The crisis of a lifetime

ECFR опубликовали интервью с Джорджем Соросом, создателем сети благотворительных организаций «Фонд Сороса». В беседе финансист признается, что коронавирус — это самый большой кризис в его жизни. Мы находимся в революционном моменте, когда то, что было бы невозможно или даже немыслимо в обычное время, стало не только возможным, но, вероятно, абсолютно необходимым

ECFR

GREGOR PETER SCHMITZYou have seen many crises. Is the covid-19 pandemic comparable to any previous one?

GEORGE SOROS: No. This is the crisis of my lifetime. Even before the pandemic hit, I realised that we were in a revolutionary moment where what would be impossible or even inconceivable in normal times had become not only possible, but probably absolutely necessary. And then came covid-19, which has totally disrupted people’s lives and required very different behaviour. It is an unprecedented event that probably has never occurred in this combination. And it really endangers the survival of our civilisation.

GPS: Could this crisis have been prevented if governments had been better prepared?

SOROS: We have had infectious disease pandemics ever since the bubonic plague. They were quite frequent in the nineteenth century, and then we had the Spanish flu at the end of world war one, which actually occurred in three waves, with the second wave being the deadliest. Millions of people died. And we have had other serious outbreaks, such as the swine flu just a decade ago. So it’s amazing how unprepared countries were for something like this.

GPS: Is that the biggest problem of the current situation – this lack of certainty about how to deal with this virus and how to proceed in the coming months or years?

SOROS: It is certainly a very big one. We are learning very fast, and we now know a lot more about the virus than we did when it emerged, but we are shooting at a moving target because the virus itself changes rapidly. It will take a long time to develop a vaccine. And even after we have developed one, we will have to learn how to change it every year, because the virus will most likely change. That’s what we do with the flu shot every year.

GPS: Will this crisis change the nature of capitalism? Even before covid-19 led to the current catastrophic recession, the downsides of globalisation and free trade were attracting greater attention.

SOROS: We will not go back to where we were when the pandemic started. That is pretty certain. But that is the only thing that is certain. Everything else is up for grabs. I do not think anybody knows how capitalism will evolve.

GPS: Could this crisis bring people – and nation-states – closer together?

SOROS: In the long run, yes. At the present time, people are dominated by fear. And fear very often makes people hurt themselves. That is true of individuals as well as institutions, nations, and humanity itself.

GPS: Are we witnessing that in the current blame game between the United States and China over the origins of the virus?

SOROS: The continuing conflict between the US and China complicates matters, because we ought to work together on climate change and on developing a vaccine against covid-19. But, apparently, we cannot work together because we are already competing over who will develop – and use – the vaccine. The fact that we have got two very different systems of government, democratic and …

GPS: Autocratic?

SOROS: Right. That makes everything much harder. There are a lot of people who say that we should be working very closely with China, but I am not in favour of doing that. We must protect our democratic open society. At the same time, we must find a way to cooperate on fighting climate change and the novel coronavirus. That won’t be easy. I sympathise with the Chinese people, because they are under the domination of a dictator, President Xi Jinping. I think a lot of educated Chinese are very resentful of that, and the general public is still very angry with him for keeping covid-19 a secret until after the Chinese New Year.

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