With 2012 coming to a close, it’s time to look ahead to what a new year will bring. 2012 gave us a continuation of the Eurozone crisis, a new Chinese leadership and the re-election of Barack Obama.
This week I’m gazing into my crystal ball and in a series of blogs I’ll be shedding some light on what I think the new year will bring. Today I’m starting with the BRICS, US, China and Europe and I’m interested to hear if you agree.
Please leave a comment at the end of the page and let me know what you think!
BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa)
If the BRICS summit in March (in South Africa) decides to go forward with the proposed “BRICS Bank,” as seems likely, we could see a flurry of proposals for different models of development finance and how the emerging powers can accelerate their accession to global power.
It’s unlikely that any course of action on such proposals will be decided on in 2013, but the debates there could serve as an interesting mirror or counter-balance to those going on around the post-2015 development framework being promoted by the UN as we near the end of the MDG timeline.
The re-election of President Obama insures continuation of a consistent moderate tone from the US in world affairs, with all the pluses and minuses that implies.
Some are hoping that a tough stance on the “fiscal cliff” negotiations before the new year would herald a more assertive stance toward the opposition Republicans in the future. They’re likely to be disappointed, but hope is nice.
Similarly, there is some hope that the US will now take more progressive positions in forums like the UN climate talks. But there is quite a long distance to go to make the US positions acceptable, and Obama has not demonstrated a willingness to stand up wholeheartedly to the corporate consensus in the US. But still, this may be the most hopeful moment for change.
The tragedy is that it’s just a glimmer of hope, and given US politics it’s not likely to come around again until, in climate terms, Manhattan starts to become a swamp.
The recent leadership transition in China also suggests continuity, although in this case there is some disappointment, as the alternative might have been a more open, reform-oriented government.
China seems to be picking fights over its maritime boundaries, especially with Vietnam and the Philippines; 2013 will probably include some drawn-out diplomatic set-tos on the issue.
Presumably the Chinese strategy would be a long-term one, to wear down other countries and make incremental gains in resource claims.
Europe seems to have settled into a permanent low-level crisis mode as it applies bandage after bandage to the solvency problems in Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland.
The shock prediction therefore is that we are not likely to see any outright defaults in 2013, or a sudden global economic shock like that of 2008, but rather a continued stagnation, or even decline, in the region’s economy.
Only a political cataclysm in one of the crisis countries or a decision like the one being proposed in Finland to introduce a dual-currency system would be likely to create significant shifts.
Unfortunately, the prospects of the region simply “getting better” without some sort of shake-up look pretty remote right now. German elections could shake up that country’s approach, but we shouldn’t exaggerate how different the opposition would be. And at any rate, Germany is far from alone in its addiction to austerity in the EU.
Should Greece leave the Eurozone, for whatever reason (pushed or shoved), there might be an opportunity for Europe to set a new course. And an opportunity for Greece to address its problems without a continuing spiral of depression. But unfortunately it doesn’t seem likely.
Check back here tomorrow when I’ll be taking a look at Africa and the MENA region.