An interesting thread by Charles Grant, the director of the Centre for European Reform, who explains the impact of Donald Trump’s four years, Joe Biden’s election, and the coronavirus pandemic on global politics over the next decade.

First published in November 2020.

Charles Grant
Director, Centre for European Reform. Interested in the EU, Russia and China.

What will be the impact of Trump's 4 years, Biden's arrival and COVID-19 on global politics, over the next five years or so? A few thoughts in a thread. @CER_EU

America is weaker. Trump's antics have damaged the US's soft power – and the recent election process hasn't helped. Poor handling of the pandemic has harmed the US's reputation and economy. Biden will polish its image but Republicans will stop him making big changes.

Conversely China has had a good COVID-19, apart from an initial wobble, having successfully suppressed the virus and even achieved economic growth this year. This will further boost its already excessive self-confidence.

Biden'll breathe life into multilateral institutions by taking them seriously, eg WHO WTO NATO. On climate, the US will talk the talk, as will China. But Senate will stop Biden taking many practical steps on climate while China will maintain plans to greatly expand coal power.

China's influence in international bodies will continue to grow. This will undermine the credibility of some institutions in the West, eg UN Human Rights Council. Some countries will try to boost role of values-based alternatives eg G7 or 'D10' (G7+S Korea, India, Australia).

China's assertiveness will worry its neighbours and ensure that the embryonic anti-China strategic alliance of the US, Japan, India, Australia hardens. The US will pressure Europeans to join, probably without much success.

Biden won't make much difference to the growing economic and strategic rivalry between the US and China. There will be periods of detente and periods of escalating tension, but their economies will slowly decouple, at least in the area of tech.

The worse the tension, the harder it'll be for EU to navigate between the 2 super-powers. It'll remain strategically aligned with US but need an economic relationship with China. That said, EU will get tougher on IP theft, excessive state aid & other 'unfair' Chinese practices.

The post-COVID-19 trend towards the renationalisation of supply chains will affect most of the developed world. Thus the EU will pursue strategic autonomy in eg tech & data. It will encourage European champions and in UK's absence become more 'French' (protectionist).

COVID-19 has increased the wealth and power of the tech giants. Politicians throughout the developed world, including the EU, will find ways of regulating and taxing them more tightly. Since the giants are mostly American this will create transatlantic tensions.

The EU's Recovery Fund – a serious response to the economic impact of COVID-19 – signals a move towards further economic integration, putting the euro's governance on a more sustainable basis. More integration on border security and the treatment of migrants is also likely.

But populists will constantly push against integration. In any case it is unlikely in foreign policy, since the 27 are divided on China, Russia, the Middle East and other issues. The unanimity required to bring in majority voting in foreign policy is unlikely.

Biden's victory has not killed Trumpism. Right-wing populism will re-emerge in one country or another every now and then. In Europe its threat diminished in 2020, because the pandemic reduced immigration.

But migration will return as an issue. Farage/Salvini/LePen will also exploit hostility to lockdowns, outbreaks of jihadist terrorism and the greater inequalities that COVID-19 has engendered. Populism will also feed off growing hostility to policies combating climate change.

In UK, both Brexit and the severe bout of COVID-19 will lead to relatively low growth. Low growth and government incompetence will increase the risk of the UK breaking up. The UK'll start with a thin FTA with EU, but spend many years trying to get an economically better deal.

Similarly on foreign policy, defence & policing, UK will start with a very thin relationship, but – encouraged by Biden – will seek ways of building new bespoke structures for co-operating with the EU. On foreign policy UK will often line up with EU, and sometimes with US.

Russia will remain fairly irrelevant to much of the world, excepting its neighbours and the M Eastern countries where it is active. Biden will care more about values in foreign policy than Trump, leaving Russia little choice but to line up with China geopolitically.

Russia will maintain the stable economic model it has endured for the past 20 years. Its leaders show no signs of wanting to break free of dependency on natural resource exports, or kleptocracy. A slow erosion of living standards will leave it drifting into the Sinosphere.

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 19 November 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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