If we thought 2019 and 2020 presented uncertainties then 2022 is here to surprise all of us. It could be remembered as one of the most complex, unpredictable, and potentially dangerous years in the recent past.
COVID-19, oil crossing $100/barrel, Iran-US nuclear talks, Iran-Israel tension, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, cryptocurrency, and militarization of outer space are the obvious choices of topics that would continue to occupy most news items and human mindscape in 2022. However, I present some of the lesser-known happenings in 2022, that may escape attention but will have long-term effects on India and the world.
China’s Colonization of Latin America and the Pacific
The most profound impact on the world would come from China, and no one is going to like this effect. China would continue to harass and bully neighboring countries. India, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam will be obvious choices of Xi Jinping’s dominance strategy.
China would also continue to spread its influence in the Middle East and Africa but the most important Chinese strategy that would not draw enough attention would be seen in South America and the Pacific. China would take the war (not in the literal sense) to the American doorstep. It will progressively challenge the established American fiefdom in these areas, to keep it engaged in local issues (a similar strategy is being employed in the Indian subcontinent), and keep it away from the South China Sea and Taiwan.
In South America, Brazil’s trade dependence (biggest trading partner), Nicaragua’s technical dependence, Argentina’s financial dependence, Chile’s copper sale dependence (over 10 percent of GDP), Peru, Ecuador, and Uruguay’s exports dependence (28.29, 15.79, and 20.3 percent respectively), and Venezuela’s complete surrender would cost them dearly when the Chinese economy teeters.
China is also on a blitzkrieg of asset purchases in South America. State Grid Corporation of China‘s acquisitions of a power network and Sempra Energy in Chile, State Power Investment Corporation’s purchase of Mexican Zuma Energy, Three Gorges Corporation’s acquisition of Sempra Energy’s assets in Peru are some of the glaring examples of the new age colonization.
Another area that China feels is its backyard and will increasingly challenge the United States is the first island chain (Philippines, Taiwan, Okinawa, and mainland Japan). It also plans to progressively topple the American leadership in the second island chain (Guam, Yap, Saipan, Palau, and the Bonin Islands).
A dual-use wharf construction in Vanuatu, tourism development in Yap (Micronesia), subsidized civilian airport on Canton Island in Kiribati, and leasing of the entire island of Tulagi in the Solomon Islands by China are some of the glaring examples of increased Chinese footprint in the Pacific.
It is alleged that the recent resignations of Micronesia, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Kiribati from the Pacific Islands Forum – the region’s most influential body being supported by Japan, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, was staged by China.
Instead of reforms, China’s crackdown on the tech and property sector, which collectively constitute 60 percent of the Chinese economy, debt to GDP ratio of 290 percent, energy, and food shortages present an outdated economic model. With slogans like ‘Dual Circulation’, today’s China resembles ‘looking inwards’ 15th century Ming dynasty, when Yongle Emperor Zhu Di had cut China off from the world and that resulted in the great fall of China. Therefore 2022 would be the year of economic turmoil. Every country trying to be economically dependent on China would go down along with China. South America and the Pacific Islands are no different.
Russian Roulette in the Black Sea
There seems to be a tacit understanding between Russia and China to take a coordinated aggressive stance in their neighborhood. Although Russia has committed the same mistake with Ukraine what China did with India, it has fared much better than China in its game plan. Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine got it further pushed towards the west whereas the Chinese aggression left various Indian governments no choice but to synergize and produce better results.
In my assessment, Russia is bluffing its way through to put pressure on the west and Ukraine to avoid crossing the red line. For Russia, the red line is, Ukraine joining NATO and the European Union. Out of these two NATO is a bigger Russian concern.
Therefore throughout 2022, Russian troops will keep coming and going around the Ukrainian borders. We may also see some action in the disputed Donetsk and Luhansk region, but nothing beyond that. Russia would keep the United States and the west on the tenterhooks and Ukraine’s NATO joining, a distant dream.
The United States’ Year of Reckoning
Being the sole superpower of the world has made American bureaucracy rigid and the country’s leadership muddle-headed. If anyone they should thank then it is China and Russia, for shaking them out of their slumber.
Today, the US administration sits on trade agreements with Latin American nations for years and let China become their biggest trading partner. Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad meetings shy away from giving concrete plans. Pacific Island nations are getting trapped by China. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is becoming toothless and irrelevant.
However, a lot is about to change in 2022. The US is feeling the heat of unnecessary wars that gave time to countries like China to expand their base, stand up, and challenge the very hand which was feeding it for four decades. 2022 will see Quad addressing many contentious issues. The quad may also see an agreement on the lines of the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA) to decouple from China.
The US understands China’s bluff on Taiwan, however, given the higher tempo of military activities in Taiwan Strait, accidental military conflicts like the Cuban missile crisis can’t be ruled out. In my assessment, China would not be ready for another three years before it takes the United States on, and attacks Taiwan.
India’s Year of Capacity and Capability Building
India is on the cusp of achieving greater heights in the coming year. This would be the year of capacity and capability building for India. Just like the US, India should also be thankful to China for shaking her out of the deep slumber. The rude Chinese shock has led to a flurry of Indian defence trials in 2021. So, 2022 would be even more action-packed.
Some of the most prominent and promising trials and procurements in 2022 are:
In the End
Year’s biggest disappointment would be the European Union. It would shy away from taking a collective stand on the issues of Taiwan and Ukraine. The European Union would continue to recognize China as a business partner rather than a threat. China’s ‘divide and conquer’ strategy would hamper the EU’s efforts to show a united front.
Severe effects of climate change would bring never seen before numbers of super cyclones and tornadoes. Most countries’ militaries would be busy filling sandbags to save shorelines and help out the weather-ravaged countryside. Such freak weather activities would also add to already existing food shortages in the world. Over 45 million people are on the brink of famine across 43 countries. Afghanistan would be leading this bandwagon with the world’s worst food crisis in 2022.
The year would also see collapsed economies like Yemen, Somalia, Syria, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Chad, Sudan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Pakistan, and Nigeria to exacerbate their economic vexation.
In the end, India’s GDP is expected to grow at 8.5-9.5 percent in 2022, however, the real victory for India would be when per capita income shows real growth along with an internally united India. As the world’s oldest scripture Rig Veda most famously says:
“Samani va akuti samana hridayani vah.
Samanam astu vo mano yatha vah susahasati”
“United be your purpose, harmonious be your feelings, collected be your mind, in the same way as all the various aspects of the universe exist in togetherness, wholeness.”
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Chanakya Forum. All information provided in this article including timeliness, completeness, accuracy, suitability or validity of information referenced therein, is the sole responsibility of the author. www.chanakyaforum.com does not assume any responsibility for the same.
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