Fast Forward

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For all of you concerned about recent geo-political events, and wondering how trade tensions and diplomatic skirmishes are likely to turn out, I highly recommend you take some time out of your day to listen to the 2020 Lowy Lecture delivered by Fareed Zakaria, which is a calm, intelligent and wide-ranging review of the world today, reflecting on how we got here, what’s happening now, and how things are likely to turn out. It’s a refreshing alternative to the 24/7 news cycle and media commentary which stirs up emotions and draws everyone into short term thinking and a tactical response.

There are so many fabulous insights to share from this lecture, but one in particular got my attention. Whilst talking about a new kind of “bi-polarity” from the one experienced during the Cold War years (remembering that “in its peak year, the US and Soviet Union did $2 billion of trade in one year…today the US and China do $2 billion of trade every day) the future looks very different, “one in which you trade with China, you try to oppose it on human rights issues, you separate from it on certain technological issues, and you join with it on others. There’s going to be hedging, deterrents, containment and active cooperation, trade and partnership, all happening at the same time”.

It’s going to take some exceptional world leaders, politicians and diplomats to navigate the complex world order ahead of us. What we’ve seen in recent weeks is just a small taste of what’s to come, and so far the key players have come up short, on all sides. At the start of his lecture, Fareed Zakaria quoted Lenin who apparently said “there are decades when nothing happens, and then there are weeks when decades happen” and said that “it just feels like the things that were happening before Covid, and the trends that were already gathering strength, are becoming much more intense. The world has been put on a ‘fast forward’.”

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