This essay was originally published in the Toronto Globe & Mail.
How should countries navigate the twin challenges of our time – globalization and the technology revolution? If that seems to be an abstract question, consider the people of Cyprus whose futures have been devastated by their country’s failure to surf those international waves, or the threat posed by North Korea and its refusal to participate in these two transformations.
Most of the conversation about how geopolitics is changing in the 21st century focuses on the shift from west to east, and on how we’re moving from the bipolar power equation of the Cold War to a new bipolar relationship, that of the U.S. and China, that determines the mood music for everyone else.
That’s true. But what if you aren’t in Beijing or Washington? How has the world changed for the middle powers, and what should we do about it?
The biggest shift is that business has gone global. Companies and capital operate internationally, often beyond the economic reach of any particular nation-state. People are pretty global, too, living lives that freely cross national borders.
But while the world is becoming borderless, it isn’t becoming flat. It’s spiky, and the economic forces of our age are making the peaks higher. We live in a winner-take-all economy, and the winning people, companies and ideas are increasingly concentrated in a handful of global cities – in fact, in a handful of global neighborhoods and sometimes, in the case of the plutocratic palaces at 157 West 57th St. in Manhattan or One Hyde Park in Knightsbridge, in a handful of buildings.