A leadership transition is scheduled in two major autocracies in 2012. Neither is likely to be a surprise. Xi Jinping is set to replace Hu Jintao as President in China, and, in Russia, Vladimir Putin has announced that he will reclaim the presidency from Dmitri Medvedev. Among the world’s democracies, political outcomes this year are less predictable. Nicolas Sarkozy faces a difficult presidential re-election campaign in France, as does Barack Obama in the United States.
Last year, the leaders of all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council visited India, accompanied by delegations of business leaders. The Indian economy has been growing at more than 8% annually, making it increasingly attractive for trade and investment. When US President Barack Obama visited in November, he supported permanent membership of the UN Security Council for India. So did British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. But the last to visit, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, said nothing at all about it.
The United States government’s National Intelligence Council projects that American dominance will be “much diminished” by 2025, and that the one key area of continued American superiority–-military power–-will be less significant in the increasingly competitive world of the future. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has called the 2008 financial crisis a sign that America’s global leadership is coming to an end. The leader of Canada’s opposition Liberal Party, Michael Ignatieff, suggests that US power has passed its mid-day. How can we know if these predictions are correct?