The future is mega-urban.
Chinese hypercities of tens of millions of inhabitants, such as the newly-proposed Guangzhou megalopolis (aka Pearl River Delta/Zhusanjiao/Golden Delta) or the Bohai economic rim, will contain 40, 50 or 60m people each, roughly comparable to the present-day population of France or the UK. China, India and the rest of the developing world are urbanizing at a tremendous rate, achieving urbanization rates of 60-70 percent in some prefectures within 1 or 2 decades, accelerating a process that took 2 centuries in Europe and 50 years in North America.
Playing a cyberpunk game like Deux Ex: Human Revoltuion one could see the multi-level megacity of Heng Sha and immediately think of the exploding conurbations of the new China – hypercities such as BoHai Ring City and Guangzhou accreting within the polluted industrial Sinosphere like pearls inside a shell.
The UN Habitat State of the World’s Cities 2011 report indicates that Africa is currently leading the urbanization race, with China, India and Brazil close behind. With some of the largest and fastest growing populations in the world, African cities will become gigantic hives, half middle-class and half slum, a boon and a bane to national governments on the continent. Warfare, too, will have to adapt to grinding condo-to-condo infantry battles rather than the classic open-field tank battles of previous world wars. Today military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) doctrine dominates mechanized infantry and heavy armor operations manuals, and the days of long-range strike planning in the Fulda Gap are long gone.
Urban operations in Chinese cities in a hypothetical war between China and the USA could be ugly beyond belief; civilian casualties could top 90% of all casualties and simply by shooting an assault rifle a soldier could accidentally end up committing war crimes in places as densely populated as these. In the face of intransigent urban insurgents dominating fighting operations would modern warfare one day return to the bomb-it-into-rubble doctrine of the Second World War again?
For a more civilian perspective on China’s lightspeed urban transformation, check out the China Urban Dev Blog.