The Planetary

From the spread of new viruses to the rising of the seas to the risks posed by advanced technologies, many of the world’s most urgent emerging challenges are uncontained by national borders. In the global era, nation-states have focused on managing the worldwide flow of money, goods, people, services, and ideas, and on resolving disputes about these human-centered concerns. But now, we are entering a new era when our pressing concerns exceed the narrow intentions of human beings and require processes and institutions that are inherently planetary in scale and scope.

Microbes, atmospheric carbon molecules, oceanic plastics, and the data flooding through algorithms do not care about our borders and political divisions. In the era of the Planetary, we must recognize that we are inescapably entwined in mutual reliance and interdependency not just with each other but with the biogeochemical processes of the Earth itself. The Planetary calls for a fundamental conceptual break with traditional human-centered understandings of the world and its politics.

The Berggruen Institute’s program on the Planetary seeks to clarify the philosophical implications of this shift and to develop new means and mechanisms to foster cooperation in addressing planetary challenges. Even though the current backlash against globalization and interdependence presents obstacles to cooperation, the urgency of the planetary makes achieving partnership ever more important.

  • Projects


    Since the launch of the Berggruen Institute in 2010, the 21st Century Council — a group of more than forty former heads of state or government, global thinkers, and tech entrepreneurs — has addressed the challenges faced by both advanced and emerging countries in an interdependent but fragmenting world. The Council has advised and met with chairs of the annual G-20 summit and organized regular “Understanding China” meetings with President Xi Jinping and other top leaders in Beijing in 2013, 2015, 2018, and 2019. In the wake of the anti-globalization backlash that brought nationalist and populist movements to power in major countries, the Council has focused on how to harness globalization so that it works for all and how to prevent the re-division of the world into hostile geopolitical blocs. Read More ≫


    From pandemic management to climate change, the nation-state is ill-equipped to manage the underlying causes of planetary-scale disruptions and the consequences for local communities. This failure of states to govern effectively in turn produces a crisis of legitimacy. Solving these twin crises requires a fundamental reimagining and restructuring of our governing institutions. The Berggruen Institute’s project on planetary governance is investigating how to create new planetary-scale institutions capable of addressing planetary-scale challenges, as well as how to enable more effective collaboration among subnational actors and local institutions. Read More ≫


    Conflicts between the U.S. and China over matters such as human rights, technology, and trade are as inexorable as cooperation is imperative on challenges such as climate change and pandemics. The necessity for a “partnership of rivals” is a manifestation of planetary realism. Since 2019, the Berggruen Institute has supported the effort by the California-China Climate Institute to align the cap-and-trade markets that set a price on carbon in California and the provinces of Hubei and Guangdong. Partners at the Climate Institute include UCLA, UC Berkeley, and the heads of this initiative—former California Governor Jerry Brown and China’s top climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua. Read More ≫


    Like electricity, artificial intelligence is a pervasive technology, woven into products and services across many industries and sectors, both civilian and military. U.S.-China relations are also pervasive, existing across industrial sectors and throughout diplomatic, economic, and strategic domains. In partnership with Minderoo Foundation, Tsinghua University, and the Brookings Institution, the Berggruen Institute is sponsoring a Track II diplomatic dialog that seeks to improve mutual understanding between the United States and China about security risks, safety concerns, and potential cooperation opportunities with respect to AI in the security sphere. The goal is to articulate approaches to AI security risk management, including shared norms, that can inform formal diplomacy and strategic dialogue. Read More ≫

    The 2019 Berggruen Governance Index

    The 2019 Berggruen Governance Index evaluates countries on the basis of their quality of political governance. To do this, the Index disaggregates governance into three key components: Quality of Democracy (Inputs), Quality of Government (Throughputs) and Quality of Life (Outputs). By disaggregating the capacities of governance, the Index attempts to deepen understanding of the relationship between the democratic feedback, government competence and the provision of public goods. Read More ≫