2014: What’s Ahead for the World

newspapers covers01In a much-faster changing world, reaching a conclusion to events has become more elusive. As we tire ourselves with 24/7 information, instant gratification, shorter attention spans, and the more pervasive blurring of agenda-driven spread of information (whether it is about cherry-picking which part of an event needs more weigh or the spreading of subtle but dumbing social media gossips and biases), we can only expect the year ahead to be more complex and unpredictable. Nevertheless, much like inquiry into the sciences, collating observations and hypothesis of the previous year will help us anticipate things to come, and that is the key to making an informed prediction.

This year’s forecast format is different from last year’s style in that it focuses on  a per-country reportage and expectations: a good reassessment on geography, just in case you too feel the certain fuzziness of the inexorable globalization of events which continue to transcend borders, economies, culture, nationality and even alliances.

In the United States, the so-called economic recovery, a ghost phrase invented since the end of the Bush Jr. era, will continue to limit what the government can achieve for its people. On a broader scale, this will have an effect on its economic policies abroad as well, and we all know Washington’s foreign policy stems from its economic policies. On that front, America will continue to confuse its allies, especially in light of the Snowden leaks and the surprise optimism brought about by Russia’s brokering of nuclear and chemical deals with Iran and Syria, respectively. Other major things to look forward to include the exit of New York city mayor Bloomberg, and the experimental legalization of marijuana in Colorado, which is a strong proof of America’s moral degradation.

On a lighter note, 2014 will bring major sporting (distraction) events, first with Russia’s hosting of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. As the games approaches (this coming February), Western media will continue to lambast Russia’s decision to ‘build a city from scratch’ and its release of political prisoners (publicized by the West as a way to ‘bring good news’ before the sporting events), which is a familiar story, much like how they portrayed the apparent waste and ‘scandals’ of the Beijing Olympics. Moscow will continue to matter more in global issues though as President Putin reaps the rewards of his diplomacy (and the award of the most powerful man in 2013 by Western media). The IMF predicts Russia to be among the biggest GDP gainers for 2014. Besides Sochi, Russia is also embarking on its own smart city in Tatarstan, a development that will soften Western energy-as-leverage pundits for a while.

Elsewhere in Europe, the UK will vote on a decision whether to keep (or let go) of Scotland as part of the entire United Kingdom; Germany will consolidate its soft power gains in the previous years by pursuing its goals through economic, diplomatic, and cultural means; events in Spain may finally see an independent Catalonia; Ukraine’s decision to be part of Europe or linked to Russia will be more and more influenced by major players outside the country; Romania’s and Bulgaria’s entry into the EU labor market; EU parliament elections this summer (an election with historically low turnout); and the exit of Catherine Ashton as EU foreign policy chief (hailed as the ‘unsung hero’ of European diplomacy).

In Asia, China’s foreign policy will be perceived as being more assertive as the US ensnares Japan into a trap that’s hard to extricate from: the establishment of a National Security Council and re-armament of the Japanese military. It also seems the Japanese leadership’s determination to be more independent of America’s stance toward China is well received by its people, especially with the sense of renewed possibility in Japan’s economy. Construction of a new Beijing international airport commences this year and is hailed to be among the biggest and busiest airports in the world once completed. In Australia, ambitious politicians will be playing the American card more keenly this time, where calls for ‘updating Australia’s diplomatic footprint’ are gaining traction among Australians. Afghanistan will by this year need to tackle and decide on whether to allow American soldiers to be on the ground for another ten years, and a new presidential election may or may not destabilize the country anew.

In Latin America, Brazil will be (hopefully) seeing a break from its riots, hosting the much anticipated World Cup this year. 2014 will also see the construction of the Nicaragua Canal, said to be about three times longer than the Panama Canal. Latin American artists will continue to experience an art boom around the world.

This year will also see the completion of the 5th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The last one, in 2007, saw a clearer and grimmer outlook for the Earth’s climate, and for this new report (as per the September 2013 summary for policymakers document), it shows yet more evidence of human’s impact on the climate, and hinting more about further uncertainties in climate modeling as well as adaptation measures to climate change.

Of course, the year 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of World War I and this will last until 2018. For the duration of the event, countries will be planning official commemorative ceremonies and themes. This momentous time in human history is, by now, replete with lessons that ought to be learned. Indeed, with this year’s events and approximate trajectories, we hope history does not repeat itself.

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