Skip to content

Photo courtesy of ASIS International

Bremmer Warns of Geopolitical Recession

Nation-state attacks, massive protests, election meddling, and increasing economic instability all point to one thing: the world is on the verge of a “geopolitical recession,” according to entrepreneur and political risk analyst Dr. Ian Bremmer.

“How did we get to a place where global politics feels so fragile—feels so volatile? Where global security feels so fraught?” Bremmer asked. “What we have is the old U.S.-led global order coming apart.”

In his keynote address, “Navigating the Geopolitical Landscape: Security Risks and Hotspots,” Bremmer explained the root of growing global tension—people no longer feel as though their officials, politicians, CEOs, and leaders are taking care of them.

Between economic tensions, financial scandals, opposition to immigration, unending wars, and increasing reliance on social media to get news, people in democracies around the world feel like the game is rigged. And they either disengage or they get angry. Protests in Paris and Hong Kong, growing referendums against traditional politicians, anti-immigrant sentiment, and attacks are all signs of this growing struggle.

As American international influence and trust in democratic processes wane, other countries vie to fill the void. The Chinese government’s Belt and Road Initiative—which invests in infrastructure projects worldwide—is far outpacing American investment in emerging markets.

However, Bremmer said that Chinese investment comes with a catch: the supported countries can be pressured into supporting China’s positions and buying from Chinese state-owned enterprises.

“Our presumption as Americans for the last 30 years was that as China gets bigger and wealthier, it will increasingly align with our system…our economic and political standards, or it will fail. We were wrong,” Bremmer explained.

“The right thing for Americans to do in this environment is to lead by example with allies,” he added—especially where technology is concerned.

For example, while technological innovation is a U.S. specialty, tech regulation is not. By partnering with European regulators to set global guidelines around privacy and ethics, or partnering with Japan for artificial intelligence projects, a coalition of allies could produce stronger, more effective solutions that align with their democratic values.

But current alliances are fragile, Bremmer said. When the 2008 financial crisis hit, the global response was strong, positive, and united. It’s unlikely that international leaders would have the same unified response to a crisis now, he added. The geopolitical recession has weakened the resilience of alliances, democratic institutions, and leadership, and the effects will show during crises.

In the event of a crisis, whether economic, political, or disaster related, Bremmer said “the Chinese will look to take advantage and strengthen their position at the expense of the West, and that will certainly be true of Russia.”