FTLComm - Tisdale - Friday, December 31, 2010
1. In the first ten years of the twenty-first century China, socially, economically and politically has been steadily making ground. Each year it has moved just a bit further ahead and some of those gains really jump out at you, like the way the balance of trade with what was once the largest economy in the world, was decidedly in China's favour, to the point, that it now pretty much owns the United States for the foreseeable future.
Culturally, we have seen Chinese movies as a main part of the world's culture and Chinese classical musicians are among the best in the world. With the Beijing Olympics, we saw how the nation could pull together for a cause, just as it did with the World's Fair in Shanghai and the magnificent Asia Games in November in Guangzhou. But the Chinese have done more than just stage games, they were simply incredible at the Summer Olympics in their capital city and just as startling in their determination at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, as their athletes are right there at the top with the best of the world's best.
In 2010 the line was crossed. The world's largest country by population, became the world's largest economy. In 2011China builds on its strength. This past week, the world's stock markets were showing positive gains based on China and India's demand for raw materials and energy. Then realizing the dangers of run away inflation, the Chinese raised their interest rates and all around the world, the markets froze in their tracks. When the shock subsided, those countries which provide China with resources, began to show modest gains in the commodities market. China is now the major determination of how the world's financial structure moves, forward or backward. The predominance of the United States is now a historical event.
In 2011 the manufacturing mastery of China will begin to assert itself even more with that country becoming the largest manufacturer of motor vehicles and bit by bit, just as we saw a few decades ago in Japan, instead of merely manufacturing for other multinational companies, Chinese companies will begin to assert themselves with their name brand products rising to the forefront in the marketplace. This is fuelled by the fact that China is no longer reliant upon foreign innovation, as their own research and development is kicking in and new ideas lead to products that will create their own new markets.
Socially and politically China has been evolving, as it accepts its heritage to formulate its future. In 2011 China will definitely continue to rankle just about everyone with its out of control black market ripe off merchandise, just as in 2010 its computer hackers will force network security people to spend enormous sums of money to prevent information technology disruption. China's heavy handed approach to any form of dissidence is not going to lessen as it more and more reverts to the old ways of the Imperial era and the warlord times to keep all forms of criticism at bay. It looks bad to the rest of the world but it might simply be their way of doing things just as blatant racism is at the very core of American society. It looks bad but it is the way they are.
2. The course of the Islamic Jihad movement may have run its course, or at least reached a steady state, leading to decline of the movement. It is the nature of Islam to go through cycles of revival and religious militarism. Historically, these apparent uprisings have seen invasions of Europe, encroachment on Christianity which led to the crusades and numerous other flare ups about every two hundred years as a fanatically leader rises to whip up the frenzy that leads to martyrdom and violence aimed at the infidels. Osama Bin Laden and others like him, may very well have reached their peek and in 2011 this web site is predicting, the crest has been passed. This does not mean that the jihadist movement is over, for indeed the possibility for more outrage against the civilized world is an ever present threat, it is just that in 2011, the people of Islam themselves, will have lost enthusiasm for killing each other and infidels alike.
3. The economy and its immediate effect on the lives of people everywhere continues to shape political events and financial realities. With the shift from an American based world economy, to a Chinese based economy, there is bound to be some confusion along the way. The developing world, particularly the desperate dictatorships of Africa, will invariably suffer the most. It is important for you to realize that wide spread famine was very nearly the status quo in much of Africa in 2010 and there is nothing going to change that situation in 2011. This is a very political condition, famine is not a possibility in a democratically operated country, whereas dictatorships are fertile ground for massive unimaginable misery.
The European "contagion" is a fact of the economy situation for Europe in 2010. Iceland, Greece and Ireland have already moved over the line of functional economies. Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and Italy are well outside of the realm of sustainability, so that only minor changes in the levels of employment could tip the scale from stable to collapse. France and Germany, the primary pillars of the European Union, are dangerously close to the wire, while collectively, the Euro is likely to slide far below parity with the American dollar despite the snail like recovery of the United States' economy from the recession. August 2011 will be the acid test for Europe and from here, it could remain the same as now or crash, either way, a positive outcome is just not in the cards.
China and India are both experiencing economic growth in a healthy and positive manner, so that their internal economies are sustaining development, employment and continued business expansion. Between 7% and 10% growth in their economies is not overly optimistic.
Brazil, Argentina, Canada and Australia are looking at stable and modest recovery, primarily because each of these countries have a good mix of resource and commodity trade and production. Reliance upon the American market will continue to be the retarding factor, so Canada is in the greatest jeopardy, because of its huge reliance upon the American need for Canadian production. 2011 looks positive for all of these countries despite the US's sluggish economy, largely held back by unacceptable unemployment and the remnants of a colossal real estate implosion.
The times of turmoil will come much sooner than most of expect. As early as March it is going to be clear that the European situation is crumbling and the US recovery is a pipe dream. Markets will suffer. European instability will manifest itself in street demonstrations in Greece, France and Manchester, in the UK, where unemployment and discomfort with the Cameron government will result in a few riots. The April wedding of Prince William will be a general positive distraction in the UK. The unemployment situation with 18 to 25 year-olds could even become much worse. Things in the United States are expected to coast a bit until late summer and without any major shocks, there will only be the sadness that comes with a depressed economy. October is always a tightrope for the stock market and that will be global, but not necessarily catastrophic. By late November, the adjustments in currency values should have taken place with the Euro and the US dollar suffering the most, although the US government is looking forward to devaluation of their money so that their exports will improve and this might reduce unemployment, actually not the wisest of policies. Canadian and Australian dollars should pretty well stay in step with the Chinese economy, as they move above the US dollar and the Euro. This trend will continue to put a damper on the Canadian employment figures for Eastern Canada.
4. Provincial elections will play an important part in the life of the people of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec.
Who could guess what might happen in British Columbia, they have a pretty fractured situation there and the predictability factor is very weak, I look for a narrow Liberal majority government.
Alberta is likely to see an election in 2011 and it will be quite unlike the ho-hum things that pass for Alberta elections in the past. This is not to say that the outcome will be much different, but the voter turn out will be definitely much above usual and that should see a more competitive and closer election, which will see the right squaring off against the extreme right, enough so, that significant gains should be made by both Liberal and NDP parties giving them some actual clout in the legislature.
Saskatchewan's election is set for November 7 and the voter turn out will be lower than usual. The NDP's choice of leader is nothing short of being cognitively challenged. Wall and the Saskatchewan Party will win and win very big, surprising everyone because this time they will not only clean up in the country, but because of the low voter turn out, they will march through seemingly secure Regina and Saskatoon seats. Brad Wall will have so little to do during the campaign, he could actually go to his Arizona house and take it easy while gaining a landslide victory.
Manitoba is close. But the trend looks to be pointing to a return of the Conservatives in Winnipeg. It will however be a good campaign and few seats in the province are sure things for anyone.
To say anything about Ontario would be just displaying my ignorance. I was so shocked at the reaction of the Ontario voters in the Toronto mayor's race and in the recent win by the former head of the OPP to the federal government, I think that Ontario deserves what it gets and that would appear to be oblivion.
But, what about Quebec? First off, in the rest of Canada, the sort of shenanigans over judge appointments would have assured the government's defeat, but alas Quebec is Quebec and despite what some experts are saying, that the separatists could defeat Charest, it is not going to happen. Those folks in Quebec do not like a dirty politician, they love a dirty politician.
5. This brings us to the fate of the Harper government. Stephen Harper has been the Canadian Prime Minister for a long time, an amazingly long time and with the effective incompetency of the Liberal party his hopes of staying on as a minority prime minister look very good. Stephane Dion was booted from the leadership of the Liberal Party for having only 36% approval rating, his successor has been working hard touring the country all summer long and being a leader to lower the Liberal party's standing to 26%. It looks like a one-third drop in popularity for the people who once thought of themselves as the government party.
I think the election fan will kick in once the budget is sitting on the Common's order paper waiting for the dutiful support of the Liberals, who have successfully maintained the Conservatives in power all of these years. Harper has not governed as such, but rather, survived, with the support of the Liberals who fear devastation at the ballot box. This time, I don't think they can dodge the bullet. The budget will look almost like an austerity budget and the Conservatives will plead desperately, that after spending the surplus and moving Canada away into deeper and deeper debt, they have seen the light and like Mulroney, are "reducing the deficit." The Liberals will howl about the cuts to almost everything, while in the back rooms, they will be howling with horror, knowing full well they cannot support the budget and will have to commit political suicide by election. When all the gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands is over, the minority government of Stephen Harper will return to power and the Liberal party will call for a leadership convention in September. The question is? Is Justin Trudeau ready to assume the mantle of saviour of Canada?
6. Earthquakes and volcano eruptions, those are natural disasters. It is now an arguable point that floods, violent summer and winter storms, high seas and unprecedented droughts and tropical storms, are only partly natural disasters. The governments of the world have left the issue of global warming go on long enough, pretending that it is not happening, to the point that the climate has moved toward unsuitability and is now an unstoppable force because of the human component, not necessarily an act of God or nature. 2011 is due for more of the same. The huge amount of Arctic water that is ice free in the summer has changed the weather patterns of the Northern hemisphere and erratic violent weather is a direct result. There is no reason to expect much different a spring and summer in Saskatchewan in 2011 then what we endured in 2010.
7. War and rumours of war seems to be a very big thing on just about everybody's menu. In the summer of 2011 Canada will end its combat role in Afghanistan and the United States will do the same by early winter. NATO's involvement in Afghanistan has and will have, little or no affect on the course of events in Kabul, Kandahar, or even Lahore for that matter. The Pakistan/Afghanistan conflict was in full progress two centuries ago and they will be blowing one another up two hundred years from now. Nothing we, or Russia can, or has done, will change anything. As for Canadian forces staying on to train the Afghan army, that seems to me to be the wrong thing to do. Teaching them to kill each other after twenty or more continuous years of war is definitely counter productive.
Civil wars in Ivory Coast, Sudan, Republic of the Congo are inevitable while civilization is loosing out in Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda. Without an all out recolonization of most of Africa, the race for riches, resources and regional conflict, will pound what's left out of the life of that continent. Somalia is not the only part of the continent that has no real government, the absolute proliferation of AK-47s outweighs any humanitarian action taken by the United Nations or George Clooney.
While it is sensational to reflect on the political and violence of 2011, we need also look at the huge leaps that are happening in other realms. Civilization in its many forms is actually advancing. The smart phone, the iPad and its competitors, flat screen TVs, improved Internet service and the evolution of both the "cloud" and social networking are rushing ahead.
In 2011 most people who have a cellular phone will be carrying one that can send and receive e-mail, surf the web and handle "apps". Not only, are these devices going to be more and more common but their cost of use is certain to decline. Competition for cell phone and wireless devices is in progress and with Canada's prices now the highest in the world we can expect within the next ten months some reasonable competitive reductions.
While electrons moves forward so is medical science with success now in site. A woman in Canada diagnosed with breast cancer has an 82% chance of surviving for five years. Other cancers are being moved from the certain death category to "chances for survival" and this is happening almost on a monthly basis. There is reason in 2011 for hope, reason to expect things to get better for you personally and the members of your family. The results of our universal publicly funded health care system is having a direct affect on life expectancy and quality of life. Though there is little political appetite for health care progress, the Canadian public in surveys, are showing clearly, they appreciate the improvements and want more, not only that they are willing to pay higher taxes to get things like pharmacare, public ambulance service and better emergency care. Instead of predicting the future, you personally can further our move to a better society by telling campaigning politicians, both federal and provincial, that universal expanded health care is another way of making Canada one of the best places in the world to live.
While we are at it, you should consider that Canada's education system has come under the comparative study with other similar countries to us. By the way, the United States does not have the level of health care and quality of life to be included in such studies. We are doing great in education, the public education system in Canada is a success and given support and left alone to foster itself, it can do even better, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Finland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand lead the world in education and you ought be proud of that. If we are to see our country become even more competitive and innovative, we have to expand our public education both upward, into post secondary, and downward to pre-school programmes. Better education, higher earnings, better quality of life and a better society, all are interrelated. All are attainable.
Enjoy what 2011 brings to you and your family, savour the few good days of weather and make the best of the rest.
Happy New Year.