NEW WORLD ORDER ON THE GREAT CHANGE OF ERA
In addition to my work at PAGEO, my book, Geopillanat—literally translates as Geomoment—was published in November, 2016, which compiles the professional results of the last five years in one single volume with a hundred interesting maps and infographics. The book is a special professional guidebook with the help of which we can discover the new world order of the 21st century and the world around us with the help of geography, drawing a new geopolitical and technological map of the era. I am particularly pleased about the fact that the book was voted as one of the top 25 most significant and best specialized books in Hungary in May, 2017. The book will be published in English entitled Geofusion in the autumn of 2017.
In order to understand what is happening in the new multipolar global arena of the 21st century, we need to focus on four priorities. The first one means that we are witnessing the rise of geography, and we are living in a geoeconomic era aside from geopolitics, in the age of networks and fusions, where a new great change of era has begun with the help of technological advancements and fusional meeting points, in which the era and the places, therefore geography as such, have a prominent role. The task of 21st-century explorers and geostrategists is to give guidance on a world full of global economic and social challenges. New maps are required, which incorporate the wisdom and the tools of the old ones, but are complemented by today’s knowledge. We can give an answer to the question as to how we can anticipate global processes on the basis of the latest interrelations between geography and economics.
The main question of the book is who the winners – nations, leaders, communities – of this special geo-moment will be. Will they be the small ones or the large ones; the strong or the fast; centres of peripheries? Countries possessing knowledge, i.e. knowledge-intensive economies located in the old peripheries may be the new landmarks. It requires new perspectives, extensive knowledge and creativity. At the Tacitus Lectures event held in February 2016, Paul Tucker, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of England said that such nations and countries would be competitive which aligned their monetary and economic policies with their geopolitics.
The beginning of the 21st century, and especially the 2008 economic crisis created a new world order, a new value system, with new participants, new co-operations, new places; former centres got to the periphery, and former peripheries became centres. Earlier recipes and dogmas have failed; we need a new mindset and new methods. The 21st century is the era of knowledge, talent, technology and innovation, the currency of which is genuine ideas and innovations. After the age of globalization, the age of technology has set in, and it is a major question as to what role places will play in this technology-driven age. If we merge technology, knowledge and geography into one word, the main question of the book is how to navigate in the age of tech-knowled(ge)ography.
GEOGRAPHY IS A TOOL TO EXPLORE THE WORLD
Geography does not just mean memorizing places on our maps, but the familiarity with and the knowledge of geography implies a complex exploration of the world. In his book, The Revenge of Geography, Robert D. Kaplan argues that we may forget about the power of geographical factors but they do not cease to exist. Even technological development is incapable of it, although many have thought so; technological development has not brought about the death of geography, but attributed a higher value to the significance of geography.
In order to understand how the world works, we need maps. Maps were important in the past and still are so in the present. We have already got used to our maps, but it is important to view the from a new perspective. In 2015, China redrew the world map and the relationships of continents. The starting point of the new Chinese map is that we do not have to bypass the Pacific Ocean and the Americas to get from New York to Beijing or Shanghai, but the shortest route goes through the Arctic. Therefore, let’s have a look at the layout of our world map if we place America not the East but the North of the Asian continent. Or, another significant thing, that these maps do not separate Europe from Asia, since Europe is also a part of a single supercontinent.
Again, we end up with different kinds of maps if we do not use countries, but cities, hubs, points of connectivity, regions, knowledge ports, or a Facebook map based on networks, or the destination maps of various airlines. Today, there are 500,000 kilometres of borders; the length of undersea Internet cables is the double of that, one million kilometres, the length of gas pipelines is the double of that, some two million kilometres of, and again, the length of existing railway lines is some four million kilometres, and, in total, there are 64 million kilometres of roads on the maps. This is another reason why it is China’s long-term strategy to connect the Easter and the Western ends of the supercontinent with the One Belt, One Road initiative, and with the most important and most significant investment of the 21st century, create the opportunity to shift the main arteries of world trade from seas to the mainland.
It intends to regain its former historical, cultural, economic and commercial significance by rebuilding the New Silk Road. It is not a co-incidence that up to date 64 countries have joined the One Belt, One Road initiative (plus two other countries this year), and it is not a co-incidence that with building the New Silk Road, China provides Hungary with a considerable role, as three Silk Road networks meet at Hungary. The Silk Road used to be important throughout history because it transported the most important technological innovations and knowledge of the age, and quality products were exchanged. For China, the greatest achievement in Europe is the 16 3 1 Cooperation, and the fact that Hungary can host the 16 3 1 summit in November, 2017, also has significance.
AGE OF GEO-ECONOMICS
It is a major geo-political element of the 21st century that a new, multi-polar world order is emerging from the former, mono-polar one. It has three main protagonists: the United States, China and Russia; and two supporting characters: Germany and Turkey. Geo-economics, as a fusional meeting point of economics, social sciences and geography, determines the processes of world economy.
At the moment, we are witnessing the rise of geo-economics; a competition taking place in the language of commerce but according to the logic of wars. Geopolitical competition transforms global economy, the global balance of power and governance. New cooperations, new systems of values, new players, new strategic agreements. Former peripheries can become centres again in the future. The developments of the New Silk Road will make Central-Eastern Europe rise from being a “buffer zone” to a “bridgehead region”
WE LIVE IN THE AGE OF FUSIONS – THE GREAT CHANGE OF ERA
In the 21st century, knowledge and technology play the main roles. We live in a world of networks, in which we cannot know which are the areas the meeting point of which will generate a new one, what fusions can give birth to a new discovery, a new creation. Also, the most important map of the 21st century, the map of Internet, consists of networks and hubs. In this fusional, geo-fusional age big data will be the raw material of the 21st century; knowledge, creativity and experience will be the services. With new participants and from new co-operations, the small ones will become giants, as start-up companies, start-up cities and start-up nations have demonstrated. In a new Cambrian moment, we are witnessing a new technological-entrepreneurial revolution.
It is complexity that is underlying fusions and networks. A study, Atlas of the Economic Complexity, prepared by Ricardo Hausmann (Harvard University) and his research team, considers the products that each country exports in their economic structure. With the help of the study, he concludes that two things are important for development: knowledge with a high added value and products that can join the global network of products. On this basis, he established a new, subjective ranking of competitiveness, and the TOP 10 include Asian and European countries (Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia). Compared to 2011, Hungary has improved five places, currently being No. 8.
While the past centuries were about the age globalisation, in our current decade we talk about the age of technology. The most significant businesses of the world are not oil companies any more, but technological enterprises: Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google. Cities and megacities, where the creative class live, learn and create, have a very important role. Today, 40 global megacities of the world account for 80 per cent of global GDP. Cities and small countries that can swiftly react to the challenges of the new technological age are going to be the new centres of power of the 21st century. It is an important question as to how Hungary and Budapest can be the winners of the next era and the next decades. In a geoeconomic era that builds upon networks and fusions, and in which knowledge, creativity and innovation are considered as the most important resources. In an era the most important investment of which is building the New Silk Road, which does not mean only an infrastructure network but also a network of products, intellectual products, cultural values, knowledge centres and educational cooperations. How can Hungary as part of Europe become the knowledge and intellectual hub of the New Silk Road region? By mediating and connecting well-functioning institutions, relationships, value systems, knowledge networks.
The decision-makers of the 21st century will be the ones who are able to view the world with geopolitical insights and dare to redraw the maps. The leading companies of the world are developing an ever closer network with Eastern Europe, India and Southeast Asia, to update their portfolios with the creativity of small start-ups. In the meantime, China is building the modern Silk Road crossing the Asian continent from the East. The directors of technological giants are paying more and more attention to global social issues. Science has also turned towards geopolitics: urbanism, territoriality, sustainability and social geography are also included in the economic and leadership studies of the University College London. In 2015, Stanford launched its global executive programme of $700 million USD, seeking answers to economic-social questions, globalization and technological challenges. At the Faculty of Social Sciences of the National University of Singapore, Asia’s best university, economics is complemented by geography, communications theory, psychology and political science. The world’s leading economic, political and knowledge centres intend to redraw the maps of the world, adding their own interpretation kits and legends to them. These metropolitan areas and regions (Boston, San Francisco, Bangalore, Singapore…) aspire to become such hubs that are inalienable from the data, knowledge and innovation networks influencing the decisions of the world.
“It is an important question as to how Hungary and Budapest can be the winners of the next era and the next decades.”
Ultimately, it is always people and the decisions of people that we find behind geopolitical turning points. And those will be the decision-makers, economic, political, scientific and technological leaders of the 21st century who are able to comprehend global connections and create hubs of creativity and information flow around them. Those who are brave, curious and creative enough to draw strength from crises and to reconsider the role of spatiality in global decision-making. Those who are seeking fusions and new border areas, may they be physical, natural or scientific. Those who build personal networks with other hubs and draw strength from the exchange of experiences with other cultures.