If the last few years are anything to go by, it’s pretty obvious the world is in a massive transition phase and the global order we know and hate is starting to unravel.
As TIME suggests, although there has been “plenty of turmoil in international politics over the past 20 years”, 2018 looks especially ripe for an unexpected crisis.
Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy who listed 10 possible risk situations, went as far as to call the end result a “geopolitical equivalent of the 2008 financial meltdown”.
The risks of this possible “geopolitical depression” form the backdrop for the top 10 risks of 2018. Here are the top five:
1. China rising
At a moment of policy incoherence in Washington, China’s government has redefined the country’s external environment, set new rules within it, developed the world’s most effective global trade and investment strategy, and uses Chinese tech companies to advance state interests. Beijing invests and extends its influence by promising non-interference in the political and economic lives of other countries, which are now more likely to align with and imitate China. The global business environment must adapt to new sets of rules, standards, and practices. U.S.-China conflict, particularly on trade, will become more likely in 2018.
2. Room for accidents
There’s been no major geopolitical crisis since 9/11, but there are now many places where a misstep or misjudgment could provoke serious international conflict. The likeliest risk of accident comes from competition and conflict in cyberspace, the fight over North Korea, battlefield slip-ups in Syria, growing U.S.-Russia tension, and the dispersal of ISIS fighters from Syria and Iraq
3. The tech Cold War
The world’s biggest fight over economic power centers [sic] on development of new information technologies. The U.S. and China will compete to master artificial intelligence and supercomputing, and will battle for market dominance. Governments in Africa, India, Brazil, and even in Europe must decide whom to trust and whose products and standards to embrace. Fragmentation of the tech commons creates both market and security risks, particularly as domestic companies battle global viruses.
4. Mexico’s moment
2018 will be a defining year for Mexico as NAFTA renegotiation comes to a head and voters choose a new president. A collapse of NAFTA talks will not kill the deal, but uncertainty over its future will disproportionately harm the Mexican economy, given the country’s deep reliance on U.S. trade. For the July 1 presidential election, public anger at government is running high, thanks to high-profile corruption cases, drug gangs, and sluggish growth. Demand for change favors Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who represents a fundamental break with investor-friendly economic policies.
5. U.S.-Iran tensions
Donald Trump has it in for Iran. The nuclear deal will probably survive 2018, but there’s a substantial chance that it won’t. Trump will support Saudi Arabia and work to contain Iran in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen. The U.S. will more frequently sanction Iran for ballistic missile tests, perceived support for terrorism, and human rights violations. Iran will push back. If the nuclear deal fails, Iran would ramp up its nuclear program, and the threat of U.S. and/or Israeli strikes would again hang over the region.
And there you have it, a summary of all the things that could possibly go wrong this year. Yay.
Pop over here to see some more, from Africa’s security to the erosion of various institutions.
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