THE BLOG

2013 and Beyond: Entering the Xi Jinping Decade

"Global Trends 2030," a highly publicized document produced by the U.S. National Intelligence Council, recognizes in its fifth edition that one of its major challenges is a better grasp of the speed of change: "Past Global Trends works correctly foresaw the direction of the vectors: China up, Russia down, but China's power has consistently increased faster than expected."

Indeed, in 2000, the authors of "Global Trends 2015" speculated in a spectacular manner about China's future: "Working against China's aspirations to sustain economic growth while preserving its political system is an array of political, social, and economic pressures that will increasingly challenge the regime's legitimacy, and perhaps its survival."

Obviously, the report overestimated Beijing's weaknesses, since its publication the Chinese economy expanded by eight times and two major power transitions -- 2002 and 2012 -- took place in the world's most populous country.

While the past 10 years saw the end of a West-centered global order, the coming decade will give shape to a multipolar system in which the "Asian Mediterranean" -- the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) +3 (China, Japan and South Korea) -- will affirm its importance.

In this new environment without any hegemon and characterized by a massive boom in the South-South financial, trade and cultural relations, the West, China, Latin America, the Muslim world and others will co-share the responsibility to manage a crowded and interconnected planet where the opportunities for the progress of mankind are as large as the perils which threaten it.

For the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, the European Union (EU), still the world's largest economic bloc, 2013 will be another year of turbulence as the political uncertainties in Italy but also in Spain complicate an already fragile financial and economic situation. Despite the adoption of the European Stability Mechanism and the collective efforts to overcome the debt crisis, a growth of 0.2% in the Euro area will not be enough to battle its 11.7% of unemployment.
Facing elections in the fall, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not be in a position to support policies which could generate growth over the continent, on the contrary, to gather support at home she will call for more rigor and discipline when, as she warned in her New Year's address,"the economic environment will not in fact be easier but rather more difficult next year."

Even if euroscepticism is more vocal in the 27 members of the EU, the long journey toward the political integration of the European continent appears irreversible, the idea that, by gradually transferring their sovereignties to a supranational entity, European countries maintain a certain level of influence in a world of giants is accepted by the majority of the EU citizens.
While Ireland holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU, it is time to meditate -- especially in Paris, London and Berlin -- on Jonathan Swift's insights on power and scale, Lemuel Gulliver was potent among the miniatures of Lilliput but powerless in Brobdingnag, the realm of the oversize.

The results of the most recent elections in Catalonia but also in the Netherlands illustrate that despite the nationalistic temptations Europeans consider that their Union has become the necessary condition to the political relevance of the old continent.

In the months ahead, in order to measure the momentum of the integration project, it will be interesting to see whether Poland, the only EU country which avoided a recession through the 2008-09 economic downturn, moves, as advocated by its Prime Minister Donald Tusk, to accelerate its entry into the Euro zone.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the second Obama administration takes office in the midst of a weakened recovery, the International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook anticipates 2.1% of growth in 2013 against 2.2 % in the past year.

The "fiscal cliff" avoided in the last hours of 2012, the public debt is still for Washington an enormous burden, but the vitality of the U.S. demography, the vigor of its businesses -- 132 of the Fortune Global 500 are from the U.S. -- the global capabilities of its diplomacy and military, the attractiveness of its top schools and an energy revolution - the shale rush -- are all solid foundations of the American power.

In that context, "Global Trends 2030" explains that "the U.S. most likely will remain 'first among equals' among the other great powers." The use of the expression "first among equals" is stimulating, simultaneously effort of conceptualization and agenda-setting, but one will also notice that in social psychology the "primus inter pares effect" describes a cognitive bias, also known as the illusory superiority, that causes people to overestimate their strengths and systematically underestimate their shortcomings.

The uncertain outcomes of the Arab Spring in Libya, Syria, Egypt but also Tunisia add tensions in a Middle East which is condemned to unrest without a definitive solution to the tragic Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to win a parliamentary election at the end of the month but the popularity of the far-right party -- Naftali Bennett's Jewish Home - will not facilitate the relations with the Palestinians and with Iran.

In a region marked by volatility, the reemergence of Turkey, is a strong factor of stability and a source of hope. To a certain extent, the dynamics of the Eurasian "Middle Country" -- Turkey -- mirror, on a smaller scale, the changes of the world's "Middle Country" -- China.

Established just 90 years ago by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the Republic of Turkey's success signals to 1.6 billion Muslims that Islam is compatible with modernity. While the country of 74 million inhabitants grew at a rate of 5.1% in average in the last decade, its leadership around the popular Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been able hitherto to strike a new balance between Neo-Ottomanism and the Kemalist prudence. On the Kurd issue but also on the new Syrian equation the same sense of equilibrium will be required for Ankara not to weaken its position.

Istanbul, the capital of three empires, is a 21st century global city, a hub at the center of a macro-region which spans from the Balkans to Central Asia and from the Caucasus to the Arabian Peninsula. In the fall, the International Olympic Committee will announce whether or not the 2020 Summer Olympics will take place by the Bosphorus -- Madrid and Tokyo being the two other candidates.

The immense African continent and its 54 countries is a land of contrasts and of unparalleled diversity -- among the 166 million people living in Nigeria there are more than 250 ethnic groups. While the instability in Sahel, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the Central African Republic stands as a serious obstacle on the road toward development, the achievements in Ghana, Angola, Mozambique or South Africa give substance to the notion of an African Renaissance developed by African statesman Thabo Mbeki.

With a rapidly increasing population -- 20% of the world population by 2050 -- Africa can be seen as the last frontier with a unique potential but progress on the continent is largely conditioned to more internal integration, and in that sense, the role of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who took office past October as the head of the African Union is of the utmost importance.

With the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics approaching, international media will focus on Brazil, a giant which ensures Latin America's rank in the 21st century. With a GDP surpassing those of Russia or India, Brazil's output is already equal to the French or the British economy.

One often associates Brazil with colorful carnivals and Samba but some of the best universities in the world -- the Universidade de São Paulo -- arguably the 20th century most ambitious urban realization -- Brasilia -- poles of excellence like Embraer, the National Center for Advanced Electronic Technology, the Brazilian National Laboratory of Synchrotron Light and a genuinely autonomous diplomacy are also parts of the Brazilian reality.

While the comprehensive power of Brazil is on the rise (less than 200 million inhabitants today, the population will be over 250 million by 2050), one should also appreciate the dynamism of the Latin American Tigers or the Andean Condors: Colombia and Chile are growing fast while Peru, the jewel of the Andes, grew at an average of 6.4% since 2002.

In Asia's Far East, the analysts should not be misled by the recurrent rhetorical disputes triggered by demagoguery and populism, in fact, through elaborate industrial clusters and economic interdependence Northeast Asia is advancing toward more integration. In the first half of 2013 the trade ministers of Japan, South Korea and China will start negotiations on a trilateral free trade agreement.

This year, North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un will turn 30, and for a man who studied in Switzerland and who can not ignore the successful stories, including the "Gangnam style" global wave, surrounding his country, the opening-up of the DPRK seems more and more inevitable.

The signs of change are becoming obvious for the increasing number of visitors to North Korea, and the recent work of German conductor Alexander Liebreich in Pyongyang is reminiscent of Isaac Stern's China trip in the 80s. When Park Geun-hye becomes officially at the end of February the President of South Korea, Seoul and Pyongyang might be in a position to co-write a new chapter of the Korean peninsula exactly 60 years after the signature of the armistice agreement.

2013 will be a year of elections in Malaysia, and the closest race in the history of the country, while Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy and a G-20 member, will prepare its 2014 vote to choose the successor of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The Malay world, its economic development and political pluralism, is a significant laboratory in which progress and Islam do coexist.

Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia are heading toward more economic cooperation within the framework of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) +3 (China, Japan and South Korea), and by doing so, create a zone of prosperity, an "Asian Mediterranean", revolving around the Shanghai-Nanjing-Hangzhou conurbation in a configuration which, mutatis mutandis, suggests the glories of the Song Dynasty.

Last year, the combined GDP of the "Asian Mediterranean" -- the ASEAN +3 -- reached $17.3 trillion USD and became the world's largest economic space -- the EU's GDP was $16.4 trillion USD in 2012.

The new pivot of this multipolar world certainly better represented by the G-20 than the G-8 and, in which, the South-South connections matter as much as the North-North interactions is the Middle Country.

When Xi Jinping becomes in March the Chinese president, he will have, with one entire decade of strategic visibility, the means to serve his country's peaceful renaissance and, at the 2013 G-20 Russia Summit in Saint Petersburg, he will be perceived as the symbol of a geopolitical rebalancing.

By 2020, three years before the end of his two five-year mandates, China will become the world's largest economy taking Asia, a more cohesive African continent, Latin America but also the Middle East at another level of development and a little bit further away from Western influence.

David Gosset is director of the Academia Sinica Europaea at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), Shanghai, Beijing & Accra, and founder of the Euro-China Forum.

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