The shift in power from West to East

One news theme I’ve asked our journalists to be alert to this year is the shift in power and emphasis from est to East.

The rise of China’s economic power during 30 years of reform and opening to the world is just one manifestation of this; the knowledge and service powerhouse that India has come in a globalised world is another. At Davos this year I’m moderating a panel on Asian innovation that will surely highlight software advances in Japan, Korea and Thailand as well.

I’m convinced the current global economic crisis must lead to a fundamental reassessment of how power and influence is expressed through the world, from manufacturing and service oriented Asia through the oil-rich Gulf.

This isn’t because of “decoupling” – that notion so prominent in discussion circles a year or so ago that said things like China’s economic boom could make up for any economic weakness in the U.S. That idea has been well and truly discredited as trade and money flows have caused bank after bank, nation after nation and economy after economy to buckle and bend in the current crisis.

No, it’s precisely because of “coupling” that the world will have to rethink radically its governance and regulatory and influence structures.

I see today’s opening session at the World Economic Forum as emblematic of this shift. The two world leaders taking centre stage at Davos today are not from the United States or from the United Kingdom or from France or Germany or Italy or Japan or Canada.

First Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will address the delegates from business, finance and governments (including some 40 heads of state or government) outlining Beijing’s approach to solving the world economic crisis. His tour is being billed by Chinese officials as a “trip of confidence” — the very words signal China’s new importance on the world stage.

Then the conference plenary speech will be given by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who reportedly will call for a change in the world economic order.

Two new messages from two players asserting their position on the world stage – will the delegates at Davos feel the tectonic shifts?

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