The New York-based political risk consultancy, Eurasia Group, has warned of a geopolitical crisis in 2018 on the scale of the financial crash a decade ago. It said the world is “now closer to geopolitical depression than to a reversion to past stability”.

The biggest uncertainty surrounds China’s move to fill a vacuum as US influence continues to decline, stoking tensions between the two powers, warned the Eurasia Group.

“In the 20 years since we started Eurasia Group, the global environment has had its ups and downs,” Eurasia President Ian Bremmer and Chairman Cliff Kupchan wrote in the outlook. “But if we had to pick one year for a big unexpected crisis — the geopolitical equivalent of the 2008 financial meltdown — it feels like 2018. Sorry.”

As reported by Bloomberg, there are too many places where a misstep or misjudgement could provoke serious international conflict. Cyberattacks, North Korea, Syria, Russia and terrorism are some of the risks that could trigger a mistake that leads to confrontation.

“We aren’t on the brink of World War III,” Eurasia said. “But absent a global security underwriter, and with a proliferation of subnational and non-state actors capable of destabilising action, the world is a more dangerous place.”

As rapid technological developments reshape the economic and political order, the process will be messy. Fault lines include a struggle for market dominance, fragmentation and a race for new technologies.

“As our cars, homes, factories, and public infrastructure begin to generate mountains of data, and as connectivity morphs into augmented reality, a new generation of humans will be ‘on the grid’ around the clock, with important implications for society and geopolitics,” Eurasia said. “But until we get there, it’s the world’s biggest fight over economic power.”