At OZY, we’re all about looking ahead, so, unsurprisingly, I’m already thinking about what 2014 may bring. As I do so, a few things in particular have caught my attention. I think it’s worth keeping an eye on them in the coming months.
1. Xi Jinping
We all know China has a lot of money and the power to do big things, but very few people know what its new leader is really going to do. 2013 saw him dipping his toes in, but 2014 is going to tell us a lot more about what the leader of the most populous country in the world has planned. The 60-year-old former engineer might be shaking up education or investing in South America or Africa – (Chinese investment on the latter continent is climbing 20 percent every year) – until those continents have their own Singapore or Dubai. One question looms large for us: will he keep buying American debt? 2014 is the year to keep your eye trained on the man married to China’s rock star sweetheart.
Clearly one of the most interesting companies in the world today: Tesla is trying to do to the car industry what Apple did to gadgets, what HBO did to television, and what OZY wants to do to the news and media. The company, which just had its first profitable quarter and finished 2013 with its stock up 360% in a year, is trying to meld substance and design while they expand aggressively beyond their initial markets – and all while the American economy is on an upswing. It’s a good time for them.
3. Mountain View, California
OZY’s home base of Mountain View, CA has, in fact, turned out to be the new center of Silicon Valley. Once upon a time, that center was firmly located in Palo Alto; later, Cupertino. But now, in this sunny little city of 75,000 people, the collective market value of the resident companies adds up to nearly half a trillion dollars. Sure, there might be cooler companies, like Twitter, Square, Dropbox, or even Clever, but in 2014, I’ll still be marveling at the money machines that are Google, Symantec, and especially LinkedIn. Call them what you will, but I’d say this $25 billion company with their signature blue-and-white, no-flash design has some country-strong shoulders.
4. Tim Scott & John Thune
There are plenty of more famous politicians out there — Ted Cruz, Cory Booker, Harry Reid – but these two young Republican senators just may end up being the ones to watch in 2014. Scott, the only black Republican Senator, was elected, of all places, in South Carolina. John Thune, the handsome South Dakota senator and once a talked-about presidential candidate, faded into oblivion a little bit when he didn’t run in 2012. But stay tuned, because as 2016 comes into focus this former college basketball player just may come in from the cold and onto the front stage in D.C.
5. Boom economy
As the stock market – up 30% in 2013 – and now increasingly the housing and job markets are revealing, the US and, indeed, the global economy seems to be humming again. But what will that mean for working and middle income families here and abroad? Will there be another big run in stock investing or will people pull back? And how much of a move towards good paying jobs will there be versus perhaps “more reliable” self-employment? And finally, will the global pecking order remain in place, or as our Pooja Bhatia pointed out recently, will some former colonies leapfrog their one time colonials? Lots of questions, and lots of possibilities.
6. What’s next for Japan
Japan made news in 2013, mostly for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economics policy. But we’re still waiting to see just how loudly the world’s third-largest economy’s engine can roar. Which makes them the ones to watch in 2014. Will their economy keep booming – getting back to the levels it was famed for in the 1980s (or, for history buffs, what they’ve been great at since the 1800s)? Are they really about to take the lead in promoting clean energy? Given the recent diplomatic scuffle with China, are they about to get muscular and military again? As Tupac once said, “all eyes on me.”
7. The Idris Elba train
We’re on board. We didn’t even know we were waiting for Denzel’s successor but it turns out we’ve got him. Despite great performances in Flight and American Gangster, Denzel (and his cohort of fellow stars – Robert Deniro, Sean Connery, even Tom Hanks) have been slowing down of late. And just in time, enter Elba. If you loved him in The Wire, if you bowed down when you saw the Mandela bio-pic, or even if you know nothing about him yet, you will soon – get ready. Here comes the former homeless actor and amateur British boxer, possibly the world’s new megastar. And, we’re calling it: he might be the first black 007.
8. The New Africa
While the stories this past year of the bombing in Kenya, the troubles in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Congo are all very real, quietly there seems to be good news emerging from Africa. (Thanks in no small part to the roughly $25 billion over 2,000 Chinese companies invested in the continent in 2013.) We might finally be on the verge of seeing a couple of sustainable success stories on the continent: Senegal, Gabon, Angola – Botswana, anyone? And just think: what could happen if Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, ever got straightened out?
9. Energy shift
Mexico just opened up its energy markets to private investment; the U.S. is going big on fracking (for better or for worse); and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe is making nuclear energy a priority. It’s enough to make me believe that there really is a concerted energy shift coming – and that it could be enough to shift Middle East-related geopolitics, too.
Like most people, I honestly had no idea what Bitcoin was the first time I heard someone mention it, and maybe not even the tenth time. But now I know that this deeply democratic currency, which is currently valued around $760/BTC, is giving us wildly different ways to buy and sell things, and that the idea of a currency that could one day not be controlled by countries, or at least in which countries don’t have meaningful control – now that’s a disruptive idea.
Why you should care
Because we think 2014 has something delicious in store for all of us, and we’re hungry to know what it is.