Please see below selected recent - mainly geo - political-related change.
- GZERO Media pointed to the forthcoming "elections that matter" internationally in 2021:
- For the first time in 16 years, Germans will elect a government that will not be led by Angela Merkel. The German Chancellor is stepping down, and the race to replace her is heating up. Her centre-right CDU party will select a new head to carry the flag into the election, but non-centrist parties such as the far-right AfD or the leftwing Greens will try to continue to erode the dominance of centrist parties.
- In Iran, hardliners hostile to rapprochement with the West did well in last year's parliamentary elections, and are the front-runners ahead of a presidential vote in June. That could complicate any push to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
- In November, Russians will vote in tightly controlled legislative elections that are almost certain to give victory to the ruling United Russia party. But Russia's been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, and Vladimir Putin's approval ratings are near historical lows (for him, at least)
- Perceptions of China across most of the developed world have been on a steady decline in recent years - and plummeted this year due to China's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and Beijing's aggressive policies in Hong Kong, the South China Sea Sea, and Xinjiang. In a recent Pew survey, a majority of respondents in a group of 14 countries had an unfavourable opinion of China, and their opinion was more negative than a year ago. Australians' disapproval of China jumped 24 points since 2019, while Americans' increased 13 points amid growing US-China political tensions.
- Maps and timelines of constant forces, like conquest and religion, and also of frailer forces like democracy, encapsulate the complexity of changing political environments.
- Over 2,000 fighters affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State – groups traditionally at war with each other in the Middle East – have joined forces to take control of vast swaths of territory in West Africa, according to a report by the US military. Fears that increasing instability in the region could become a full-blown "global crisis" come as the Trump administration weighed plans for a US troop drawdown in West Africa.
- In recent decades, political party systems have fragmented and electoral volatility has increased. The number of parties represented in parliaments across e.g. Europe has grown and the formerly dominant mainstream parties have seen their support base collapse, forcing parties into often uncomfortable and unstable coalitions. Politicians and commentators talk of such scenarios in often apocalyptic terms and associate it with political instability and policy paralysis. Yet Chatham House believes that they shouldn’t. Instead they should focus their energy on making these increasingly competitive political markets work. The Netherlands is frequently held up as a prime example of this process, which is therefore sometimes referred to as ‘Dutchification’. Its highly proportional political system has created the opportunity for new parties and specific interest groups to win parliamentary representation, ranging from an animal rights party and a party catering specifically to the interests of the elderly.
- In the 2018 Ipsos MORI Veracity Index, only 19% of a representative sample of a 1001 British adults trusts politicians to tell the truth. (The one group who scored lower were advertising executives with 16% while nurses, in contrast scored, 96%.) What is puzzling, noted the Institute for Arts and Ideas, is that politicians, especially those in democratic societies who need to win elections to gain and retain power and who are subject to continual scrutiny by a free press, repeatedly act in ways that they know will erode their likeability, question their moral probity, and diminish our trust in them.
- A Chatham House debate assessed contemporary power shifts in the international world order, focusing on the extent to which Asia may be rising at the expense of the traditional powers of the West, and asked whether China and the US find a way to peacefully co-exist, or whether we should conclude that today’s world is too complex and interdependent to be seen through the lens of a zero-sum contest.
- The Australian Futures Project created The Perfect Candidate: a virtual politician whose views exactly represent the issues Australians care the most about at a local level. The initiative was built around the perspectives of 125,000 Australians, whom a research firm questioned on their top three issues of concern over the course of 30 months. On its website, The Perfect Candidate’s views were compared to what the political parties in Australia actually prioritised. Citizens could quickly see to what degree the real politicians were aligned. The project’s goal was to boost transparency between political groups and their constituents, give Australians insights on their fellow citizens, and increase the focus on long-term solutions.
- McKinsey's detailed brief on the state of globalisation argued that the centre of gravity is moving South and East; as physical trade retrenches, data flows increase and technology disruption accelerates.
- Future Politics examined how the march of technology will continue to transform society and politics, Author Jamie Susskind noted that the digital future need not be as dystopian as George Orwell envisioned. Although Susskind predicts an age of mass unemployment as robots replace human workers, he also believes that automation-led efficiencies will create enough prosperity for governments to expand social safety nets.
- Further reading:
- Few issues in global affairs are as pressing today as the question of whether the world's two largest economies - the US and China - can reconcile what appear to be increasingly divergent national interests. GZEROMedia quoted one seasoned observer not given to hyperbole – their failure to do so would "destroy hope for the world order".
- One authoritative study claimed that the Arctic shipping route won’t be economically viable for significant ship traffic until 2035. However, GZEROMedia notes that. particularly in the world of long-term investment in transport, that’s not as far off as it sounds. We’re already as close to 2035 as to 2001.
- More broadly, the melting ice cap will make it possible to extract vast quantities of the oil, gas, and minerals thought to lie beneath the Arctic seabed. That will only intensify the competition for territorial claims among Arctic powers - the US, Russia, Canada, and the Scandinavians. Thus far, Russia has made the biggest claim by arguing that its continental shelf extends deep into the Arctic Circle and now, adds GZEROMedia, China will want a piece of the action.
- In Navigating geopolitical risk, Raconteur argued that the correlation between politics and business sentiment shows that the two are intrinsically linked. The rise of pro-business parties, public referendum or rising cross-border tensions can impact bottom lines across the world and must be factored into the decision-making process. But navigating and mitigating geopolitical risk can be a tricky task for leaders to master.
- As world powers renegotiate economic, military and diplomatic fault lines, and new technologies disrupt established societal and political norms, the rules based international system of governance appears to be in a state of flux, warned Chatham House. Global developments seem increasingly difficult to predict and world leaders can no longer rely on the same. principles, conventions and institutions that have governed international relations for decades.
- Once politics was about left and right, argued the Institute of Art and Ideas, but following Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and the rise of other populist anti-immigration leaders in Europe, many argue politics has now become tribal - about open versus closed borders, nowheres versus somewheres, global versus local.
- GZEROMedia sees AsiaPacific as the most important geopolitical region in the world, the Asia Pacific, and sees the Trump administration's strategy as a rebrand befitting a salesman turned president, depending on closer relations between the US and India and India playing a larger role throughout Asia.
- Quartz noted that as China’s sphere of influence reaches west into Africa; the economies of India and southeast Asia continue to grow; and India develops its “look east” policy in the wider "Indo-Pacific", the area touching these two oceans forms “a single strategic system,” a professor at Australian National University and “Indo-Pacific” advocate, argues in The American Interest.
- Twitter's impact on the way our politics works is profound and disturbing, warned Prospect. Twitter has become a perfect tool for populists and an incubator for aspiring despotsl it is now embedded in Westminster’s political culture, with pernicious consequences that are only just becoming clear, the magazine believes.
- The Venta Maersk ship arrived in St Petersburg after a month at sea. Specially strengthened, it is the first container ship to venture into the Russian Arctic, where shipping lanes have been opened by the melting of the ice-sheets. For Russia, this is particularly important. The Northern Sea Route, the most-trafficked Arctic shipping lane, passes through its waters. Its usage is likely to grow.
- Further reading:
- The unprecedented technological transformation taking place today - a period of exponential change labelled the Fourth Industrial Revolution - is not isolated from geopolitical affairs, argued The World Economic Forum (WEF). Indeed, geopolitical competition, especially among the world’s powers, is a major driver of technological disruption; in turn, this disruption is affecting the geopolitical landscape.
- China's “Belt and Road Initiative” involves nearly 70 countries with 65 per cent of the world’s population. The unprecedented development strategy requires up to a US$900 billion investment each year for infrastructure construction, some in areas with high political, economic or environmental risks.
- In many countries, noted GZEROMedia, historical divisions between right and left have given way to a new distinction between mainstream and populist voters—those who either trust or distrust ruling elites. As voters’ ideologies have shifted, new parties have emerged to channel their interests and discontents, often leading to unexpected election results and unstable governments.
- Emerging markets are once again in the headlines, noted Chatham House. The IMF has announced a $50 billion Standby Agreement for Argentina, the Turkish lira is precarious and investors are unnerved by forthcoming elections in Brazil and Mexico. Against the backdrop of a strengthening dollar and rising interest rates in the US, the question is whether it is likely that there will be a new round of crises in emerging markets or whether the conditions are fundamentally different today from those in the 1980s and 1990s.
- Few global issues have taken on more current importance than the future of the postwar, rule-based international order, noted Rand, adding that the roots of the order run back to the mid-1940s, when U.S. officials concluded that the United States should work to shape the postwar settlement in more structured, collaborative and rule-bound ways. The resulting global institutions, processes, habits, rules, and norms inspired the rise of regional organisations and became what we now know as the postwar international order. Today, however, warned Rand, that order is under unprecedented strain, both within the societies of its leading members and from revisionist countries determined to change some aspects of how the order functions.
- Created in the 1970s, the Group of Seven (G7) has become increasingly irrelevant in a world of new emerging powers, claimed Chatham House. An institution that claims to represent the main democratic economies but excludes the likes of Brazil and India cannot possibly claim the legitimacy required to exercise global leadership.
- One of the most significant challenges to the strength of the liberal world order is the increasing influence and power of ambitious nations that reject aspects of the post-Cold War consensus. Notably, Iran, Russia and China have each at times used their clout to push back against Western influence in their regions. Chatham House examined the ways in which these three could potentially shape a new world order in the years to come, and asked: what is the current status of cooperation between these three nations, what opportunities are there in energy, trade and security to bring Iran, Russia and China together and crucially, what obstacles exist to these developing alliances?
- Geopolitical risks threaten growth, warned the EIU. 2018 will continue to be characterised by tightening monetary policy and credit conditions, increasing risks to global trade, and deeper geopolitical concerns in the Middle East.
- Nearly 40 percent of Brazilians would now back a military coup in their country to fight crime and corruption, according to a recent study by Vanderbilt University.
- India’s new military budget of $62 billion, unveiled in February, passes an important milestone - for the first time since gaining independence in 1947, India now spends more on defence than its former colonial power in the UK. Globally only America, China, Saudi Arabia and Russia have higher defence budgets than India today.
- Explaining that no-one now runs the world, a leading geo-strategist claimed that there is a clear trend towards the collapsing power of nation-states, and the rise of network power from NGOs, to corporations, crime rings and terrorists.