Global politics in 2024: It’s not all doom and gloom
You might’ve come out of last week’s newsletter – and Eurasia Group’s 2024 Top Risks report – feeling a little scared about the year ahead. And sure enough, this will be an unprecedentedly challenging year from a political and geopolitical standpoint, marked by three ongoing and expanding wars: Russia vs. Ukraine, Israel vs. Hamas, and the United States vs. itself. But there are plenty of bright spots, too.
For starters, 2024 will be the biggest election year in history, with more than half of the world’s population in over 60 countries going to the polls between now and December. With so much at stake, people are understandably worried. Yet most of these elections, especially the big ones, aren’t troubled at all.
In the European Union, although far-right, populist, and euro-skeptic parties will make gains in June’s European Parliament election, the centrist coalition that has ruled the bloc for the last five years will keep its majority. Yes, Europe will face economic challenges in 2024, weakening incumbent governments across the continent. And there will be plenty of anger directed at Brussels bureaucrats and much resistance to more centralized EU decision-making. But a series of crises over the past decade – the pandemic, climate change, and the Russian invasion, made worse by the trauma of Brexit – has solidified the multinational political commitment to the world’s most ambitious experiment in supranational governance. As we enter 2024, the EU’s social contract has never been stronger, more resilient, or more necessary.
Then there’s India, which for all its many shortcomings is a politically stable democracy, an increasingly important contributor to the global economy, and the emerging leader of the Global South. The world’s most popular democratic leader with 77% approval, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party will easily win a third consecutive five-year term and single-party majority in next spring’s general elections. Reelection will allow Modi, who has privately indicated this will be his last term, to complete his ambitious economic reform program, strengthen India’s relationship with the US (regardless of whether President Joe Biden or Donald Trump wins in November), and assert the country’s role as a crucial geopolitical bridge between the Global South and the West.
We’ve also got Mexico, where the ruling Morena coalition of term-limited President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (aka AMLO) – the second-most-popular world leader after Modi – is on track to secure a victory in June’s upcoming elections on the back of a solid economic performance. AMLO’s handpicked successor, former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, is a committed technocrat with strong relations with the domestic and foreign business communities. She will surround herself with like-minded cabinet members, deliver a high degree of policy continuity, and drive even more growth and investment as Mexico continues to benefit from its robust trading relationship with the US and growing nearshoring trends.
And I could keep going …
To be sure, there are some places where the elections won’t go as well, but they’re not a surprise at all. Who are Russians going to vote for? Putin or Putin? Maybe Putin? The same goes for North Koreans and Venezuelans. In all these cases, we know who's going to “win,” and the outcome is not going to affect anything. The exception, of course, is the election taking place in the most powerful country in the world, which also happens to be the most politically divided and dysfunctional of any advanced industrial democracy. But putting the US aside, the biggest election year in history will be a big whoop.
The most surprising cause for optimism in 2024, however, may be the relative calm that will prevail between the US and China. There’s no question that the most strategically important bilateral relationship in the world is still fundamentally adversarial and marked by mistrust, and several conflict flashpoints (from Taiwan and the South China Sea to technology competition) will exacerbate tensions throughout the year. But with all the fighting going on in the world, neither country is looking for reasons to start another conflict – especially not when the Chinese economy and the US domestic polity are so troubled and all-consuming for Presidents Xi Jinping and Biden. The two largest economies will accordingly behave like geopolitical adults in 2024, preferring stability to chaos and engagement to major decoupling or conflict.
The wild card, more than ever, is technology – specifically, artificial intelligence. AI will disrupt our economies, societies, and geopolitics in ways we can’t yet predict, but it will also become the most powerful human development tool the world has ever seen, helping people live longer, healthier, and more productive lives than at any time in history. And this will happen much sooner than you think. With AI capabilities doubling roughly every six months, three times faster than Moore’s law, the upsides will start materializing more dramatically as new applications find their way into every major corporation across every economic sector. And as hundreds of millions of people begin to upskill themselves in their jobs, AI will become a copilot before it takes over their jobs. This will create a new globalization, one exponentially faster and more transformative than the globalization unleashed by free global trade and investment in recent decades.
The flip side is that the technology is also advancing far faster than the ability to govern it, and a technopolar world for artificial intelligence – i.e., tech companies rather than governments are in control of AI development and deployment – means crisis response and reaction will come only after things break … and then, it might be too late. Let’s just hope in 2024 those things aren’t that big.
We've entered a year of grave concern, but supported by the hope that tough times will bring out the best in us. This isn't going to be particularly enjoyable, especially for our fellow citizens here in the United States. It's personally painful to watch my country go through a tumultuous time, with those I care about affected by it. It's nothing compared to what we've been seeing in Ukraine, Gaza, or South Sudan … and yet for a nation that has spent too much time presuming “it can't happen here,” 2024 is a necessary wake-up call.
As you know, I spent the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024 in the South Pole. Having the entire world on my shoulders – even if for just a moment – felt like the right thing to do to prepare for the year ahead. Antarctica is an entire continent that's been kept peaceful and pristine, for humanity and our animal friends, for generations now. Yeah, we're melting it. But otherwise, it turns out we can be capable global custodians when we set our minds to it. Let’s try to remember that.
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