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Can the World Order Catch Up with The World?

The international order has lagged dangerously behind shifting global power dynamics. If leaders do not start addressing the contradictions soon, the most likely result is crisis – or even conflict – and even more dangerous contradictions.

SINGAPORE – The world turned a corner in 2019. The problem is that the world order didn’t turn with it. This disconnect could have disastrous consequences.

The biggest global change has been the start of the “Asian century.” Today, Asia is home to three of the world’s top four economic powers (in purchasing power parity terms): China, India, and Japan. The region’s combined GDP exceeds that of the United States and of the European Union.

The US is no longer even the most globalized power; that title now goes to China. Already a larger trading partner to more countries than the US, China is signing on to more free-trade agreements as well, including potentially the largest in history, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The US, by contrast, is abandoning FTAs such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has kept alive without the Americans. The US share of global trade continues to shrink.