Experts look ahead to 2024 and outline what they believe will be the most important geopolitical developments of the new year at ‘Engelsberg Ideas’ blog.
Peter Frankopan, professor of Global History at Oxford University:
Even the sunniest optimist would find it difficult to turn in to 2024 feeling upbeat. These last twelve months have been extraordinarily challenging: hopes of a breakthrough in Ukraine
Here in Europe, there is no question that we have some tough decisions to make. Much depends on a clear-eyed hierarchy of priorities – and on devising a plan to go about addressing the problems that lie here or just ahead. 2024 is a year of hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. You never know: ‘if necessity is the mother of invention’, there might even be some pleasant surprises along the way.
Linda Yueh, economist at Oxford University and London Business School and:
2024 is the biggest year for elections in history. Over half of the world’s population, some four billion people will go to the polls. There will be elections in the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, India, Taiwan, among many others, including in Africa. The potential policy changes that could result make next year a year characterised by geoeconomic uncertainty, that is, where economics will be greatly impacted by geopolitics. When this is layered on top of a weakly growing world economy with volatile inflation, 2024 is replete with uncertainty.
This is part of a rising trend of geoeconomic tensions whereby economic policies such as trade and investment restrictions are ‘weaponised’ in terms of being deployed to achieve non-economic aims such as furthering foreign policy objectives or as part of an arsenal of tools in the era of great power competition that has seen the US and China compete in a wide range of arenas to set global standards for technology. When this is considered alongside geopolitics, particularly the wars in Russia-Ukraine and Israel, the US election could be particularly consequential as one prominent example.
Therefore, 2024 could see a realignment of geopolitics which could see policies shift, both by the US and by a number of countries toward the US or China or away from both toward the non-aligned camp.
Thus, we should brace ourselves for a year of geoeconomics that could worsen uncertainty at an already challenging time for the global economy and the world.
Neil Brown, Commodore Royal Navy (Rtd), geopolitical adviser to Lord Hintze and Senior Associate Fellow at the Council on geostrategy:
Elections in 2024 will dominate headlines, but also distort priorities and distract from the job of government, especially in Europe where when elections end, coalition building generally begins. Despite the political volatility amplified by unprecedented election interference which will undermine legitimacy and threaten civil disorder, many in France and Germany wish they also had elections in 2024; there, domestic political drift will continue, and remove the EU’s lodestar.
Against a background of lingering inflation, the EU will wrestle with seemingly impossible choices including: Expand before reforming? Agree and enforce fiscal discipline and deliver increased green and defence ambition? Decarbonise and decouple from China? It will struggle to compete with both China’s subsidies and an American economy turbocharged by massive fiscal stimulus which the Biden administration (fearful of a late intervention by independent candidates), hopes will give independent voters in five swing states a feeling of economic health in time to see off the threat of Trump.
The transition to a new version of globalisation will continue, fuelled by political choices and geopolitical realignment in an increasingly bipolar world that will add cost, debt, and uncertainty. The US-led West and China will court the Global South but settle for partial alignment and complex new interdependencies.
Anna Rosenberg, Head of geopolitics at the Amundi investment institute:
In 2024, geopolitical realignment will continue, eroding American and European influence and inspiring protectionism; natural resources are being used for blackmail, increasing the risk of economic warfare; and elections in Taiwan, the United States and elsewhere will prompt further economic uncertainty.
As with everything, however, where there are losers, there are winners. Over the coming year, it will become clearer which states will benefit from the political and economic turbulence.
You can group these winners. Firstly, you have the winners of influence. These are the nations, like India, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Brazil, which are gaining leverage in the international system through their growing power and utilisation of resources and programmes around nuclear and domestic energy.
Overall, a lot of countries are refusing to take a side in a bipolar world and nations in the Global South have a lot more negotiating power. They can leverage and play the United States and China off against each other, and that gives them a lot more sway.
This is not guaranteed, however. A question that will play out in 2024 is: does a country that has these opportunities and resources have the right political structure and long-term strategy to actually make them into meaningful economic growth?