Year-ender 2022: What The Year Meant For The World

War in Ukraine: The biggest surprise has been the resilience of broadly liberal countries in the West. When Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine on February 24, he expected the government of a corrupt state to buckle. After a humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, the decadent, divided West would surely fail to match the condemnation of Russia with real backing for Ukraine. In fact, Volodymyr Zelensky and his people affirmed that self-determination and liberty are worth dying for.

Roe vs Wade: In America, despite the awful approval numbers of Joe Biden, centrists used their ballots to preserve fundamental rights, including in some states the right to an abortion after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe vs Wade. In competitive races, hard-core election deniers endorsed by Donald Trump almost all lost.

Changes in Europe: In France Marine Le Pen was still beaten by Emmanuel Macron. In Italy, Giorgia Meloni became the first far-right post-war Prime Minister, while Rishi Sunak became the Prime Minister of Britain.

Hijab row: After three months of protests following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested for failing to follow the rules in wearing her hijab, the security forces in Iran have taken to shooting female protesters in the face, breasts and genitals. Having forfeited the faith of their people, mullahs now have no other lever but violence.

Xi extends dominance: Xi Jinping extended dominance of the Chinese Communist Party, installing himself as its permanent chief and the most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. But his steps to cool the property market, rein back consumer tech and block covid did grave harm to the economy. Today, as the virus spreads, it is clear that his government wasted months when it should have been vaccinating the elderly, stockpiling drugs and creating intensive-care beds.

Divided world: The tests of 2022 have also revealed the depths of the world’s divisions and have set the big government on the march. To gauge the divisions, compare the almost universal support for America after the attacks of September 11, 2001, with the global south’s determination to stay neutral in the fight over Ukraine. In the most recent UN vote to reprimand Russia, 35 countries abstained. Many resent how the West asserts that its worries are issues of global principle, whereas war in Yemen or the Horn of Africa, say, or climate-related droughts and floods, always seem to be regional.

Democracy under strain: In much of the world liberal values are embattled. Despite the defeat of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, democracy is under strain in Latin America. As he presides over ruinous inflation in Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is prosecuting potential opponents in the election in 2023. In Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu is trying to avoid jail for corruption by forming a coalition with the Arab-hating, gay-bashing far right. Indonesia adopted an illiberal criminal code in December that threatens to ban sex outside marriage, stifle free speech and impose religious orthodoxy. India’s economy is brimming over with tech-inspired enterprise, but its politics are majoritarian, ugly and cruel.

Economic nationalism: The largesse during the pandemic changed expectations of the state. Creative destruction, which reallocates capital and labour, may be unpalatable to ageing populations that are hit by slow economic growth and to younger voters who embrace the politics of identity. Big-government capitalism has a poor record. Given decades-high inflation, it is odd that voters want to reward politicians and officials by giving them power over bits of the economy they are not suited to run.

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