Key Themes for the Year to Come: What to Look Out For in 2020


Bullets Sign January 2020 IMAGE


At the beginning of each year the Sign of the Times presents a list of key themes and events for the next 12 months that have the potential to be catalysts or triggers for changes to shape our markets, world and lives.  In previous years these have included India’s growth trajectory, the global fight against terrorism, the growing clash of world views, important geopolitical events and key trends in science and technology.  For each theme the Sign of the Times tried to paint divergent scenarios as to how these themes might play out; while in some cases events have played out as per our forecasts, in others, while the trend line was often sound, events have played out differently. 
This year, as we enter into a new decade, the Sign focuses on what 2020 may bring, on key themes that not only are important for the year ahead but have the potential to shape the world for years to come and potentially a decade more.  Normally one would see the presentation of extreme alternatives as a stylistic technique, however, recent years suggest that the extremes are the actual alternatives.


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Ten years ago, at the turn of the previous decade, the world was just emerging from the Global Financial Crisis and facing an uncertain decade ahead as global fissures started to emerge between major powers, with the nexus of global growth shifting decisively towards Asia and China.  The last decade has seen many megatrends play out including the rise of China and the possibility of a bi-polar world order, increasing national populism leading to rising illiberalism in western democracies, the rise of India as a scaled lower middle-income country and the next potential global power, accentuated threats from climate change and a renewed focus on the shortcomings of capitalism in the West while the East continued to embrace capitalism.

The end of the second decade presents events that are the signs not only of our times but are likely the defining themes not only in 2020, but over the coming decade, and point to much bigger shifts underway.

The global power dynamic will continue to change and shift to Asia with China surpassing the US economically and India’s economy scaling exponentially to US$7-10tn by 2030.  As a result, the changing relationship between the US and China, currently heading towards a ‘Cold War’ type engagement, is likely to be an ongoing theme through the next decade and beyond, as are the relationships these two build as part of their broader geostrategic positioning, particularly with a rising India.

Beyond geopolitics, the world will continue to face a series of other global macro-level challenges that will take a decade or longer to resolve, including climate change, its consequences and the international responses thereto, the structural imbalances created by liberal capitalism and globalisation, technological advances in automation, digitisation and social media and their impact on economies and societies, as well as the large scale global migration patterns that are driving the poor and threatened to seek opportunity and safety.


The last decade has been littered with the seeds of discord, division and distrust within nations and between them; and progress seemed to derail world leaders from striving for unity and providing hope.  The gap between man’s potential and its current position seems to have widened as a result.  At the turn of the coming decade, it is worth stepping back to consider how humankind will address its challenges and opportunities in a way that will result in increased peace, prosperity and freedom for the peoples of the world and a more sustainable planet for all.   Best wishes!



US Presidential Election| US-China Trade War| Indian Economy| Brexit| National Populism| Hong Kong Protests| Conscious Capitalism| Tokyo Summer Olympics| Climate Change| Space Exploration

1. Source: Real Clear Politics, polling averages
2. Source: IMF World Economic Outlook, October 2019
3. The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) indicated on 13th December, 2019 that the US will (i) halt new tariffs which were set to kick-in on c.US$160bn of Chinese imports, (ii) maintain the 25% tariff on c.US$250bn of Chinese imports (iii) reduce the tariff on US$120bn of imports to 7.5%
4. Source: IMF
5. The South Korean Olympic Association filed a motion with the IOC that Japan’s flag should not be used anywhere in the games as it is a symbol of its imperial past
6. Source: Raj Sisodia, Harvard Business Review
7. Environmental, Social and Governance
8. Source: 2014 CPC paper on Hong Kong autonomy
9. Goldman Sachs recently announced that it will provide c.US$750m towards financing, advisory services and investments for initiatives that fight climate change; Earlier this year, Microsoft set itself a target of reducing its own emissions by 75% by 2030
10. “In a world in transition from one order to the next, the world’s major power blocs are jockeying for position and resources, leaving the UK, which has shown that it cannot be trusted to stay aligned to its friends, on the outside to be buffeted by the inevitable storms of disruption”. GPC’s December 2019 Sign of the Times, “Britain’s Problem is not the EU, it is Lost Leadership”
11. Annual economic losses associated with a ‘soft’ Brexit are expected to be EUR 25bn lower than losses associated with a ‘hard’ Brexit; Source: Politico
12. Source: OECD
13. Source: Live Mint
14. Please refer to GPC’s November 2019 Sign of the Times, “India’s Rise: Growth Scenarios”
15. Please refer to GPC’s August 2019 Sign of the Times, “National Populism and the New World Order”