From "the rise of the rest" to the resource wars, pontificating on the big trends that will shape the future of global politics and economics has become a big business. But history can be awfully unkind to pundits wielding crystal balls: Anything from a once-in-a-century flood to the suicide of a Tunisian fruit-seller can overturn decades' worth of conventional wisdom. As the following examples show, today's Next Big Thing can quickly become tomorrow's Trend That Never Was.
THE JAPANESE SUPERPOWER
China-obsessives beware: This isn't the first time America has felt threatened by a rising power to the east. In the 1980s and early 1990s, as Japan's industrial production surged by more than 50 percent, a cottage industry predicting Japan's economic dominance -- kicked off by Ezra F. Vogel's 1979 bestseller, Japan as Number One -- was born. American executives flocked to seminars on Japanese business practices while real-life events like Japan's purchase of Rockefeller Center in 1989 and fictional scenarios like Michael Crichton's 1992 novel Rising Sun elevated the Japanese to national boogeymen.
Of course, just as the Japan hype reached its peak, the country was entering its "lost decade" of economic stagnation. Although still one of the world's richest countries, Japan was overtaken as the second-largest economy by China in 2010.
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