A bitter pill
There is a shifting balance in the relationship between science and technology. Corollary to this shift is a movement away from government-funded research investment to a more market-based approach. The geopolitical ramifications are enormous.
The pharmaceutical market in China is set to boom. Some predictions see it growing to $200 billion by 2020, making it the second largest in the world, surpassing Japan along the way. As such, the Chinese market is very attractive for international drug companies, especially because of its aging population, chronic disease growth, expanding healthcare insurance coverage, urbanization and increased investment in rural healthcare services. More importantly, the growing industry is spurring the Chinese government to invest in medical science.
By now it is clear that the race for global leadership in the coming decades will be played out in the Asia-Pacific region. Hence, plans for a realignment of military and economic forces are already in the works.
The US seems to have begun its inevitable decline. Yet those who would supplant America still recognize its unique capacities. In any case, the real threats lie elsewhere.
Putin on the defensive
Fraudulent legislative elections and growing protests have set the stage for Russia’s upcoming presidential elections. Putin will have to adjust. His choice of tactics should indicate the direction in which Russia is headed.
Russia’s relationship with the US has soured since the legislative elections. Whatever happens, it is important to remember that “becoming Western” may not necessarily be what Russians need or want.
Twenty years since the fall of the USSR, Russians have had to deal with economic freefall, rampant crime, war and an authoritarian regime. Their growing cynicism is perhaps understandable. And yet a sense of hope and of their own greatness remains.
European leaders have been scrambling to deal with the crisis, and some headway has been made. However, actions taken thus far may set the conditions for a long period of economic contraction.
Hungary has come under heavy fire for its new constitution, which brings the judiciary, central bank and press more under government control. On closer inspection, though, the real rub is
in its affirmation of national sovereignty – which smacks of authoritarianism.
Middle East observers keep watching for the moment when Israel decides that Iran, in its suspected quest for a nuclear weapon, has crossed a red line. One thing for sure: how it acts on its various options will affect the entire world.
Iran’s nuclear program is proceeding ahead. Politics invariably open the facts to often exaggerated conclusions. But the facts themselves indicate a very complex effort to conceal whatever progress is being made.
It will be hard for sub-Saharan Africa to dispel the clichés that depict it as a dysfunctional continent. But recent developments offer hope – especially if good governance can reach a critical mass as it spreads oil wealth more equitably.
Despite its bounty of natural resources, Africa still struggles to consolidate stable governments whose priority is the well-being of its citizens. Democratic elections, while bringing some hope, have more often highlighted many of the continent’s chronic problems.
The ups and downs of cocoa have been influencing markets and geopolitical maneuvers since Europeans discovered the precious New World commodity. Perhaps the reason why strife over chocolate has tended to fly under the radar is because of the comestible’s unequivocally pleasure-inducing qualities.
For all the talk about sustainable development and emerging economies, one fundamental element has come to be taken for granted: electricity. Various projects around the world, however, are focused on bringing electrical power to rural areas – without which development is inconceivable.
As a result of the economic crisis, opportunities have opened up to move in the direction of green growth, which could spur the economy in a sustainable manner as well as help the environment.
One of the best ways to spread a culture and thereby gain influence is to make that culture’s language understood. New emerging powers are now promoting their languages in order to increase their international appeal.
Europe has set itself an ambitious goal for reducing emissions between now and 2050. But as ambitious as the various plans are, ignoring the problem and doing nothing will be just as expensive.