By Dom Serafini
Last October, London’s daily The Guardian headlined, “2025: The End of U.S. Dominance.” This followed the release of the U.S. government’s National Intelligence Council’s (NIC) fourth unclassified 120-page report titled: “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World.” NIC’s previous report was issued in 2004, in the midst of the Bush-Cheney administration, and projected continued U.S. dominance through 2020.
Twenty days after The Guardian’s article, Singapore’s The Straits Times featured an extensive piece putting the NIC report into historical perspective. The author, Ho Kwon Ping, chairman of Singapore Management University, explained that world empires were created by urbanization: the massive rural-to-urban migration. This urbanization paralleled the Roman, Spanish, French, British and American empires. And this is what awaits China, India and Brazil, if only at different paces and after a period of a power vacuum.
And, while those emerging economies will grow in world influence at America’s expense, according to NIC, the same cannot be said of the European Union (EU). Indeed, NIC indicated that the EU will be “losing clout” by 2025 due to disconnection between Brussels (EU’s central government) and European voters.
By 2015, more than half of China will be urban (the trend started with the Communists taking power in 1949). India will reach the urban tipping point around 2050. But, The Straits Times argued, the loss of American dominance will not be sudden. There will be a period when the world will not be dominated by any single power. That is something that happened in the 17th century, 100 years before England emerged as an empire and 200 years before it reached its peak.
So let’s analyze additional trends as indicated by the NIC report and marry them with the predictions made by The Straits Times. The following ideas emerge:
• Wealth and power will be concentrated under state control (like China and Russia). This is called state capitalism in a post-democratic marketplace.
• The U.N. seems ill prepared to fill the vacuum left by receding American influence.
• Europe will remain heavily dependent on Russia for energy.
• Russia is a potential problem for the world.
• Globalization is at risk. It created imbalances.
• A world without the West.
• A two-tier Muslim world.
Now let’s speculate how the U.S. political leadership could change NIC’s predictions within the 2025 framework by instituting a program that would gradually reinforce the U.S. leadership during the “power vacuum” period. The key here is a U.S. communication and entertainment sector responsive to the new challenges. Why? Because entertainment, for one, promotes and sells lifestyles, culture, ideals (both social and political), consumer products and fashion, among others.
In addition, the U.S. can implement measures in the entertainment industry that Europe and other emerging powers cannot possibly do, such as:
1. Dismantle media and entertainment conglomerates. They take financial and human resources from their subsidiaries, and create meddling bureaucracies that stifle creativity.
2. Separate content ownership from data/signal distribution. This will make the whole system more agile and responsive not only to U.S. needs, but to international needs as well. In addition, it will detach such companies from parasitical financial players, relying instead on the sectors’ real economy.
3. Stimulate the creation of domestic and international content distribution companies. The more, the merrier. A large number of such companies will be more attentive to audiences’ needs, rather than to corporate requirements.
4. Prevent predatory practices between various sectors. Investors should not have control over content and distribution.
5. Establish regulatory practices that protect the viewers and consumers, and free the political process. This will also give a strong leadership signal to other nations. Naturally, these five seemingly simple points require strong political leadership, since it goes against the will of current powerful, if aging, media moguls. But time could be on our side.
The task to start implementing those changes will be left to current leaders in the entertainment industry who will have, at the most, 10 years to create the base for continued, strong Western dominance. Future entertainment leaders will have 15 additional years to build on those changes which will bring us to 2034, the start of what Singapore’s Ho Kwon Ping calls the “power vacuum” years, which, in this case could be called: “back to the future.”