Most companies and commentators in the US and Europe, except at the very top, still greatly underestimate both the form and the scale of challenge that is coming not only from the BRIC economies but from Asia more generally.
To some extent the economic power of Asia is understood - although even here there is still frequent underestimation of the scale of the shift taking place. But the way in which this will progressively spread into other fields is still not adequately grasped. This process is only beginning but it will continue to deepen.
Fortune on 11 July therefore carries a particularly illuminating article on the effect that is beginning in the academic field. Linda Livingstone, dean of Pepperdine’s Graziadio School of Business and Management, notes in an interview the process that is beginning to occur in terms of salaries paid for recruitment of some academic staff:
It used to be that students around the world, seeking a global business education, studied in the U.S. or Europe. Today, they sign up for MBA programs in China or India—or Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Qatar. “Hong Kong and Singapore are putting tremendous effort into their MBA programs,” Livingstone adds, “and hiring business faculty has become very competitive.” One professor she knows got an offer from a business school in Singapore for three times his U.S. salary.'
This concerns an academic area closest to business, MBAs, but sheer weight of money will make its way in the world. In the same way that, due to their dynamism, the Asian economies can outbid the US and Europe for oil they are able to outbid them for academic staff - greatly reinforcing their academic and cultural positions.
This process is only at its beginning and, except in Japan, it will take a whole period to raise the 'stock' of Asian academic excellence, including in this the facilities available for research, to the same level as the US and Europe. But a number of Asian governments are consciously preparing this process. One of the most groundbreaking pieces of research carried out anywhere in the last period was the 'cultural audit' carried out by Shanghai - which London under Ken Livingstone took as a model for its own research in the field.
This audit evidently underlay a systematic plan by Shanghai to raise its academic and cultural investment over a prolonged period - with the short term focus being strengthening its position in creative industries. The conclusion of the audit was that to achieve this Shanghai must undertake large scale investment over a prolonged period. But China has entirely adequate resources for this.
In the cultural and academic fields, compared to the economic, the shift in favour of Asia is only just beginning but is consequences will be deep.