The 'Grexits' of 2013

The four geopolitical buzzwords that could be just around the corner.

This year brought fears of a "Grexit," a "fiscal cliff," and, yes, the "G-Zero," my own term for the U.S.-China nexus. What are the catchphrases that will tell the story of geopolitics next year?

ChiMils: You've heard of ChiComs? That's the shorthand that U.S. government types use to describe China's Communist leaders. But 2013 will remind us that China's government is not the monolith many imagine -- and that the country's military sometimes runs its own games. The ChiMils, China's military elite, have long been among the country's most influential interest groups. But as the fifth generation of Communist leaders embarks on a complex and ambitious economic reform project, we're likely to see the ChiMils stir up more trouble, to increase their budgets and assert a bit of autonomy.

Safe-haven curse: Downgrades be damned, the world keeps buying U.S. Treasurys because America, for all its faults, remains the safest port in a global economic storm. That's good news -- for now. But with no Europe-scale crisis to force U.S. policymakers to cut the deals needed to rebalance the country's books, Americans may soon forget the first lesson of the recent subprime-mortgage debacle: The fact that they'll lend you the money doesn't mean you should borrow and spend it. Unwillingness by the two political parties to make the deal needed to get the U.S. fiscal house in order would prove a curse -- for Americans and for those who hold the IOUs.

Sun-rise: Will 2013 bring a resurgence of Japanese nationalism? The return of former Liberal Democratic Party Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as party president and the rise to prominence of Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, a populist provocateur, have already shaken up Japan's politics, raising eyebrows around the region. Abe, in particular, has built popular support on calls for a new national assertiveness in relations with Japan's neighbors. In a region with so much fist-shaking and no reliable referees, that won't be welcome news.

No Grexit: In 2013, the Greeks, the Germans, and the all-important bailout troika (the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the IMF), intent on bolstering their respective bargaining positions over the terms of yet more financial help for Greece, will all pretend that a Grexit is an acceptable outcome. But Greeks need Europe to help them avoid a true economic plunge, and the rest of Europe can't risk the destabilizing impact of a Greek exit until other peripheral countries, particularly Spain and Italy, have moved a bit farther back from the precipice. That's why, in the end, all sides will agree to do the minimum needed to extend Greece's life in the eurozone.

Flickr/Colonel Flick


The Wisdom of the Smart Crowd

We asked the 2012 Global Thinkers to weigh in on the big questions of the year. Here’s what they had to say…

Dear American president, in the next four years please...

Improve relations between the Democrats and Republicans so the U.S. government can work, and please engage more and better with allies and enemies abroad. -Farahnaz Ispahani • Propose a grand bargain on reforming politics, which will reduce gridlock, the role of money, and the power of hyper-partisans. -Jonathan Haidt • Use your resourcefulness and toughness to force the Republican Party back to sanity and problem-solving. -Thomas Mann • Make decisions. -Sebastian Thrun •

Fix the economy. -Melinda Gates • Build a new American economy. -Anne-Marie Slaughter • Create the conditions for sustained economic growth. -Eliot Cohen • Copy Bill Clinton's economics. -Abraham Karem • Improve infrastructure. -John Coates • Focus on infrastructure renewal. -Robert D. Kaplan • Rebuild the social safety net and address increasing inequality. -danah boyd • Fix our education system. -Daphne Koller • Implement the health care program. -Martha Nussbaum • Enforce universal healthcare. -Slavoj Zizek • Deal with entitlements and taxes. -Robert Kagan • Fundamentally reform entitlements. -Charles Murray • Cut entitlements. -Luigi Zingales • Raise taxes on rich people. -James Robinson • Fix the disastrous campaign finance system. -Norman Ornstein • Cut the deficit and the corporate tax ratio. -Ruchir Sharma • Get rid of secret laws. -Roger Dingledine • Bring back Battlestar Galactica. Failing that, please use novel Internet strategies to catalyze the public's enormous latent goodwill and desire to help out on a range of problems. -Jonathan Zittrain • Embrace open data and participatory innovation. -Beth Noveck • Respect America's constitutional guarantees, and trust the public to use them wisely. -Nick Mathewson • Change the American software/design patent system. It is wrong, and it is really bad for innovation in the U.S. -Eugene Kaspersky • Respect civil rights and consider serious tax reform. -Daron Acemoglu • Reform immigration and invest in preparing the workforce for the amazing advances that are happening in technology. -Vivek Wadhwa • Fight addiction and drug abuse. -Adela Navarro Bello • Wind down the drone war. Jameel Jaffer •

Release illegal detainees and shut down Guantanamo Bay and all other illegal detention centers, discontinue the practice of illegally sending drones into other nations, change the international trade agreements that enable American companies to profit at the cost of other people. - Sana Saleem • Be a global leader. -Kiyoshi Kurokawa • Exercise global leadership and do not let the world continue to drift. -Husain Haqqani • Address global warming. -Emmanuel Saez • Recognize the extraordinary transformational potential in the shale gas and oil revolution of the United States and formulate policies to accelerate a lower carbon, higher employment, bigger industrial expansion for America. -Ed Morse • Help us start tackling climate change smartly and effectively. -Bjorn Lomborg • Do everything to make your country an example for the world of a responsible environmental activist, a nature-loving society. -Yevgenia Chirikova • Adopt a more objective and less politicized energy policy. -Richard A. Muller • Make science-based decisions. -Andrew Ng • Provide leadership for the western alliance. -Hew Strachan • Look at Europe as your best ally and the most trusted friend. -Radek Sikorski • Support Arab democracy. -Moncef Marzouki • Let us work for democracy in the Middle East. -Mohammed al Qahtani • Emphasize human rights in authoritarian countries and economic stability of the world. -Yu Jianrong • Think about developing countries. -Shai Reshef • Give more attention to ethics in American foreign policy. -Rima Dali • Promote peace and freedom. -Nabeel Rajab • Don't start any wars. -Li Kai Fu, Scott Sumner • Stop your policies of double standards toward human rights violations. -Maryam al-Khawaja • Stand firm for humanity and human rights. -Ai Weiwei • Be courageous. -Tariq Ramadan • Be less U.S.-centric. -Thomas Piketty


China is...

Our friend and needs help. -Sebastian Thrun • An economic power that does not share liberal values.-Farahnaz Ispahani • A problem that can be managed. -Robert Kagan • Still too caught by its own past to maximize its potential. -Hew Strachan • The key country for the future of the world. -Slavoj Zizek • An economic power in need of democracy and openness. -Husain Haqqani • A demonstration of the power of capitalism to create wealth quickly, but rapid change is likely to bring many problems. -Jonathan Haidt • The wrong political model for developing countries. -Daron Acemoglu • Putting far more resources into Internet censorship than any other country. -Roger Dingledine •

Much less likely to overtake the United States as a superpower than many people think.. -Eliot Cohen • Taking its place at the table. -John Coates • The leader of the world by 2022. -Rima Dali • Needed for global diplomacy. -Danah Boyd • The biggest workshop in the world, where it is time for people to realize that there are bigger values than money, for instance their children's health. -Yevgenia Chirikova • An unclear, unstable, and uncertain society. -Ai Weiwei • Going to get old before it gets rich. -Charles Murray • Crucial to global prosperity and security in the 21st century. -Radek Sikorski • Neither our partner nor our adversary, and she will severely test our resolve and patience for years to come. -Thomas Mann • The most exciting yet the most dangerous country in the world. The Chinese evaluation of the United States is the same. Our countries need to work together rather than compete. -Richard A. Muller • Going through a transformation that has the power to bring millions of people in China and across the globe out of poverty. -Melinda Gates • A powerful unknown entity. It can be dangerous like all dictatorships. Their "Peaceful climb" is our hope, but we should not trust it. Turnaround of Western economy is the best defense. -Abraham Karem • A disaster for human rights. -Maryam al Khawaja • At once a potential threat and a potential resource and ally. -Moncef Marzouki • Likely to undergo a massive economic and political crisis before the end of this decade. -Ed Morse • Big, complicated, and getting bigger and more complicated. -Andrew Ng • Going to continue to take an increasingly central role on the world stage. -Daphne Koller • A fascinating experiment in change management, at a massive scale. -Nadim Matta • Different from what you think. -Li Kai Fu • Going to be a much more serious global power after they get their act together, drop the media control, and democratize. -Nick Mathewson • Headed for more instability. -Robert D. Kaplan • Great for having lifted 620 million people out of poverty. Now they need more political freedom. -Bjorn Lomborg A great opportunity. -Luigi Zingales • At its economic peak and will economically go the way of Japan.. -Vivek Wadhwa • Likely to move toward democracy and nomocracy. -Yu Jianrong • About to undergo an enormous demographic shift. -Anne-Marie Slaughter •The anti-eurozone; a booming economy with two (or three?) currencies.. -Scott Sumner • A fixation. -James Robinson • An economic miracle here to stay. -Emmanuel Saez • Becoming a more normal country that cannot keep defying the laws of economic gravity. -Ruchir Sharma •

Not a democracy and is very unlikely to become one. -Martha Nussbaum • In need of being understood better. -Shai Reshef • A rising economic giant that will soon hit a ceiling due to lack of democracy. -Mohammed al Qahtani • Going to have very rocky times ahead, economically and politically. -Norman Ornstein • A fast emerging economic and political giant. -Nabeel Rajab • Censored. -Sana Saleem • A frightening mirror. -Tariq Ramadan • The best source of new, highly talented students for expanding the U.S. education system.. -Beth Noveck • Bigger than markets. -Thomas Piketty 

The best muse for these times is...

Aung San Suu Kyi. -Farahnaz Ispahani • Gandhi. -Husain Haqqani, Yevgenia Chirikova • Adam Smith -- for his theory of moral sentiments and his balanced view of the moral effects of capitalism. -Jonathan Haidt • John Maynard Keynes. -Thomas Mann • Clio (muse of history, we should still learn from the past). -Radek Sikorski • Clio. But if I may explore the rest of the pantheon, I would urge reverence for Minerva, and a deep, if wary respect for Nemesis. She's the one who will get you in the end. -Eliot Cohen • Urania. -Sebastian Thrun • Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, because we need poetry to understand our lives. -Martha Nussbaum • Aristotle, or anyone else who applies science to policy. -John Coates • Dostoevsky. -Hew Strachan •

Michel Foucault. -Danah Boyd • Condorcet. -Thomas Piketty • Friedrich Hayek. -Ruchir Sharma • The bloggers fighting oppression in their countries.. -Roger Dingledine • Revolutions. -Rima Dali • The people who demand change regardless of the consequences. -Maryam al Khawaja • Women who are changing the world by refusing to accept historical boundaries. -Melinda Gates • The empowered youth around the world. -Nadim Matta • People of courage fighting against odds to reclaim their dignity. -Sana Saleem • The Arab popular will. -Tariq Ramadan • Political turmoil. -Slavoj Zizek • Europe after World War II, where the first wave of democracy took place. -Mohammed al Qahtani • Objectivity. This goddess was not counted as one of the original Greek nine muses, but she is the source of the physical and economic well-being that enables the inspiration of the other muses.. -Richard A. Muller • Democracy and nomocracy. -Yu Jianrong • Freedom. -Adela Navarro Bello • The Internet. -Andrew Ng • Silicon Valley. -Vivek Wadhwa • The use of social media to spread awareness. -Nabeel Rajab • The Huffington Post. -Shai Reshef • All of us, if only institutions knew better how to let themselves be inspired. -Beth Noveck • Loud music on the iPhone. -Daron Acemoglu • Neil Young. -Norman Ornstein • Radiohead. -James Robinson • Abraham Lincoln. -Daphne Koller • Bill Gates. -Li Kai fu • Tyler Cowen. -Scott Sumner • Leslie Gelb. -Ed Morse • Andrew Sullivan among the living. Otherwise, perhaps Jacob Riis and Upton Sinclair, who harnessed the newest forms of technology to broach the inequalities of their time. -Jonathan Zittrain. • My wife, and David Byrne. -Robert Kagan • My two grand-daughters. -Moncef Marzouki • Amartya Sen, author of development as freedom. -Anne-Marie Slaughter • Orwell, on a bad day. Maybe Niebuhr on a good one. -Nick Mathewson • Uncertainty. -Robert D. Kaplan • Rationality, as always. -Bjorn Lomborg • Times don't have muses. People do. -Charles Murray • There is no muse at the present time, and this is the great problem of the modern world. -Eugene Kaspersky • Zbigniew Herbert. -Jameel Jaffer

The year that most resembles 2012 is...

What I imagine 1790 might have been like in Europe. The French revolution had started the year before. -Nadim Matta • 1848, best summed up: ‘Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom'. -Sana Saleem • 1896, the end of the Gilded Age. -Daron Acemoglu •

1912... (I hope not). -Thomas Piketty • 1914. -Rima Dali; Husain Haqqani ("With new ideologies and hyper-nationalism in the greater Middle East seeking to change the world order.") • I realize it is 1917 but I hate to admit it.  Here in my home town Khimki, where I run for mayoral elections today, thousands fell victim to Stalin's regime that followed the October revolution. -Yevgenia Chirikova • Germany in 1920 (heading toward 1922-23). -Charles Murray • 1922, when either democracy or totalitarianism could still prevail in the world. -Beth Noveck • 1929. -Hew Strachan • 1932. -Luigi Zingales • 1935. -Andrew Ng, Danah Boyd • 1936. -Ed Morse, John Coates, Thomas Mann • 1938. -Ai Weiwei • 1940. -Kiyoshi Kurokawa • 1945. -Li Kai Fu • 1969, the year after the events. -Slavoj Zizek • 1973/4. The American and Soviet moon programs are discontinued. Oil crisis. The world is more or less stable, but no predictable future, no clear vector. Peaceful but fragile coexistence of world powers. -Eugene Kaspersky • 1974. -James Robinson • America after Watergate. Self-doubting, divided and weak. -Farahnaz Ispahani • 1975. -Robert Kagan • 1978-Jonathan Haidt ("For the USA."), Mohammed al Qahtani ("Just a year prior to the Iranian revolution.") • 1984, when the incumbent was re-elected and the hard choices of his first term started to pay off in both domestic and foreign policy. -Anne-Marie Slaughter • 1988. -Yu Jianrong • 1989 (the year ended some communist regimes in Eastern Europe). -Nabeel Rajab • Hopefully 1990. -Abraham Karem • 1990 or 1991. Now some Arab countries, like Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of communism in 1989, need to find their way to democracy and prosperity. -Radek Sikorski • 1995. -Jonathan Zittrain ("Before the technology boom."), Melinda Gates ("When the world came together at the Beijing Conference on women to declare the importance of empowering women as a way to strengthen families and societies.") •  1998. -Ruchir Sharma, Tariq Ramadan • 2000. -Shai Reshef • 2004. -Norman Ornstein • 2008. -Adela Navarro Bello •

2011. -Daphne Koller, Roger Dingledine, Scott Sumner, Eliot Cohen ("Except where it is completely different."), Nick Mathewson ("Or possibly 2013"), Richard A. Muller ("Despite our pessimism and breast-beating, we are living in the best era experienced by Homo sapiens. As we strive to make the world better, let's rejoice in the past success we have had") • 2012. -Moncef Marzouki, Bjorn Lomborg ("Human progress continues.") • 2013. -Sebastian Thrun • Each year is unique. -RobertD.  Kaplan • No previous year. -Martha Nussbaum • None. -Maryam al Khawaja • Not yet complete. -Jameel Jaffer