For many news agencies the key event on Sunday was the fact that Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death. While this marks an important change that is taking place in the Middle East (only time will tell whether benefits outweigh the costs of lost lives). However I think that this weekend we witnessed an event, that marks even bigger change. The landmark Beijing Summit opened on Saturday morning and finished on Sunday. President Hu, 41 heads of state or government and senior officials of 48 African countries that have diplomatic ties with China, as well as representatives from regional and international organizations attended the landmark gathering, as stated by People’s Daily article. Financial Times article says that Hu Jintao, China’s president, pledged that Beijing would extend $5bn in soft loans and credits to African nations and double aid overall by 2009. Chinese companies have also signed agreements with 11 African nations for investments worth $1.9bn in areas such as telecoms and technological equipment, infrastructure, raw materials, banking and insurance. This gathering was about the future, while in Europe we still debating the gosts from the past. Why?

  • in 2050 Europe’s headcount will have fallen by 70m, or 10%
  • In 2050 Asia headcount will have risen by 1.3bn, in Africa by 1 bn.
  • Asia has a clear strategy (see Singapore intelligent nation), many Asian countries have country intellectual capital development plans
  • China understands that future growth is about ability to generate innovation, take a look at the recent WIPO report showing that Chinese advance rapidly and topped Germany last year.
  • While in Europe we still live, talk and walk according to Washington consesus, China defied this consensus (or what Dani Rodrik called a Washington confusion) and moves fast forward bulidng rapidly relationship capital with African states. At the same time Europe (or France as a best example) in not capable to help migrants to achieve success in Europe and then turn millions of African imigrants into facilitators of Europe-Africa trade links.

Remember Great Brittan when it was justified to use the word “great”, when it issued global reserve currency in XIX century. Now London is leading financial center and that’s about it. Expect the same to happen to Europe in no time. Capitals used to make big global decisions in XX century will cease to have influence in XXI century. Unless we wake up and notice that writing nice reports about what should be done is not enough and we begin to do things. It is time to learn sometning from Beijing.

And for those who doubt that big change is coming I advice to take a look at recent New York Times article . It says “… China’s rise is not cliché but momentous – even larger and quicker than that of the United States in the late 19th century…”.