Power Shift: Our World 20 Years from Now

The role of emerging economies, particularly the one that China plays, is critical to the global economic recovery. Actually, without the demand coming from that region and keeping the wheels turning on this side of the globe, there probably would be no recovery to speak of. In any event, it seems that China and the U.S. have found themselves in the same boat, mutually dependent, and likely to navigate together in the near future.
However, two decades from now, the world economic stage is likely going to shift substantially. Outlines of that new world order are already visible. China has started taking onglobal responsibilities, while India is learning the fine art of balancing its domestic, regional and global objectives. At the same time, the U.S. will likely push forward its protectionism agenda and try to grab as much market share as possible. Still, some 20 years from now, the global economic stage will have experienced an extraordinary power shift.In no particular order, among the premises for this power shift are key Asian players who, despite barely coexisting in today’s cutthroat competition for market share, in the next two decades will have likely grown out of these development-stage pains and would truly
commit to globalization and finding a peaceful place for Asia under the global sun. And, as China and India grow, they will seek the fulfillment of common goals and strategies, while ensuring that they give the region the kind of voice on the global stage it deserves.Additionally, while the U.S. is currently in the grips of its own economic problems and it is straying often towards protectionism, in the next two decades, it will also play a crucial role on the global stage. That role is likely going to involve emphasizing Asia’s growing geopolitical and economic relevance, but not to the point of retreating into a corner. Despite my own doubts on the viability of the U.S.’ long-term economic leadership when the credit crisis struck
full force in 2008, today, I do not see it retreating to the second, third or the umpteenth place in the global order.Granted, the shine is off all 50 stars, but none is out. The reality is that the U.S. will be growing much more slowly than China or India because the taxpayers have a huge job ahead of them: footing the bill for the economic bailouts that protected the economy from financial
ruin. However, two decades from now, the U.S. dollar is likely to remain the reserve currency of many countries, including the Asian giants. In addition, the U.S. will remain the global stabilizing power, providing counterbalance in trade and security to China, as well as
the global leader, provided it understands that the latter will have to be shared with its Asian partners on an equal basis.

Of course, so many things could go wrong in the next 20 years. Who knows how China is going to handle social reforms and opening of its economy and who knows if and when Chinese would feel confident enough in its government and in its own wealth to stop
saving as much and start spending more? Also, it is not clear how India will deal with its two-tiered job market, where good jobs are still available only to a select few, or if and when it will learn to spread its earnings to social services and infrastructure.

The global financial crisis was the trigger that started the transformation of the world economic order. It also acted as a catalyst that sped up the decline of the U.S. economic power and jolted Asian economies to step up to the plate. In 20 years, I see a world with many strong players, but none having the dominant position. In such a setting, there will be no other way to coexist than to subscribe to a common vision and joint strategies to fulfill that vision. Perhaps the U.S. legacy will grant it the position of a leader, but it will have to be a leader that knows how to listen, pause and collaborate like an equal with Asian powerhouses.