According to leading economists Goldman Sachs, it’s Asia that will be making the news in 2020.
By then the US will still have the world’s largest economy, but China will be snapping at its heels, having leapt past Japan. India will have passed France and be in place to pass the UK as the fifth largest economy, and Russia will have outperformed Italy.
The report also states that this will be the millennium of the middle classes. In Asia there will be around two billion more middle-class people by 2025, with the same lifestyle, education and ambitions as those who drove Europe and America to unprecedented growth in the 19th century.
It’s an extraordinary thought. By 2020 Goldman believes that 70% of Chinese will fit the middle-class model, and that India will sprint from its present 5% to include the majority of its citizens by 2040.
For those of us in higher education there is a huge opportunity as the growing international middle class seek degrees in the UK, but there will also be increasing competition as their own countries’ systems develop and improve.
It mirrors the need for “the West” to constantly innovate to stay ahead of the global economic cycle.
For the UK the ascendance of Asia is likely to dilute its power to influence policy and thought unless it operates and thinks in a new and different way.
My own long association with Asia, in particular China, means that Goldman’s forecast comes as little surprise. The drive, co-ordinated approach and self-belief of China is remarkable.
It is poised for 21st Century power, alongside India’s teeming cities. By 2050, the top five countries will be China, the US, India, Japan and Germany. The Philippines will have leapfrogged 27 places to become the world’s 16th largest economy, and Peru, at 26th place, will be three places ahead of Switzerland, according to HSBC research. The UK will still be in sixth position, having dropped out of the top five by 2020.
HSBC believes the chief factors that determine long-term economic trends are democratic governments, strong rule of law and education opportunities.
The way in which UK universities are positively responding to the rapidly changing international market means that they will help to strengthen Britain’s voice and influence in decades to come - alongside far-sighted, fleet of foot businesses that have adapted and innovated to succeed.
Professor Bernie Callaghan is dean of the faculty of business and law at the University of Sunderland