The year 2022 was one of grim and grisly returns: the return of major war—and nuclear brinkmanship—to Europe; the return of high inflation and the threat of stagflation globally; and the return of famine, extreme poverty, and other problems to the developing world, reversing decades of steady progress.
With new findings about the sheer pace and scale of glacier melt in Antarctica and Greenland, the year also shed a harsh light on the damage—much of it irreversible—that climate change is wreaking on the planet. And with Chinese President Xi Jinping securing a precedent-breaking third term, China will continue its backward march to Mao-style dictatorship.
More broadly, dangerous global developments—including the COVID-19 pandemic, the apparent reversal (or at least plateauing) of globalization, and high and unsustainable debt burdens across developing and emerging economies—continued in 2022. The spasms of political instability and civil disorder seen in Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Ghana, and Suriname may be a harbinger of similar turmoil elsewhere.
As for the broader threat to democracy, 2022 offered grounds for both optimism and concern. Notwithstanding a few hiccups, Kenya held a successful presidential election and completed a peaceful transfer of power—offering some hope for others in the region. In the United States, the January 6 Committee revealed in startling detail just how close former President Donald Trump came to orchestrating America’s first-ever coup after his electoral loss in 2020, though subsequent polls showed that the committee’s work had little impact on public opinion.
Meanwhile, in France, President Emmanuel Macron won re-election against a far-right populist but lost the parliamentary majority that his party had commanded during his first term. In Brazil, voters signaled their discontent with President Jair Bolsonaro. But, taking his cues from Trump, Bolsonaro has proved utterly contemptuous of democratic norms or the people’s will. And in Italy and Sweden, far-right parties came to power, confirming the enduring appeal of populist-nationalist forces for many voters.
Finally, with the rapid tightening of monetary policies, an extraordinarily long honeymoon for business, finance, and tech finally ended. Bubbles have burst, and many business models have been exposed as unviable in the absence of ultra-loose financial conditions and seemingly limitless liquidity. Supply-chain disruptions, new sanctions and national-security measures, labor shortages, and other factors are posing challenges even for the strongest, most well-established businesses. The so-called Great Moderation, which policymakers worked to prolong after the 2008 global financial crisis, appears to be gone for good. Like it or not, the year ahead is certain to reveal more of what that means.