As we find ourselves on the threshold of the year 2022, it is time to assess some of the transitions that are reshaping our geopolitical order. The great power competition between the US and China is taking shape and will force countries to make difficult choices. To contain China’s geopolitical ambitions new coalitions have emerged (e.g., the Quad and AUKUS). The growing absence of the US as a fulcrum for the world is being felt, and China is willing and able to exploit the power vacuum in order to achieve its own strategic priorities. We will have to pay close attention to geopolitical flashpoints including Taiwan, North-Korea, the South and East China Sea, Ukraine, Iran, the Indo-Pacific but also within cyberspace.
At the same time, great power competition is also about securing access and gaining leverage on strategic ‘dual-use’ technologies and resources including space-technologies, quantum, semiconductors, biotech, 5G and 6G, rare earth minerals, AI, and robotics. How can Europe maintain a strong position in these strategic industrial sectors as geopolitical spheres of influence emerge? Businesses and financial institutions can no longer afford to ignore geopolitics. They will have to take on social responsibility by securing energy supplies, restraining inflation, ensuring supply chain resilience, guaranteeing security, rebuilding the economy after COVID-19, and rebalancing the distribution of wealth while also achieving sustainability.
Climate change will become a national security threat. Resource scarcity will likely further aggravate great power competition. We started on the long and complex journey of decarbonizing the economy. The geopolitical implications of reshaping the world’s energy supply chains are at this point underappreciated. Climate change will trigger resource conflicts, food and energy shortages and will cause migration and lead to extremism. Climate change can also trigger unexpected cooperation because of mutual interest.
Transitions lead to insecurity and instability. They put pressure on the way we relate to each other, who we identify with, and on our social contract.
At the same time, we are approaching Christmas. A time to get together with friends and family, share food and drinks, and to celebrate past, present, and future. This Annual Report contains food for thought, as we focus on some of 2021’s highlights and on future developments in the world. This can help us to look ahead to a brighter future beyond the gloom of the daily headlines.
At HCSS we do not pretend to know the future, to solve all highly complex problems with our analysis, nor to provide a miracle cure that instantaneously improves the relations between nations in an age of great-power competition, technology breakthroughs, and climate change. But we expect that our fact-based analysis contributes to an increased understanding of the world’s future path and to provide ideas on how governments, businesses, civil society, and all of us can help to make this world a better and safer place to live in.
In 2022 HCSS will be 15 years old. 2022 will not only be a festive year, but also a year in which the consequences of the major political changes will become more visible than ever.
The HCSS team wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!