The Mandate of Heaven

In the last days of 2005, leading thinkers and scholars from around the world share their fears, hopes and expectations of 2006. Forty-nine of openDemocracy’s distinguished contributors, from Mariano Aguirre to Slavoj Zizek, Neal Ascherson to Jonathan Zittrain – offer their predictions for the coming year. Since this is openDemocracy, we did not expect them to agree. We were not disappointed. (Part Two)
Gwyn Prins
22 December 2005


The Mandate of Heaven is moving on. The post Cold War interregnum began its closing stage with 9/11 and ended it on 1 June 2005 in the Netherlands. In 2006 we should be watching for The Mandate moving elsewhere. This can be bumpy. When The Mandate moved during the Tai’ping rebellion, more Chinese died than from any other human-induced event of the 19th century.

The background constants for 2006 remain remission and demography. We are still in remission between 9/11 and the next equivalent jihadist terrorist attack – after which all bets are off. The key long-wave demographics show the Asian superpowers growing, Europe greying and fading, melting-pot America eternally 37, but changing skin colour, and Russia dying. Aids stalks on unchecked.

The death throes of the European Union advance apace, generating contradictory forces. Schroeder agreed to Putin’s submarine re-routing of the Vyborg Baltic gas pipeline. Scales fell from eastern European eyes. What price l’esprit communautaire? Conversely and predictably, the Brussels nomenklatura has responded to loss of its federal constitution with a savage acceleration of covert centralisation. We therefore risk an explosive, not a graceful disintegration.

Gold will continue its rise past $500/oz. This is a 50% gold/dollar devaluation since Bush began to build his deficit; but it is also the market damning the euro. The market prefers gold, and treats the euro not as a new reserve, but as a debauched currency. The banks already have prepared for its ending.

As Iraqis continue to put democratic facts on the ground, the insurgency to lose momentum and the issue to fade, American policy will focus more visibly on the emerging four-cornered Pacific concert. A key requirement for buffering China – whose emergence as an imperial commodities-seeker was the main unintended consequence of 9/11 – is the India strategy. America is consciously building India as the English-speaking, democratic, demographic superpower. Indian-Americans are becoming a powerful domestic constituency. Japan’s new assertiveness occupies the other corner.

After the train-wreck of the 60th summit, the UN will continue to move into the shadows. With it go more parts of the left/liberal credo. The object-lesson failure of Gordon Brown’s firehosing of money onto public services has its international reflex in dissent from his G8 approach. In reaction, seriously interesting capitalist responses to African poverty are starting.

Many major economies will now follow the Finnish example and build new nuclear capacity in the face of global warming and energy insecurity or, like Germany, they will risk energy blackmail. In 2006, if the oil majors revise their exploration viability price assumption up towards $40bbl, important new oilfields become winnable. The Kyoto Treaty will remain dead. Conservation and technology gains will continue to be the way to abate CO2 increase.

Of shocks, bird-flu is the most predictable, along with military removal of Iranian nuclear ambitions. Nuclear next-use needs will come onto the agenda as we grapple with problems of what are greater and lesser evils.

In England, “New Labour” will to continue to unravel and The Mandate will move towards Cameron.


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