George Soros: the coronavirus endangers our civilization

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There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the world forever, and legendary billionaire investor George Soros spoke about this fact in a recent interview. He also talked about what governments should have been doing to prepare for a pandemic of this proportion.

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Q1 2020 hedge fund letters, conferences and more

George Soros on preparing for coronavirus

In the interview with Gregor Peter Schmitz of Project Syndicate, George Soros described the coronavirus pandemic as "the crisis of my lifetime." He said that even before the pandemic, he realized that some things that would have been impossible or inconceivable during normal times would become possible and probably even necessary.

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Then the pandemic hit, and it has altered people's behavior. He called it "an unprecedented event that probably has never occurred in this combination." He also said COVID-19 "endangers the survival of our civilization."

He noted that the world has seen pandemics of infectious diseases since the bubonic plague. In fact, pandemics were fairly frequent during the 19th century, and the Spanish flu hit at the end of World War I. He pointed out at the Spanish flu came in three waves, and the second wave was the deadliest of the three. There have also been other serious outbreaks since then, so he was surprised about how unprepared the world's countries were for a pandemic like COVID-19.

George Soros: we're learning about coronavirus

Schmitz asked Soros about the biggest problem in the pandemic and whether it was uncertainty about how to deal with it now and in the coming months and years. Soros said we've been learning about the coronavirus quickly. However, he believes that once a vaccine is finally developed, it will have to be changed every year like the flu shot. He noted that COVID-19 changes rapidly.

When asked about whether the coronavirus pandemic will change capitalism, George Soros said the world will not return to the way it was before COVID-19. He said fear currently dominates people's minds, and fear often makes some people hurt themselves. He said that is true not only of individuals but also institutions, nations and humanity.

Globalization and capitalism

He also spoke about the blame game that's going on between the U.S. and China over the origins of the coronavirus. He said the conflict complicates the issue because the world should work together on climate change and a vaccine for COVID-19. However, it's not possible to work together because nations are competing over who will develop and use the vaccine first.

He added that having two very different types of government, which are democratic and autocrat, makes the situation even more difficult. He noted that some people say the U.S. should be working "very closely" with China, but he doesn't support that idea. George believes it's important to protect the democratic open society of the U.S.

Even though he doesn't think the U.S. should work closely with China, George Soros does think the two nations should cooperate on fighting the coronavirus and on climate change. He sympathizes with the Chinese people because they are under a dictator, President Xi Jinping. He believes many educated Chinese resent that and that the general public is angry with him for covering up the coronavirus until after the Chinese New Year.

China and the U.S.

Schmitz asked him whether Xi's grip on power could weaken as the Chinese start to realize that the government's handling of the pandemic was "sub-optimal." Soros does believe it could happen.

"When Xi abolished term limits and named himself, in essence, president for life, he destroyed the political future of the most important and ambitious men in a very narrow and competitive elite."

He said that was a big mistake, and it makes him strong in one way but also "extremely weak, and now perhaps vulnerable." He follows the struggle in Chinese leadership because he believes in an open society.

Schmitz believes President Trump doesn't represent "the values of an open and free society," and Soros agrees with him. He believes Trump would like to be a dictator, but he can't be one because of the U.S. constitution, which also prevents him from doing other things. He believes Trump may still try to be one, but he believes Trump will destroy himself.