The 21st century was a time of economic, social, political and technological transformation unprecedented even by the upheavals of the 20th century. Terran society became shaped by free-market competition more powerfully than ever before, and the dominant economic entities became truly globalised. The territorial nation-state became increasingly irrelevant as this process reached its climax. With businesses organised as truly transnational corporations, the outcomes of attempts by national governments to control their economies became not just unpredictable (as, in fact, they had largely been since the economic crises of the 1970s), but often counterproductive. National governments found themselves sidelined as the important decisions passed into the hands of the transnational corporations, the international currency markets, global financial institutions, supranational authorities and the globalised media.
In the most developed parts of the world, many citizens wanted to retain the social benefits of nationhood. The rise of transnational megacorporations drove the growth of the EF and the AAS. Only supranational blocs with effectively global reach could counterbalance the power of the corporations and retain a democratic control over society.
The weakening of the old nation-states led to many fracturing along ethnic-linguistic faultlines. This development, of course, resulted in the proliferation of statelets that proved to be even weaker in the face of the globalised economy than the nations of which they had been part. Many of these new mini-nations soon found themselves entirely dominated by a small number of the rising megacorporations. Regions with little economic importance often fell into anarchy, as multiple ethnic and religious groups struggled for territory and political control. If guerilla warfare became endemic, total disengagement from the transnational economy inevitably followed. Often the slide into total collapse and famine was only halted by the intervention of the UN/EF or UN/AAS peacekeeping troops.
The supranationalism of Eurasia and the Americas was paralleled in other parts of the world. On the Asian Pacific Rim the newly democratic China, Japan, the Indochinese nations, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and various smaller island nations formed the Pacific Economic Community, with a similar organisation to the EC of the 20th century. On a smaller scale, several west African nations formed the West African Free Trade Area, although the majority of sub-Saharan Africa never really gained the stable political institutions required to be properly governed.
The rise of the transnationals was widely viewed by Africans as neo-colonialism. Despite these sentiments, most of Africa (outside the Azania-dominated regions in the south) never really had the option to oppose the transnats. Much of that troubled continent was soon converted into Intercorporate Development Zones centred around major cities, oilfields and mining operations. Beyond the reach of the corporate security troops, the rule of law ceased to exist.
The nations of the Pacific Economic Community actively cooperated in their takeovers by the big Japanese and Chinese corporations. The Indian government had been hugely weakened by the nuclear exchanges on the sub-continent, and simply faded away as transnationals ignored its edicts and protestations about workers' rights, pollution and planning. Even in North America the balance between corporate interests and the federal government tilted strongly in favour of the corporations.
By mid-century the corporations exercised almost total control over all those remaining nations that provided valuable services to the global economy. A striking example is the case of Indonesia, which, even before the Nan Hai War, had been entirely dominated by Soyuz-Mikoyan. A symbolic moment in this relationship, and in the remaking of the global order, occurred on 9 May 2082, when the corporation purchased the entire assets of the Indonesian national government. At midnight on that day, the Indonesian Republic ceased to exist and the People's Corporate Republic of Indonesia (a wholly owned subsidiary of Soyuz-Mikoyan) was born: the first truly post-national regime on Earth.
Many multinational corporations merged to form bodies comparable in power to the second rank of nations. As a consequence of this shift in power many people began to be more loyal to their transnat than their nation. This was very much a continuation of the trend away from nationalism in the developed areas of the world and a growth of disgust in the sheer incompetence of governments in other regions.
At the century's end the AAS was well into its long, slow decline, and the world was dominated by the transnationals and the Eurasian Federation.
The future of Ad Astra