Zeihan’s platform for the near future of the world has three planks:
- Globalisation, where supply and demand is spread all over the world, is about to end because Pax Americana is over, where America guaranteed safe, global free trade since the end of WWII, because it’s not in the interests of America to be the world policeman any more and it is economically self-sufficient so doesn’t need the world.
- Demographics are exacerbating these trends; the only countries with healthy demographics and good geography to do well in the near future are The USA, France and New Zealand. Everywhere else is aging so fast, the problems are becoming apparent now.
- The near future will be one of localised trade, and regional alliances, centred on countries that have good demographics, geographic power and increasingly important, ability to provide a suplus in food.
In Ziehan’s vision, the global losers (just about everyone except for the US, France and NZ) will have to either improve their lot by sucking up to the regional powers, see their standards of living crumble, or both. So long as Japan (and the UK) suck up to the US, should be no existential problems for them, but the future for China and Russia are “beyond” (Ziehen’s favourite preposition, in his usage meaning “very”) bleak. And the chickens (scrawny ones in China) are coming home to roost this decade.
His warnings of dread sound very … sorry, beyond… believable to me, if you accept his first premise that America is no longer willing or able to play global cop. Zeihan is hardly the first to sound smart by being pessimistic (Malthus anyone?) and yet the stock markets of the world continue, in fits and starts to be sure, to march ever upward.
But his arguments were persuasive enough for me to reevaluate where I should be parking my retirement investments. He convinced me that I need to dial back on China (and Japan) and have more faith in the US economy for a long-term payout. Assuming the US doesn’t implode in its never ending culture wars, that is.
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No. 9 of 50 books I intend to read and review in 2022.
I’m Patrick Sherriff, an Englishman who survived 13 years working for newspapers in the US, UK and Japan. Between teaching English lessons at my conversation school in Abiko, Japan, I write and illustrate textbooks for non-native speakers of English, release Hana Walker mystery novels, short stories, paint, sketch and write essays and a monthly newsletter highlighting good writing in English, often about about Japan, art, crime fiction and teaching.