02 January 2023

The ten most important events of 2022

1. The Ukraine war.  It's sometimes hard to judge which event ranks most important in a given year, but this time, there was no question.  Putin's invasion of Ukraine showed that his regime aspires to territorial expansion by crude, naked military force, a throwback to the pre-1945 order which we thought the world had cast off forever.  It showed that a medium-size nation determined to fight for its independence can mount a formidable resistance against a far larger invader.  It showed that democracies will rally together in the cause of resisting aggression by gangster-regimes, even leading Sweden and Finland to join NATO.  And it showed that the gross corruption and incompetence so endemic to authoritarian states can render the military of even a supposed superpower far weaker and less effective than it superficially appears.  All these lessons apply to other cases where a large gangster-state threatens a smaller democratic neighbor, notably China and Taiwan.

2. The elections in the US and Brazil.  In both of the West's two largest nations, fears had been voiced that right-wing forces would subvert or outright overthrow democracy.  But in both countries, the voting proceeded smoothly, with negligible problems or violence, and produced clear results.  Denialist tantrum-throwing by losers was minimal; in the US it was mostly confined to Arizona and was firmly swatted down by the courts, while in Brazil Bolsonaro's fumings were rendered irrelevant by the lack of support from anywhere else in the institutions of government.  Democracy in the West is not fragile, it's robust and firmly established.  It's not going anywhere.

3. The subsidence of the covid pandemic.  We're not completely out of the woods yet, but in 2022 life was basically able to return to normal, with the glaring exception of China.  Between less-lethal virus variants and widespread vaccination, the danger posed by covid is dropping toward being comparable with ordinary flu, which we've been able to live with for generations.  In every major country except the US, national life expectancy has mostly recovered from the earlier drop.  Periodically, here and there, a return to the use of masks has been found advisable, but such cases will grow fewer with time.  More and better treatments are on the horizon.  In this case, I called it pretty much right a year ago.  Human science and technology have faced and met yet another challenge.

4. The Iran rebellion.  After decades of religious repression, the anger and frustration of the Iranian people finally boiled over in a sustained nationwide uprising openly calling for the overthrow of the theocracy that rules the Middle East's most influential country.  Largely women-led and triggered by the regime's brutal oppression of women, the rebellion shows how much the Iranian people aspire to be part of the modern world, and how outdated the repressive and religiously-conservative regimes of the Middle East -- most of them sclerotic relics of the mid-twentieth century -- have become.  The days of similar tyrannies nearby, notably the Saudi regime, may well be numbered.

5. The China rebellion.  Though less sustained or successful than its Iranian counterpart, the Chinese uprising was similarly a boiling-over of rage and frustration at authoritarian repression -- in this case, the draconian lockdowns and other supposed anti-covid measures, far more extreme than anything even contemplated in the West during the pandemic.  Though the regime was never in danger of overthrow, it appears to have been scared enough to remove most of the repressive rules, a shocking outcome given the clear trend toward tightening Orwellian control under Xi.  The people now know that they have the power to force change, though at great cost -- protest leaders are, of course, being tracked down, arrested, and murdered.

6. Japan's decision to re-militarize.  Facing growing threats from China and North Korea, and having learned from the Trump period that the US is a less reliable protector than previously thought, Japan this year made the decision to vastly beef up its own military power, notably by building long-range missiles capable of striking deep into the territory of China or of other adversaries.  Japan already has fairly formidable air and naval forces, its economy is the world's third largest, its population is almost as large as Russia's, and it is probably still the most technologically-capable nation on Earth.  If the new build-up eventually includes an independent nuclear deterrent (and yes, that question will inevitably arise), it will mean the emergence of a genuine new superpower, one which the rotted-out and decrepit Potemkin forces of Russia and China will never be able to match.  A re-armed and nuclearized Japan would be inferior only to the US, and perhaps not by much.  This would represent a major upheaval in the global order as we know it.

7. The success of the DART mission.  NASA was able to use a space missile to change the course of an asteroid, albeit a small one.  This confirms that if an asteroid on a collision course with Earth is detected in the future, if we have enough warning, we will probably be able to deflect it to miss our planet.  NASA's page on such missions is headed "Planetary Defense", and the achievement well justifies the futuristic-sounding title.

8. Broad progress in medical technology.  Beyond new covid treatments, this year saw a potential universal flu vaccine, a drug for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a method for destroying tumors without surgery, an inexpensive cervical-cancer vaccine from India, a basis for innovative kinds of antibiotics, a radical new genetic treatment for leukemia, a new malaria vaccine, a DNA-based method of destroying cancer cells -- and a breakthrough in making old cells young again, part of the fight against the worst killer disease of all, the aging process.

9. The US turn against ChinaRecent US actions show that the Biden administration recognizes the Chinese regime as a threat, and intends to discourage the further growth of its power.  The regime is still dependent on the democracies for advanced technology, so if they work together, they can starve the dragon that threatens them.

10. The Dobbs ruling in the US.  The shock of this ruling, and of the state-level abortion bans that followed, was the game-changer in the 2022 US election.  It galvanized a surge in female voter registration and turnout.  If this leads to the permanent mobilization of women as a distinct political force in the US, and if the Republicans remain in thrall to the theocratic taboo on abortion, the impact will continue to be felt in many future elections.

o o o o o

And looking ahead.....  I'm wary of predictions, but there's one thing we do know will happen this year, probably around April:  India will overtake China to become the world's most populous country.  This will symbolize a transition which is already under way and has several more years to run.  China is a rapidly-aging society, demographically crippled by the aftereffects of the disastrous one-child policy, its people isolated from the world and held back at every turn by a ruthless and paranoid totalitarian regime with a truculent and belligerent stance toward other nations.  India is a youthful and vigorous democracy with a strong entrepreneurial culture, and open to the outside world; still beset by widespread poverty, yes, but so were the US and other now-advanced countries a few generations ago.  While China's façade has lately fallen to reveal a Ponzi economy imploding into stagnation, India feels like a boom beginning to happen.  And given India's huge population, that boom will reverberate around the world in the years to come.


Blogger SickoRicko said...

Terrific summation!

02 January, 2023 08:00  
Blogger Darrell Michaels said...

I think your summation of China versus India is spot on. It will be very interesting to see what happens to both nations over the course of the next decade.

02 January, 2023 15:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am hoping that Pres. Lulu of Brazil files for extradition of Santos (or what ever his name is)
If McCarthy loses speakership he resigns cutting thuglican majority even thinner.

02 January, 2023 21:01  
Blogger Daal said...

well done - in the overview, it's not as bad as it felt...

02 January, 2023 21:12  
Anonymous NickM said...

Well, I agree with Darrell Michaels. India is definitely liable to supplant China in many ways as the big power of Asia - they have plans to put folk in space very soon for example. As to Japan... Somehow I suspect their military build-up will be impressive because I imagine it will be highly focussed on becoming the absolute top-power in the West Pacific region. This is extremely good news for everyone (especially South Koreans and Taiwanese) because of the increasingly absurd beligerence of the PRC and DPRK. India does have a problem with weird religio-nationalism which is in many ways not entirely unlike the issues the US has. That it's Hindu rather than Christian doesn't really make much difference.

Something else of enormous interest is Taiwan Semiconductor is in advanced talks about building a fab in Dresden, Germany. They are also looking at expanding their facility in Phoenix, AZ. This is the sought of thing that gives Prez Xi the screaming mentals. Could we be seeing China's stint as the "Workshop of the World" sliding away from them? I mean you've got the growing industrial power of India and outfits like TSMC investing in Germany and the US - not exactly notedly low-wage economies then is the PRC beginning to look a bit of a bust flush...

Of course Xi could "solve" the problem of Taiwan by invading. Somehow I suspect the experience of his chum Vlad might stay his hand - especially because the amphibious nature of the invasion would be stunningly difficult for anyone and China doesn't have much experience with such operations at all. I also assume Taiwan has a lot of high-end anti-ship missiles as well. We could see a lot of Chinese steel at the bottom of the Taiwan strait and a revolution in Beijing because that really would be a last roll of the dice...

03 January, 2023 03:32  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ricko: Thanks!

Darrell: I think people will be surprised. Americans tend to underestimate India as much as they overestimate China -- and to know very little about either.

Anon: That could happen. I doubt president Lula will get involved, but Brazil is reviving a fraud case against Santos, and could very well ask for extradition.

Daal: Thanks. Always remember that the media tend to focus on the negative. It gets them more page views but it doesn't give an accurate picture.

NickM: I really hope India doesn't waste money and risk lives trying to put humans in space. There's just no point in doing so. India already has a space program that more than pays for itself because it focuses on satellites which provide information useful to its economy.

The BJP government is indeed rather parallel to the Christian-nationalist element in the US. But India's democracy seems very stable, and the country will eventually move past this as the US voted Trump out of power. I assume religious belief is declining with time among India's population, just like everywhere else.

I wouldn't be surprised to see a fairly close alliance develop between Japan and India. Japanese money and technology could greatly strengthen India's military, while India could protect Japan's oil lifeline to the Middle East and act as a partner against China, especially since India already has nuclear weapons.

Other countries have been moving production out of China for some time, and I'm sure the trend will escalate now that the problems caused by Europe's former dependence on Russian gas have reminded everyone that it's dangerous to get economically entangled with gangster-states.

I'm sure the Ukraine war has given the Chinese regime pause about attacking Taiwan, although their bluster will remain as belligerent as ever. And if the Taiwanese are smart, they're strongly considering an independent nuclear deterrent of their own.

03 January, 2023 04:09  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Nice!y done and spot on. As others have noted, reasons for some optimism, of which I've been in short supply. Thank you for all you do here.

03 January, 2023 10:54  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Anon: Thank you for the kind words. And yes, overall I think it was a good year.

03 January, 2023 18:37  
Anonymous Reaganite Independent said...

That’s a balanced oversight, don’t think I would change a thing/linked. Good to reflect, the news cycle has become a blur, many of us almost forget monumental achievements as soon as they happen

05 January, 2023 02:24  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Thanks. I'm surprised at how little coverage some of these events got.

05 January, 2023 11:12  

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