The Governor General's Canadian Leadership Conference

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Kishore Mahbubani
Kishore Mahbubani
Dean, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
National University of Singapore
Kishore Mahbubani  

Excerpts from speech delivered to the Conference:

What are the challenges now? I describe them as the three Gs. The first G is geopolitics. As you know the biggest challenge throughout human history, whenever you have major shifts of power, you have rising geopolitical tensions. And if you have the world's greatest power, and the world's greatest emerging power, the two shall be locked in rivalry. Today the world's greatest power is the United States of America. The world's greatest emerging power is China. What you should be seeing now is incredible rising tension with the U.S. and China. But do you see it happening? No. So some kind of geopolitical miracle is actually working... Both sides, amazingly, have reached the conclusion that while there will be competition and rivalry within U.S. and China, they're going to keep that rivalry within bounds, and not let it get out of hand....

Now the second G is good governance. As societies grow economically, they have to adapt and change their forms of governance. And China's number one challenge is very easy to understand. Right now it is run by the Communist Party. At the same time, it's creating the world's largest middle class. It's got to transform itself and adapt. And that will not be easy for China to do. India also is going through governance problems. You see that the Indian economy is slowing down quite a bit because of a weak central government and so on. So both China and India will have governance challenges....

The last G is global governance. And, clearly, this is something that we all have a common stake in finding an answer to. In terms of the history of humanity, the last 50 to 60 years have been among the most prosperous and most peaceful. I don't know how many of you read a book by Steven Pinker. He talks about how war has been reduced dramatically and, since human statistics have been kept, the number of people dying in wars is the lowest it has ever been. And that positive trend is the result of institutions or global governance, including the United Nations and other systems. Now all these uses of global governance were a gift from the West to the rest of the world. The United States and Europe created the United Nations, IMF, World Bank and maintain all of them because they assume if you maintain these institutes of global governance, the West would benefit. But today, if you are talking about The World Trade Organization, they've had successful trading round after trading round – but the current trading round is dead. The reason why it is dead is because the populations in Europe and America no longer believe that, with trade liberalization, jobs will go to Europeans and Americans. They believe that if you have trade liberalization, jobs will go to the Chinese and Indians. So why support the WTO? So that's why the institutions of global governance are going to suffer from a lack of leadership and that's another major challenge that the world will also face.

So there will be challenges ahead. But, at the end of the day, I want to emphasize that, for someone like me, who's lived over the last 60 years, I've never been as optimistic about the future as I am today. I believe that, at the end of the day, we're going to create a much, much better world in the next 10 to 20 years.

And so, just to emphasize my point about the scale and pace of change in the world, let me end with one statistic, which I think will show you how much the world will change in the years to

come. Today the number of people living in middle class standards in Asia is roughly about 500 million. Not too bad a figure. But by 2020, eight years from now, the figure is going to grow from 500 million to 1.75 billion. The world has never ever seen such an explosion of improved living standards as we are going to see in the next 10 to 20 years. So, trust me, good times are coming.

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