2022 was the year that challenged the premise that trade among countries will prevent conflict and war.

2022 was the year that saw a contest of ideas. It was a year where the Ideas were contested between globalisation and nativism, between democracies and autocracies, between nationalists and patriots and between climate believers versus deniers. It forced the world to sit up and take notice about its own commitment to green energy and challenge of replacing hydrocarbons. It was the time when the monarchy and its need was questioned with the passing of the Queen. This year marked a huge shift to debate around culture, history, religion and gender. It was a year of contesting ideas and questioning the status quo.
The post WW2 status of the western-built institution is being contested by the increasing economic output and heft of the Global South. The post Cold War status of a unipolar world with the US as the primary hegemon is being contested by the Russia-China bonhomie as well as the development of other middle power countries. The recent decades of increasing Hyper-globalisation have brought with it its own share of downsides. So, globalisation began to be contested.
The ideas of Russian/Slavic identity have been contested by Russia. The notion that great powers can win small countries easily is being contested. Ukraine has fought and withstood the invasion bravery and tenaciously overcoming naysayers at the beginning of the war. China is contesting the islands and territories of the South China Sea as well as attempting to redraw boundaries with several of its neighbours. The notion that Japan is and will remain a pacifist country after the Second World War, and its Self Defence Forces are built only to protect and not to advance, is being contested within Japan. Japan came out with a ground-breaking new national security policy that is aimed at responding especially to Chinese aggression. North Korea is becoming increasingly belligerent with its missile tests as it develops further capabilities to arm its long range missiles as it questions and contests its position as a pariah state.
2022 was the year that challenged the premise that trade among countries will prevent conflict. Interdependence in trade and commerce was long touted as the holy grail that will prevent nations and great powers from going to war. That is no longer the case. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the economic war between US and China have upended the global order. Regardless of the high level of integration in energy markets by Russia and in most markets by China, conflict already is occurring. With Russia waging war and the West responding with sanctions, the west and Russia have decoupled.
As energy prices have risen around the world, the push for green energy is facing resistance. With steeply rising energy prices in Europe due to the Ukraine conflict, coupled with inflation, European countries are facing a difficult choice between choosing either to continue sanctions on Russia or to buy steeply priced oil and gas from elsewhere as green energy is simply insufficient to meet all needs. Some countries have been forced to re-open old coal fired plants as a response to it thereby going against long years’ transition to green energy.
The nature of democracy and what democracy means is being contested around the globe. Several large democracies from Brazil to US had either presidential or other elections that tested the seams of their democracies. As demagogues challenged, questioned, sowed doubt, and opposed free and fair elections, the strength of democracies and the faith of the citizens in the election machine were tested- and democracies thrived.
It’s also a contest between the role of women in Islam. While Indonesia has moved in a regressive direction, women in Iran are have displayed a rare courage to fight and contest for their basic, fundamental rights. On the business front, 2022 was a first in a long time when a huge movement against Big Tech gained considerable traction. Between privacy activists to lawsuits, fines and massive layoffs, Big Tech has been remarkably on the backfoot this year.
Multilateral organisations and institutions are being called to be more inclusive and reshaped. Countries like India and more from the Global South are looking for their due and demanding greater participation and voice in places such as the Security Council. India is contesting the pressure to toe a certain line on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Instead, we have chosen to put the needs of its own citizens’ front and centre, above regional geopolitics. We have also argued to buy cheap oil for our energy needs from anywhere in the world. That has been consistently contested by our partners and allies around the globe.
In Britain, with the loss of the Queen, the necessity and need of the world’s most famous monarchy is being questioned and contested. Whether the monarchy should remain as a taxpayer funded institution where members continue by birth and not merit is being challenged. The alternative view is that the monarchy brings in more revenue through tourism than is needed for its upkeep. It is also claimed to be fulfilling the vital purpose of providing stability and role of head of state.
Recent decades witnessed stability because some ideas and assumptions were widely accepted. Now, no assumptions are left unchallenged. 2023 will see more ideas being contested.
Rajesh Mehta is an international affairs expert focussing on areas like market entry, innovation, geopolitics and public policy.