Ten trends to keep an eye on in the coming year

AAFTER TWO years in which the pandemic was the force that shaped the immediate future, the main driver now is the war in Ukraine. In the coming months, the world will have to deal with the unpredictability of the impact of the conflict on geopolitics and security; the struggle to control inflation; chaos in energy markets; and China’s uncertain post-pandemic path. To complicate matters further, all of these things are tightly coupled, like a series of interlocking cogwheels. Here are ten themes and trends to keep an eye on in the coming year.

1. All eyes on Ukraine. Energy prices, inflation, interest rates, economic growth, food shortages – it all depends on how the conflict plays out in the coming months. Ukraine’s rapid progress could threaten Vladimir Putin, but stalemate appears to be the most likely outcome. Russia will try to prolong the conflict in the hope that energy shortages and political changes in America will undermine Western support for Ukraine.

2. Recessions are looming. Major economies will enter recession as central banks hike interest rates to squelch inflation, a side effect of the pandemic as it is inflamed by high energy prices. The US recession is expected to be relatively mild; Europe will be more brutal. The pain will be global as the strong dollar hits poor countries already hit by soaring food prices.

3. The positive side of the climate. As countries scramble to secure their energy supplies, they are returning to dirty fossil fuels. But in the medium term, the war will accelerate the shift to renewables as a safer alternative to hydrocarbons supplied by the autocrats. In addition to wind and solar, nuclear and hydrogen will also benefit.

4. China peak? In April, China’s population will be surpassed by India’s, at about 1.43 billion. With China’s population in decline and its economy facing headwinds, expect a lot of discussion about whether China has peaked. Slower growth means its economy may never grow larger than America’s.

5. America divided. Though Republicans fared worse than expected in the midterm elections, social and cultural divisions over abortion, guns and other pressing issues continue to widen after a string of controversial Supreme Court rulings. Donald Trump’s formal entry into the 2024 presidential race will add fuel to the fire.

6. Flash points to watch out for. Intense attention to the war in Ukraine heightens the risk of conflict elsewhere. With Russia distracted, conflicts are breaking out in her backyard. China may decide there will never be a better time to make a move on Taiwan. India-China tensions could flare up in the Himalayas. And could Turkey try to grab a Greek island in the Aegean?

7. Shifting alliances. Amid geopolitical shifts, alliances are responding. Born, revitalized by the war in Ukraine, will welcome two new members. Will Saudi Arabia join the Abraham accords, an emerging bloc? Other groupings of growing importance include the Quad and AUKUS (two American-led clubs set to face the rise of China) e I2U2— not a rock band, but a sustainability forum linking India, Israel, the UAE and the US.

8. Revenge tourism. Take this, covid! As travelers engage in post-lockdown “revenge” tourism, traveler spending will nearly regain its 2019 level of $1.4 trillion, but only because inflation has pushed prices up. The actual number of international tourist trips, at 1.6 billion, will still be below the pre-pandemic level of 1.8 billion in 2019. Business travel will remain weak as companies cut costs.

9. Metaverse reality check. Will the idea of ​​working and playing in virtual worlds take hold beyond video games? 2023 will provide some answers as Apple launches its first headset and Meta decides whether to change its strategy as its stock price languishes. Meanwhile, a less complicated and more immediately useful change might be increasing “passkeys” to replace passwords.

10. New year, new slang. Ever heard of passkeys? Do not be afraid! Move on to our special section, “Understand This”, which compiles vital vocabulary that will be useful to know in 2023. NIMBYs are out and YIMBYthere are; cryptocurrencies are not cool and post-quantum cryptography is hot; but can you define frozen conflict, or synfuel? We’ve got you covered.

In retrospect, the pandemic marked the end of a period of relative stability and predictability in geopolitics and economics. Today’s world is much more volatile, wracked by the vicissitudes of great-power rivalry, the aftershocks of the pandemic, economic upheavals, extreme weather conditions, and rapid social and technological change. Unpredictability is the new normal. There is no way around it. But hopefully reading The world ahead 2023 it will help you face this new reality with confidence.

This article appeared in the From the Publisher section of the print edition of The World Ahead 2023 under the title “From the Publisher”

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