IAN BREMMER's 10 Biggest 2020 risks

Ian Bremmer, founder of the Eurasia Group and producer of G-Zero World has a pretty interesting list:


No zero COVID. China, the primary engine for global growth, will face highly transmissible COVID-19 variants without the most effective vaccines and with far fewer people protected by previous infection. China’s policy will fail to contain infections, lead to larger outbreaks, and require more severe lockdowns. That means greater economic disruptions, lower consumption, and a more dissatisfied population at odds with the triumphalist “China defeated COVID” of the state-run media. China ‘s problem will continue until sometime after it has rolled out domestically developed mRNA shots and boosters for the world’s largest population—at the end of the year by the earliest.

Technopolar world. The handful of major tech companies (FAANGM) have become large and widespread enough to act as sovereign nations. The world’s biggest tech firms decide much of what we see and hear. They determine our economic opportunities and shape our opinions on important subjects. Nations will try to push back without success.

U.S. midterms. US politics may be stressed beyond the breaking point sooner than we might wish. Too political for here, but worth reading.

China at home. An increasingly burdensome “zero-COVID policy” (see Risk #1) and President Xi Jinping’s reform plans will unsettle markets and companies in 2022. Xi’s vision of technological self-sufficiency, economic security, and social harmony—to make China strong—will collide with intensifying pushback from the West, an exhausted growth model, an overleveraged and unbalanced economy, and a rapidly aging population—and at a time when COVID-19 variants continue to circulate.

Russia. Russia will continue to tilt with NATO over Ukraine increasing the likelihood of an accident.

Iran. Iran’s nuclear program is advancing rapidly. With diplomacy stalled, the Biden Administration has few options. Israel will increasingly take matters into its own hands—which once again raises the specter of Israeli strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities. These pressures will collide this year, leaving oil prices and regional states jittery, and increasing the risk of conflict.

Two steps greener, one step back. In 2022, continued upward pressure on energy costs will force governments to favor policies that lower energy costs but delay climate action. Rising energy prices will raise anxiety levels for both voters and elected officials—even as climate pressures on government increase.

Empty lands. In Afghanistan, a disorganized and inexperienced Taliban will struggle to stop Islamic State from drawing foreign militants into ungoverned expanses of the country. The risk of terrorism also remains acute in the thinly governed Sahel. Civil wars will create new risks in Yemen, Myanmar and Ethiopia. Venezuela and Haiti risk growing refugee crises.

Corporates losing the culture wars. Consumers and employees, empowered by “cancel culture” and enabled by social media, will make new demands on multinational corporations and the governments that regulate them. Multinationals will spend more time and money navigating environmental, cultural, social, and political minefields.

Turkey. President Erdogan will drag Turkey’s economy and international standing to new lows in 2022 as he tries to reverse his plunging poll numbers ahead of elections in 2023. Unemployment and inflation are high, and the lira is weaker and more volatile, but Erdogan has rejected orthodox economic management. His foreign policy will grow more combative this year to distract voters from the economic crisis.

Red herrings:
The U.S. and China are each too busy with challenges at home to wage Cold War 2.0, and risks of a confrontation over Taiwan are exaggerated. The presidential faceoff between Jair Bolsonaro and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will test but not undermine Brazil’s democratic institutions. More migrants from the Middle East will reach E.U. territory, but there will be no repeat of the 2015-16 crisis this year.



We should also remember to be optimistic heading into the New Year:

  • More vaccines for the rest of the world–enough supply by March to vaccinate 70% of African adults, up from 8% in December. Plus a vaccine for malaria.

  • Strong economic growth both in developed and developing countries

  • The most populous nation on earth will be a democracy

  • Massive increases in clean energy generation

  • Increasing tiger population