In the previous thousand years, the world was shaped by war. Empires rose and fell with a single swoop of the blade or one bullet fired on a princely carriage. The next thousand years will see the world engulfed in a war of a different kind – the fight for supply chains. In his own words, global strategist and author of Connectography Parag Khanna maps out the flashpoints.
The Decline of America
If Trump becomes president, it will only hasten the demise of a once-great empire that has its best days behind it. Chew on this: China (124 countries) has more than double the trading partners of America (56 countries). Nine million Americans now live abroad and, as of 2014, “a record US$5 trillion in cash was being held abroad by US companies avoiding high repatriation taxes”.
Does the world still need politicians? In a world where every industry is being disrupted, politics seems ripe for the taking. Inequality and unemployment have laid bare how badly politicians handle the world economy. Tech-empowered “city-zens” are already taking over at the local level. When times get tough, the politicians call in technocrats – Singapore-style managers who think long-term and build strategies to keep societies afloat. Or would you rather have Trump?
Infrastructure Over War
On average, the world spends US$2 trillion on defence and military, and this expenditure is expected to remain constant in the next decade. However, we’re forecasted to spend US$9 trillion on infrastructure by 2025, as countries all around the globe race to be connected to as many other countries as possible. This is the new arms race.
Extinction of Countries
Forget the concept of country. Instead there will be hubs, where people transit for pockets of their lives before moving on. Right now, only six cities in the world qualify as major hubs in the McKinsey Global Institute’s Connectedness Index, and Singapore is one of them. The other five? New York, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Dubai. Geography no longer determines your destiny.
Drink the 21st Century Oil
Many analysts have predicted that the next big war will be fought over water. And there’s plenty of reason to believe it. China is diverting the headwaters that have nourished South Asian civilisation for millennia, and is damming the upper Mekong at record pace. Yemen could be the first country to die of thirst. But war over water won’t create more water.
China’s New Silk Road
Welcome to the new “Iron Silk Roads”, where goods are transported by iron, steel and gravel camels capable of carrying 7.5 million containers in a year. China has been busy laying down tracks, roads, pipelines and more in the past decade, connecting itself to its neighbours, as part of its One Belt, One Road initiative. There’s a Chinese word for this – guanxi, which translates to connections.
Officially, you cannot buy Coca-Cola in North Korea. Unofficially, Chinese smugglers “have been bringing crates of the fizzy soda” to the Communist stronghold, where it’s served to elites and foreigners. They’re told that it’s Italian Coke. Even Dennis Rodman was seen drinking a can during his visit in 2013. Literally every part of the world is connected despite Kim Jong-un’s best attempts.
Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization is out now in all good bookstores