About Ian Christie

Ian Christie is a writer, researcher and local government policymaker. He was joint head of environmental and economic policy at Surrey County Council.

Articles by Ian Christie

This week's editor

Jeremy Noble, editor

Jeremy Noble and the oDR team edit the front page this week.

Ian Christie

In the first decade of the 21st century there were fears that the post-1989 surge of democratisation had ended and could go into reverse. Now, in 2050, forms of open society and democracy hold sway across most of the Earth. Looking back, it is clear that global communications and the rise of the Internet and mobile telephony have played a big part in this change - as expected by many forecasters in 2010. But the transformation that relaunched the globalisation of democracy was completely unexpected: the democratic cultural revolution in China. By 2020 China had surpassed the USA in economic weight, and this fateful moment was accompanied with other forces for change in the new superpower: the explosive growth of the middle classes ; the adoption of English as the second language, aiding Chinese projection of soft power and also opening up society still more to external influence; the impossibility of clamping down on the Internet and mobile communications; the rising demand for sustainable environmental policies and better quality of life; the outrage at corruption. All these forces generated demand for a more open society and democratisation. Finally, there was the rise of the younger factions in the ruling Party who argued for a 'total surpassing' of the USA (increasingly mired in violent culture wars and economic failure) - including outdoing the USA as the torchbearer for democracy. The Second Cultural Revolution (2025-2035) was peaceful - a Chinese 'glasnost' based on the security of being the global economic superpower - and transformative. Cooperation with and emulation of China - including its new democracy - were seen as the keys to success by developing nations worldwide. The transformation is being hailed by some Chinese intellectuals, echoing Fukuyama in 1990, as the 'end of history' ...

National Geographic image of China: soft power and peace and the open hand....

Copenhagen: climate countdown

The United Nations climate-change summit is a vital moment in the world’s effort to avert catastrophe. openDemocracy authors reflect on what needs to happen and how much Copenhagen can achieve.

When the levee breaks

The drowning of New Orleans is a disaster that will scar bodies, minds and landscape for many years to come. Like the Asian tsunami of December 2004, it has transfixed the attention of people all over the world. And like the tsunami, it seems to be a portent for those hundreds of millions who live on the shorelines of the Earth. It could be that the “Big Easy” is the first of the world’s cities to be wrecked by man-made climate change.

Food: what we eat is who we are

Food, the daily ingredient of human survival, raises deep questions of politics, economics, the environment, and culture. Ian Christie introduces the Ecology & Place theme’s new debate on this most universal yet intimate of themes.

What Europe? Whose century? Which project?

Michael Lind’s fine article in the April 2003 issue of Prospect magazine sees the diplomatic debacle in the western alliance and the EU over Iraq as far more than a straight US-Europe division. In this alone, it is a huge improvement on the widely-promoted analysis from Robert Kagan, with its ludicrous distinction between Martians and Venusians.

Three visions of politics: Europe in the millennial world

When working at the Henley Centre for Forecasting in the mid-1990s I developed a set of three scenarios based on an analysis of changing values and political faultlines. All three scenarios (or better, summaries of political outlooks and cultures) amounted to clusters of attitudes and political positions that would be powerful features of the millennial world in the west.

The scenarios were these:

A "high stakes" model of development (United States-dominated, depending on liberalised markets, economic growth, aggressive development of science and technology, and diffusion of American products, services and commercial values).

Motorway culture and its discontents

The sheer ugliness and anonymity of motorways seem only to reinforce their destructive environmental impact. Yet even motorways have their poets and celebrants. But what are they doing to our soul?

Beyond Orwell: scenarios for the European long term!

Europe’s achievement in the last half-century has been immense. But all visions run their course, and today the EU needs more than prosperity and security: it needs a vision of the good life. Can ‘sustainable Europe’ provide it?

Coming or going? NGOs in the new political landscape

The influence of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) - on governments, corporations, and public opinion - has not been matched by a clear understanding of their own role in the global order. What is their relationship to power? Are they agents of positive change, or merely of protest?
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