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For many of our readers, 2020 will have gone down as being one of the most eventful years of their life. From the COVID-19 crisis to the culmination of Brexit, natural disasters such as the wildfires in Australia to the killing of George Floyd sparking new momentum for the Black Lives Matter movement, the year contained something uniquely monumental for everyone around the globe. Our writers have picked up on the most important of all these trends and events. Each year is not its own chapter in history: the forces that rocked 2020 will still exist in 2021. We have produced this Special Edition of The St Andrews Economist to help you understand what is in store for the world for 2021 and beyond.
If the first two weeks of this new year are anything to go by, then 2021 will be just as dramatic as 2020. The storming of the Capitol Building in the US set a new precedent in US history. Hannah Pedone explores how this fatal weakening of US democracy will affect its relations with African nations in “American Democratic Backsliding and the Future of U.S.-Africa Relations” (p. 33). Dhruv Shah also demonstrates how the US’ weakening influence is affecting the security of the Middle East in “The (gradual) rise of Asia in the Middle East & the decline of US led security architecture” (p. 30).
Over in the United Kingdom, Ross Alexander Hutton gives a survey of the year to come in “2021: A “Fantastic
Year” for Britain?” (p. 22). Narrowing in on the government’s economic response to the pandemic, Morgan Anthony asks “How Sharp Are the Government’s Fiscal Tools?” (p. 19). Further north, Cameron Fulton talks about Scottish politics and the continuing debates over independence in “Twitters of Independence: Scotland, COVID-19 and IndyRef2” (p. 16). Lastly, in “Black Lives and Books” (p.13) Mira Mansfield gives a review of three excellent books that tackle racism and highlights their importance in understanding and confronting the continued structural racism that sadly still prevails in both the UK and US.
In sharp contrast to much of the West, Asia has overall suppressed COVID-19 exceptionally well. Many
Asian nations now enter 2021 with ease and without as many of the messy lockdowns still plaguing the West. Ming Lee walks through how this will help Asia’s rising dominance and power in “Asia’s Dominance in the 21st Century” (p. 3).
China in particular is notable for its strong (albeit heavy-handed) response to COVID-19, especially given that they initially tacked the pandemic with no knowledge of the virus. Thomas Pigatto illustrates the optimism now felt at the very top of China’s leadership in “Xi Jinping’s New Year Address: All Celebration, No Resolutions” (p. 1). This optimism will be accompanied by attempts by China to expand its influence throughout the rest of Asia, as explained by Hugo Clapshaw in “China In 2021 and Its Relationship With ASEAN” (p. 6). Saskia Giraud-Reeves speaks about in “The Future of Trade in the Asia-Pacific Region: Who Will Dominate – China or the US?” (p. 8) how this will lead to a difficult position for the US and its trade relationships in Asia as it tussles with China’s growing influence. More broadly, Will Thompson discusses the future of the US-China relationship and what it will bring in 2021 in “The USA and China: Containment, Engagement or Détente?” (p. 10). Finally, China’s growing economic development has come hand in hand with its growing technological prowess. Sam Bower explains how it will attempt to use this technology to develop its own digital payments system to gain greater influence in the global financial world, in “Digital Payments Systems: The Key to Chinese Hegemony?” (p. 47).
With much of the world still in the grips of harsh lockdowns, it is easy to forget what got us here. In “The Pandemic Blame Game: What Really Caused Covid-19?” (p. 51) Hannah Comiskey examines the man-made environmental factors that helped bring about COVID-19, and presents the important point that the current responses to the virus will do nothing to help prevent another equally damaging, if not worse, pandemic in future. These same environmental factors mean that climate change remains as pressing an issue as ever. 2020 began with humongous wildfires in Australia. 2021 will likely have its own natural disasters or extreme weather, boosted by the rising global temperature. In “COP26: Runaway Climate Change – Can it be stopped?” (p. 42), Alasdair Richmond discusses the upcoming COP26 conference in Glasgow this November, and the prospects for a new international agreement on climate change. Taking a more long-term view of the history to come, Ryan Morrice then forecasts in “Climate Change: Is there hope?” (p. 44) the potential for a more positive outcome to climate change than what many today predict.
Meanwhile, by analysing the demographic trends accelerated by COVID-19, Peter Hourston considers
the economic ramifications of these developments in “The Beginning of the End? Demographic challenges in the wake of COVID-19” (p. 26). Coming back to the near future, there is plenty to be optimistic about. The race to vaccinate populations against COVID-19 means that the end of our universal fight against the health and economic battles posed by the virus and national lockdowns it has prompted is is now in sight. In “The Future of the Arts in 2021” (p. 36) Charlie Flynn explains how theatre, film, and music have been affected by the pandemic and their prospects for the post-covid world. And the sky’s the limit—unless you are an (inter)national space agency or rocket-producing corporation. In 2021, they’re all trying to race to Mars, as Lyle Horn showcases the grand competition in “The Race to the Red Planet” (p. 40).
If 2020 is anything to go by, 2021 will certainly have a lot in store. As economies grapple with the realities
of rebuilding themselves following the COVID-19 pandemic, governments, businesses and individuals
face a world very different to the one we left at the end of the 2010s. Uncertainty is inevitable. No one
could have predicted the scale to which the political and economic events of 2020 played out, nor the
huge social and cultural shifts they prompted. At the St Andrews Economist, we will, however, strive to
continue offering clarity and insight on the unfolding trends, policies and events that will take place, as
we welcome in the new year.
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