, the US has revived the strategy of Mutual Assured Destruction.

A key to America’s future is continued robust economic growth. In addition to the foreign relations aspects outlined above, the United States must engage in nation building at home. The ability to conduct humanitarian operations on US shores was critical during the depression and remains important today, though to a lesser degree. Counterterrorism and antidrug efforts still occupy nearly half of the armed forces, though these numbers are decreasing.

The United States faces the monumental task of modernizing a force that in some areas is over 40 years old. The slow procurement rates between 1995 and 2010 resulted in the military’s entering the depression with an already aged force. The lack of a domestic military industrial base means the United States must rely on foreign sources for substantial quantities of military hardware. On the plus side, foreign purchases enhance interoperability with potential allies. As the nation begins to reengage in the world, one of the most critical initial requirements is lift.

New doctrine and tactics are necessary to wage wars with nations better armed than ourselves. The National War College has engaged in studies to develop tactics based on mujahadeen operations. The ability to wage war with greatly outmatched forces is now a requirement in a world where the United States is no longer a superpower.


The 2025 world of King Khan holds many implications for the United States. Among the most significant and obvious are the issues of how a nation downsizes, restructures, and then reconstitutes its forces in a world economically and militarily dominated by a super-peer competitor. The prioritization of the reconstitution process, access to resources, and the decision whether to compete with the Asian colossus are all difficult military and political issues. The military must adjust to its new position in national security strategy.

As a potentially hegemonic Asian superpower, Khan greatly affects regional and global stability. India, Korea, Russia, and Japan constantly worry about the sanctity of their borders in the face of Khanian hordes. Khan will probably develop the need for new territory as it strains world mineral and food resources further.

Despite its economically forced Domestic world view, the United States faces a difficult external policy dilemma, and so it unites with Japan, India, and Russia to form an informal counterbalancing alliance to restrain Khan. The United States is considered to be the linchpin to the alliance. The United States, however, places enormous value on good relations with Khan, in part due to their enormous military and economic might. The US cannot compete with the Asian colossus, and thus US relations with Khan are the centerpiece of national security strategy. In spite of this, Japan’s trade is still sufficiently important to the recovering US economy such that the defense commitment to them remains. Balancing relations on both sides of this equation is precarious.

Social forces are affecting the military reconstitution, mobilization, and modernization efforts currently under way. Budget cuts have produced a small active duty force, but there is a large recruiting pool available. Many people need jobs, and major ethnic groups are demanding that a large portion of the military recruits be minorities.

Establishing military budget priorities is a difficult problem. The active duty force is heavily involved in training the new personnel, and these training costs must be balanced against the current operations and procurement budgets, both of which need vast infusions of funds. The anemic economy cannot yet sustain a return to large deficits or major tax increases to support a military buildup.


The world of King Khan presents the challenge of a super-peer competitor in East Asia. Operating in this alternate future poses great challenges for the United States in the economic, diplomatic, informational, and military arenas. This is a world where the American world view is Domestic, DTeK is Constrained, and the World Power Grid is Concentrated.


  1. This term was used by Dr Walter LeFeber as both the title and theme of his book The American Century: American Foreign Policy Since the 1890s, and is referred to in a later work The American Age: United States Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad Since 1750 (New York: W. W. Norton Publishing Co., 1989), 759.
  2. While this study postulates a greater Asian superpower, the Naval War College and the CIA have also postulated the emergence of China as a superpower. These organizations have used an emergent China as a foe in wargaming for the past three years. The wargames simulate a Sino-American conflict for either the year 2005 or 2010 using forces projected to exist by US intelligence. Since the beginning of 1994, China has won in each scenario. For details, see Joffe Ellis, “The PLA and the Chinese Economy,” Survival, Summer 1995, 25-43, and Daniel E. Eldridge, “China’s Economic Reform and Military Modernization” (Air War College regional studies paper, Air University, Maxwell AFB, Ala., 20 February 1996). For another recognition of the increasing dominance of Asia, see Richard Halloran, “The Rising East,” Foreign Policy, Spring 1996, 3-21.
  3. Election returns in November 1994 showed 58.8 percent of the California electorate voted for the proposition, with 41.2 percent opposed. Full returns from this elections are available on the Internet at
  4. The Federal District Court of California issued a ruling against Proposition 187 on 27 November 1995. Details on this ruling by Judge Pfaelzer are available through the Internet
  5. An appeal of this case has been filed with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Ibid.
  6. The Supreme Court will likely hear the case after the ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. It is expected to rule based on the precedent set in the 1982 case of Plyer versus Doe. In this Texas case, the court ruled that illegal immigrants were entitled to state-funded social services, such as education. See Internet:
  7. This event does not reflect the views or priorities of the AF leadership. This event exists in this scenario for heuristic reasons.
  8. Large amounts of ethnic Chinese populate these countries. For specifics, see Brian Hook and Denis Twitchett, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of China (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 86. Further, most of China’s economic growth has been sponsored by ethnic Chinese outside the mainland: Abu Selimuddin, “China: The Biggest Dragon of All?” USA Today, September 1994, 175. Chinese own 70 to 75 percent of the nongovernmental assets in Indonesia and over 90 percent in Thailand, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Ju Yanan, China: “The Fourth Power, in the Retired Officer Association National Security Report,” The Officer, December 1994, 31.
  9. China has increased defense spending by over 200 percent since 1988 and is aggressively seeking new hardware. For more information see Nayan Chanda, “Fear of the Dragon,” Far Eastern Economic Review, 13 April 1995, 24.
  10. Several economic pressures may converge to produce a depression around 2015. For a discussion of some of these see Tom Walker, “Bulls Beware When Boomers Cash In,” Atlanta Constitution, 24 March 1996.
  11. China’s annual economic growth rate has averaged 9 percent since 1979. Its growth reached 12.8 percent in 1992, 13.4 percent in 1993, and 11.8 percent in 1994. “Wait and See,” Far Eastern Economic Review, 31 August 1995, 40. The World Bank forecasts China to become the largest economy in the world by 2002. “Asian Survey,” The Economist, 30 October 1993, 14. For arguments that China will remain cohesive and the leadership will adapt to handle this growth, see Yasheng Huang, “Why China Will Not Collapse,” Foreign Policy, Summer 1995, 54-68. For arguments that the communist “dynasty” will collapse see Jack A. Goldstone, “The Coming Chinese Collapse,” Foreign Policy, Summer 1995, 35-53.
  12. Texas already has passed laws that prevent loss of the primary home if the owner declares bankruptcy.
  13. This figure is based on a notional US GDP of $10 trillion, which is based on an average growth rate of approximately 1.3 percent throughout the period and a projected “Greater China” GDP in 2023 of $67 trillion. The China projection is based, in part, on information in Peter C. Newman, “The Way to the Number 1 Market,” Nation’s Business, October 1995, 56, and “Asia Survey,” The Economist, 30 October 1993.
  14. The study postulates that Khan will likely undergo a process of democratization as its GDP passes the 1995 equivalent of $3,000 to $4,000 per capita. This is based on the conclusions contained in Samuel Huntington, The Third Wave (Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991), 3-207. For a survey of the stability and mature transition of third-generation postcolonial leaders in Asia, see Halloran, 13-17.
  15. Khan’s inclusion of Indonesia, the largest Islamic nation on earth, has been delicate. However, it has endeared Khan to the Southwest Asian Islamic states.
  16. For a survey of the gaps between North and South, see Robin Broad and John Cavanagh, “Don’t Neglect the Impoverished South,” Foreign Policy, Winter 1995-96, 18-35.
  17. While Khan is perceived as a benign power, its economy requires vast petroleum and mineral resources. Khan has the power to ensure access to and, when necessary, ownership of these resources. Khan understands the adverse economic consequences of being perceived as a hegemon, and thus is usually a peaceful nation. Nonetheless, Khan will act to preserve access to resources, which will be in its vital national interest. For a description as to how and why such actions are likely, see Hans J. Morgenthau, The Struggle for Power and Peace (New York: Knopf Publishers, 1972), 3-35. This view was confirmed by Dr Joseph A. Engelbrecht, Jr. in personal interviews at The Shanghai Institute for Strategic Studies at Fudan University, Shanghai, and at the US consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou, March 1996.
  18. David Greenwood discusses six phases the United Kingdom and the British people went through in the period following World War II to the present regarding reconciliation with their inability to maintain world power status. Dean Acheson was prompted to remark after the Suez debacle of 1956 that Britain had “lost an Empire but not yet found a role.” Douglas J. Murray and Paul R. Viotti, eds., The Defense Policies of Nations: A Comparative Study (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), 280-282.
  19. The US has lagged behind other nations in learning foreign languages. For example, even in China, where it was forbidden for many years to conduct official business in anything but Chinese, students were encouraged to learn other languages. Mao Zedong in 1956 urged members of the Chinese Communist Party to “study more about the West and learn foreign languages.” Johnathan D. Spence, The Search for Modern China (New York: WW Norton & Co., 1990), 568.
  20. The Chinese leadership is concerned about the maintenance of internal stability and is aware of the need to invest in improving the infrastructure and lives of those who live away from the economic development occurring near the coast. Cheng Jiagui, at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, estimates that China needs to maintain a growth rate of at least 7 percent to maintain social stability. Jiang Zemin has acknowledged this risk. See Craig S. Smith and Marcus W. Bracchli, “Despite Rapid Growth of China’s Economy, Many are Suffering,” The Wall Street Journal, 18 October, 1995.
  21. The Carrier Corporation has tripled sales of air conditioners to Asia since 1986 and now believes that by 2000, Asia may account for half its sales. “Asia Survey,” The Economist, 30 October 1993. This “pell-mell chase after refrigerators” will likely involve use of CFC technology. Because of the increased cost of non-CFC refrigerants, China’s temptation will be to use the cheaper and environmentally destructive CFCs. See: Cassius Johnson, “From Carbon to Diplomacy: A Sketch of the Interrelations Among Energy, Electric Power, the Economy, the Environment, Global Warming, and Foreign Policy in China, 1995-2025,” Air War College regional studies paper, Air University, Maxwell AFB, Ala., 21 February 1996, 5-7. For a short description of the impact these CFCs will have on the ozone layer, see Internet:
  22. Vaclav Smil, China’s Environmental Crisis (Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1993).
  23. Several researchers have concluded that increases in CO2 levels would result in an inundation of coastal regions. For further information, see Fred B. Wood, “Monitoring Global Climate Change: The Case of Greenhouse Warming,” The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, January 1990, 42-52; William W. Kellogg, “Response to Skeptics of Global Warming,” The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, April 1991, 499-512; and “Preprints to the Fourth Symposium on Global Change Studies” (Over 100 various authors), American Meteorological Society, 1993, 21-28, 256-262, 265-267, 290-297, and 335-337.
  24. China will be a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. China emits 11 percent of all worldwide generated carbon dioxide today. By 2020, China will be the world’s leading emitter with over 20 percent of the world’s emissions. See Smil, China’s Environmental Crisis.
  25. Of China’s 932 million hectares of land, half is semiarid or arid and an additional 270 million hectares are too rocky or mountainous for agriculture. Of the 96 million hectares under cultivation, annual losses amounting to 330,000 hectares are due to poor agricultural practices resulting in the destruction of vital arable land. For further information see National Report of the People’s Republic of China on Environment and Development (Beijing: China Environmental and Science Press, 1992), 17; K. K. Chadha, “China’s Grim Challenge,” Far Eastern Agriculture, July/August 1993, 32; and Robert T. Slusar, “The Environmental Plight in China,” Air War College paper, Air University, Maxwell AFB, Ala., 12 February 1996.
  26. The depression in the US and Europe caused a depletion of transportation infrastructure. With their economies still weak, neither is able to mount major humanitarian efforts.
  27. Despite the cited agriculture problems, Khan will likely be able to feed itself in most years. For an analysis of how, see Vaclav Smil, “Feeding China,” Current History, September 1995, 280-284.
  28. The combined economy of “Greater China” is forecast to surpass $67 trillion (1995 dollars) in 2023. Newman, “The Way to the Number 1 Market.”

Contact: Air Force 2025
Last updated: 1996 September 15

Start the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *