21 theses for the 21st century

While the period between 1980 and 2010 was dominated by globalisation, as a result of the 2008 economic crisis, new partnerships, new actors, new mentalities, new solutions, and new values began to take shape.

Since 2010, globalisation has entered into a new age, the age of technology and knowledge, which builds on long-term sustainable growth.

In this new age, we are talking about the rise of geography and geographical economy, where geopolitical processes are replaced by geoeconomic trends and countries compete for markets rather than territories.

Geoeconomy determines world economic trends as the fusional intersection of economics, social sciences, and geography.

This new form of geopolitical competition transforms global economy, the global balance of power, and governance. Military strikes are replaced by economic sanctions, and military alliances by commercial systems competing against each other.

This age also marks a “New-Renaissance” period, and the main question in this new Renaissance technological era is what role places will play.

This age builds on the geography of knowledge and fusions, and the resulting “Geofusions” become the intersections of geography in the age of networks. Technological progress has given more significance to geography again. The 21st century is the age of knowledge and creativity, where individual ideas and innovations are the most important currency. And the countries which do not have enough knowledge will be forced to buy it, even though knowledge is becoming more and more expensive.

In the new polycentric world of the of the 21st century, in this geofusional age, data (big data) will be the most important “raw material”, and knowledge, creativity, and experience represent the new services.

Novel fusional partnerships of new actors, where the small will become the great, as demonstrated by start-up companies, start-up cities, and start-up nations.

The three most important passwords of the new world order are connectivity, sustainability and complexity.

The most important factors in measuring economic complexity are what a given country exports and how the exported product itself integrates into the global product space. Two factors matter: one of them is knowledge and highly-qualified workforce, while the other is the exporting product itself, that is the share of industries with a high added value in the export structure of a given country. In this new complex economic competition, the top 10 countries come from three regions: South East Asian countries (South Korea, Singapore, Japan), Nordic countries (Finland, Sweden) as well as Central and Eastern European countries (Germany, Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic, and Poland).

We live in an age of global word cities, which is also a symbol of the new Renaissance.

Today in the world economy, 147 global company generate 40% of global GDP and nearly 700 companies produce 80% of global GDP.

These companies are concentrated in cities, where especially creative workforce is available. Besides strategic companies and nation-states, the new powerhouses of the 21st century will definitely be the cities. Today, in the age of the rise of cities and urban networks, there are 64 global urban regions and megaregions which together produce more than half of global GDP. Growth axes and belts are evolving, whose centres are cities from the Boston-New York-Washington axis through the Asian Pearl River delta (Hong-Kong-Shenzhen-Canton) to Singapore. If we also take into account the new type of competitiveness factors, such as connectivity, creativity, knowledge, technology, innovation, integration in global trade, welfare factors, security, liveability, and the rate of green areas, Singapore, Seoul, and Shanghai will undoubtedly lead the list, in addition to London, New York, Paris, and Tokyo.

In order to understand the processes of this new era, we need new maps.

Maps are important! Maps are continuously evolving, but their meaning and significance remains unchanged. Maps foster novel thinking because if we look at the world from a different perspective, we get a novel outlook: Our new maps are network maps with lines and intersections in hubs, which indicate the 21st century’s key axes and centres, that is cities. Today there are 1 million km of underwater internet cable, 2 million km of gas pipeline, a 4-million-km-long railway network, and a 64-million-km-long road network. China’s long-term geostrategy is to find a way of placing the axis of world economy from the oceans back to land.

According to the forecast by WEF, the three key regions of the 21st century are the Indian Ocean, the Arctic Ocean and the landmass between the two, which form Eurasia. In 2013, China announced the implementation of the New Silk Road, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative. The goal of China’s long-term plan is to regain the former historical, cultural, economic, and commercial importance of Eurasia through building the New Silk Road. The New Silk Road consists of building and developing railroads, maritime and land ports, motorways, and logistics hubs as well as networks which will be implements through economic corridors.

If we were to capture the essence of the programme with six expressions, we could summarise it thus: a concept, which is the initiative itself; two wings: the land and sea route, that is the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st– century Maritime Silk Road.

The “three principles” mean that it is being built by everybody, for everybody and in everybody’s interest.

Four keywords each: on a macro level: connectivity, strategic synergy, capacity for cooperation, joint development of markets; and on an operational level: business management, market operations, government service, international standards. Five directions, which are the five main goals of connectivity: politics, infrastructure, trade, finance and “connecting people’s hearts”. Through six economic corridors.

The New Silk Road is, in fact, a complex network, which can be extended in space and time in a flexible way. It is the alliance of public and economic institutions and cities, a collaborative and peaceful rise and a network of win-win relations. The New Silk Road connects the players which constitute the new age of globalisation: this makes up around 40% of global GDP and 70% of the Earth’s population. The Belt and Road Initiative entails infrastructure interconnection, political coordination, making trade barrier-free, financial integration, and the strengthening of the human sector. The Belt and Road Initiative was joined by 64 countries upon its announcement and by 2019, 125 countries and 29 international institutions have signed and started to implement 170 agreements worth 1000 billion USD. Due to the main hubs of the new infrastructure networks created within the framework of the New Silk Road, the significance of certain regions changes and new centres emerge.

From 2013 on, 3673 trains regularly run between 53 Chinese and 51 European cities. The Greek Port of Piraeus can shorten the duration of the sea transport by 20 days, while the transportation on the Xian-Duisburg rail route takes 24 days instead of the previous 42 days. A new axis of development will be created, which has an east-west direction in the North and northwest-southeast direction in the South, which connects Piraeus to Rotterdam or the port of Hamburg. Thus, a north-south belt is formed from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic or Black Sea, and the 17+1 member countries represent one of the most important connections with China. It is no coincidence that according to Chinese plans, two centres will develop in this region: one of them is the northern centre with Warsaw as its main hub, which will mainly manage transportation and logistics and energy investments; while the other one will be Budapest in the South, home to financial services, cultural and intellectual partnerships. The Belt and Road programme is also the largest investment in human history.

Global civilisation is replaced by a novel “geocivilisation” which is built along shared interests, considers the creation of a harmonious world order a priority, and is based on the transposition into the 21st century of the millennia-old Chinese ecological civilisation.

Because this is the long-term Eurasian age, which builds on sustainable growth, green technologies, green money, ecological approach, and peaceful prosperity. One of the foundations of Chinese philosophy is the yin-yang principle. The 21st-century geopolitics also seeks balance, which is based on the geopolitics of yin-yang: East and West, North and South, and the joint implementation of hard and soft elements. The long-term cooperation of China and the United States, the harmonious cooperation of centres and peripheries, the winners of which will undoubtedly be the new gate regions (ASEAN countries, Central Asia, Eastern and Central Europe, HUB centres) through the harmonious partnerships of global cities and nation states.

Paul Tucker, the former Deputy Governor of the Bank of England was asked during the Tacitus Lectures held in March 2016 in London who the winner countries, nations, communities, and leaders of the 21st century might be. Those countries which harmonise their financial, that is monetary policy, economic policy, and geopolitics.

The future will be long-term, sustainable, and Eurasian, in which those countries will the winners which are interconnected, seek balance, financial and growth balance alike, and which have a long-term vision, in which monetary policy, geopolitics, and economic policy as well as the related national strategy (3+1) are implemented together.

To sum up, the 21 most important theses for the new world order of the 21st-century geopolitics and geoeconomics.

  1. We live a new world order, where new actors, new partnerships, new battlefields, and new myths are born.
  2. The new world is multipolar.
  3. Geography is of essence – in order to understand the new changing world order, we must return to geography.
  4. We live in the age of geoeconomy – besides geopolitics, this new discipline, geoeconomy, which is the fusion of social sciences, geography, and economics – is becoming increasingly important.
  5. We are experiencing a turning point in technology.
  6. We live in the age of fusions and networks.
  7. The world economic pole has clearly shifted to the East.
  8. The two most important passwords of the 21st century are connectivity and complexity.
  9. Data is the raw material and experience is the service of the 21st
  10. The 21st century will be the continental (land) age of Eurasia, putting an end to the 500-year-long Atlantic age.
  11. Where the most important areas and winners can be the gate regions of the Eurasian continent (ASEAN countries, Central Asia, Eastern and Central European 17+1 countries), meaning that former peripherals will become the new centres in the future.
  12. New alliances are formed along interests and values.
  13. We live in the age of a new Renaissance,
  14. where global city states and megaregions will assume a highly important role – just as the polises did in the Renaissance. So, we live in the age of global city states.
  15. A new way of thinking and set of values are beginning to emerge: the role of nature, family, harmony, and sustainability will become more and more important, just as national identity and local culture as opposed to globalism.
  16. Our world is progressing from a global civilisation towards a sustainable new geocivilisation.
  17. The world seeks inner harmony and balance; that is why the ancient yin-yang principle, which produce their effect together, is important.
  18. Balance equally implies the balance of employment, growth, and finance and the equilibrium of geopolitics, money, and technology.
  19. The ancient is the “new” – in the age of technology, those nations and centre will be successful which are able to transfer their ancient knowledge into the 21st And the nations which can recreate the existing ancient knowledge.
  20. We must redraw our maps in order to understand the spatial changes and trends of the 21st
  21. The future will be long-term, sustainable, and Eurasian – the greatest challenges are the right solutions to global climate change, sustainability, sustainable economic growth as well as connectivity and complexity.

In order to find the right solutions, we must have new maps, novel approaches, fusions with long-term visions because new economics, new functional geography, and new sustainable technologies and models are needed. The future has begun!

The author is head of Pallas Athene Domus Meriti Foundation

Original source: Norbert, Csizmadia: 21 theses for the 21st century. In: novekedes.hu, 2020. 02. 13. https://novekedes.hu/english/21-theses-for-the-21st-century

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