Challenges of a resource-scarce future

Over the next several decades the world will almost certainly face global tensions arising from greater resource scarcity, according to Dambisa Moyo in her book Winner Take All: China’s Race for Resources and What It Means for the World. China is the only one of the world’s great powers to focus its economic and political strategy on anticipating the considerable challenges presented by a resource-scarce future.

The book describes a range of limited resources, including arable land, water, minerals and oil, and examines the future implications for China and for the rest of the world. China is both the leading buyer of the world’s resources and the main trading partner of many countries, giving it enormous economic power. Particularly in Africa, China is a significant funder of governments and infrastructure projects.

In view of the controversial nature of the author’s previous books Dead Aid and How the West Was Lost, and in particular her suggestion that the US should default on its loans from China, readers may be surprised to discover that she does not take an anti-Chinese approach in this book. While some regard China’s resources rush in Africa as neo-colonialist, the author says that, for the moment, China would seem to be one of the forces actively working to improve Africa and the prospects of its people. She points out that China is almost universally viewed by Africans as having a more beneficial impact on African countries than does the United States.

The book’s message is that the rest of the world needs to wake up to the coming resources scarcity and take appropriate action. The urgency of that message depends on how imminent the reader thinks the scarcity is. The book suggests a Malthusian viewpoint in which escalating population and depletion of resources leads to catastrophes.

As is the case with her other books, the author describes complex economic concepts in easy-to-understand language that does not assume any prior knowledge. The book is both thought-provoking and instructive, even for readers who do not agree with the scarcity scenarios.

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