Portuguese political thinker Bruno Maçães is one of the most prominent figures among political analysts. This former politician has written several books read and recognized by politicians and businessmen from Beijing to Brussels and Washington DC. His hypotheses are sometimes unsettling. Nevertheless, they reflect both technologies and geopolitical development. He considers Covid to be a moment that brought civilization several hundred years back. “The old model of the neutral state where a hipster and a conservative Muslim could live together comfortably is over,” he says in an exclusive interview with Jan Růžička for INFO.CZ.
You are a former politician, now a political scientist, writer, and a columnist. So, let's start with a topic, that is quite close to your heart: geopolitics of Covid. We can all see, that Covid is a true gamechanger and the world is becoming filled with more cleavages. Less globalization, more nationalism. What is your view as a political scientist on implications of Covid? Mid-term and long-term.
It has both systemic implications and more direct and immediate implications. The first impact is on the level of the international system. We had been discussing the questions of the international order, the set of rules, institutions, and values around which the modern world has been organized since the end of WW II. That international system was already under a lot of pressure. Mainly because of the growing tensions between China and the United States and because of the rise of other powers. The system was becoming unstable even before Covid. The pandemic has just deepened that process and forced states to abandon a number of rules, procedures and institutions. At least since the past year we have been operating almost without any guidance from the international system.
Each country is doing what it has to do. That's the first impact at the level of the system. The second impact regards the technology. Now, everyone is very much aware of the importance of the technology. As time goes, we start to realize more and more that we cannot afford to have the approach to the technology, that we had before Covid. We've essentially regarded technological progress as being fundamentally over. Progress was too slow in other areas as well. We realized that the environment is still a threat. With the climate change we need faster, more intense, and bolder technological progress.
We saw that with the vaccines. If we had the same approach to technologies before, probably we could have many of these platforms (messenger RNA and other platforms) already developed. Fortunately, they have been developed quickly.
We saw a similar progress also with our move to digitalization. Deliveries have exploded, e-commerce has exploded. And it doesn't stop there. Once you have e-commerce growing something like by 80% a year it creates a disruption in other areas. If this level of e-commerce remains in place, obviously you cannot have the old model of making deliveries. Walmart has completely changed. Its delivery system, its network system, both are completely different.
We can see a burst of innovation, and countries are competing for the technological lead. That's the second impact at the level of the system.
Then we have immediate, direct impacts. On the function of the European Union, on the election of Joe Biden, we have impacts in China, we have impacts in India. It is really the story of our lifetime.