The future driver of geopolitical risk is not that progress won’t occur or challenges won’t be addressed, according to Ian Bremmer, the president and founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. It’s that those will no longer happen in a truly global community.
Speaking as part of the virtual ANZ Finance & Treasury Forum 2021, Bremmer said the three most pressing geopolitical challenges – the ongoing impact of COVID-19, the disruptive impact of new technology, and escalating climate concerns – are increasingly being addressed strictly domestically by some of the biggest nations around the world.
This is a greater risk than any potential cold war between the US and China, he said, given the two nations are so co-dependent economically.
“The principle danger between the United States and China going forward is both countries are going to be faced much more inwards, and as a consequence will be less willing and capable of addressing global challenges,” Bremmer said.
This doesn’t mean these countries (or others) won’t respond to these issues, he said. But as seen in the global responses to COVID-19, they won’t respond together.
“We talk about the fact that if we cannot respond to the pandemic globally, then [it will still be] with us,” Bremmer said. “But the reality of course is countries are focussing on COVID very much domestically.”
Climate looms as an ongoing challenge, Bremmer said, warning the upcoming COP26 meeting would not solve all of the world’s problems.
“Our willingness to respond collectively to what is obviously a global challenge does not yet exist,” he said.
The lack of trust globally, and the lack of aligned leadership between countries like the US and China on climate would continue to weigh on the response, he said.
On tech, Bremmer again pointed to a lack of trust between global superpowers as a future risk.
“Increasingly the interoperability of [systems which connect China and the US] is reducing,” he said, noting China was focussing inwardly with the rules around tech, while the US was looking closely at some of its domestic companies dealing with Chinese counterparts.
Technology had been a major driver of progress globally of the past 50 years, he said, but “geopolitics today is the principle obstacle in preventing the extraordinary new developments in technology from doing precisely that”.
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Despite these challenges, there is optimism for the future, Bremmer said.
“Young people around the world increasingly are very much global in orientation,” he said. “They do not share the domestic, inward focus… of so many of the older leaders of these advanced industrial democracies.”
This bodes well for the world’s future crop of leaders, Bremmer said.
Young people have grown up spending time in the global, “virtual space”, he said, which gives them a global perspective our current leaders lack. This will become apparent over time “as we are starting to feel the implications” of the challenges described above.
“And that will lead to a global future,” Bremmer said. “Yes, later than we like.
“But ultimately… we get to the right place – after trying everything else.”
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