Who had it right – and who had it wrong – in 2022
Police broke through the vandalized entrance to Sri Lanka’s presidential palace in July. The country has been hit hard by an economic crisis.
Abishek Chinnappa | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Curtis S. Chin, former US ambassador to the Asian Development Bank, is managing director of the consulting firm RiverPeak Group. Jose B. Collazo is an analyst specializing in the Indo-Pacific region. Follow them on Twitter at @CurtisSchin and @JoseBCollazo.
As the new year approaches, we once again turn to our annual look at Asia’s winners and losers. Heads of government and business leaders from all major economies – including China now – can well hope that 2023 will be the year the draconian pandemic-related lockdowns become a matter of history.
In our 2021 annual report, we attributed the “worst year in Asia” to Afghan women and girls, a consequence of the chaotic withdrawal of the United States and its allies from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban regime. The ‘best year’ went to Asian Cold War warriors, as social media, ‘wolf warriors’ and politicians helped spark a return to Cold War rhetoric amid deteriorating US relations -Chinese.
Now, with the hopes that Covid is in retreat and inflation will moderate in the coming year, we take one last look at who got it right and who got it bad in 2022.
Best Year: Kids Back in Southeast Asia – Marcos and Anwar
Perseverance paid off in 2022 at the end of the year with Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. of the Philippines and Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia becoming the leaders of their respective countries. One saved a family legacy, the other rose from prison to power – scenarios worthy of a Netflix series.
In the Philippines, Marcos – the namesake son of his authoritarian father – won a landslide presidential election in May, despite what critics see as a family legacy of corruption and impunity. More than 35 years ago, in February 1986, Marcos senior and his wife Imelda fled to Hawaii in exile, driven by a people power revolution and a loss of American support.
And in Malaysia, Anwar finally emerged victorious in November, ditching the longtime descriptor of “prime minister-in-waiting” to become his country’s 10th prime minister. It followed decades of smear campaigns, imprisonments and clandestine intrigues as the former deputy prime minister challenged vested interests with his anti-corruption vows.
Both now face the challenge of governing and advancing their respective countries. Stay tuned for the next episode.
Happy New Year: Taiwan’s semiconductor chip makers
In a year that saw tensions between the United States and China reach a fever pitch when US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei, China’s sophisticated semiconductor industry island ends the year in a good position. Taiwanese chipmakers are more essential than ever.
Semiconductor chips are at the heart of everything from computers to cars to smartphones. Highlighting the critical role of Taiwan’s technology industry, a The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA)/Boston Consulting Group 2021 study found that 92% of the world’s most advanced semiconductor manufacturing capacity is in Taiwan. The remaining 8% were in South Korea.
TSMC headquarters in Hsinchu, Taiwan. The semiconductor maker’s products are at the heart of everything from automobiles to smartphones.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A rare bipartisan U.S. Congress took notice by passing the CHIPS and Science Act in July 2022, which allocates $52 billion in federal funding to further stimulate domestic production of semiconductor chips. In December, the world’s dominant chipmaker, Taiwan semiconductor manufacturing company (TSMC), announced plans for a second semiconductor chip factory in Arizona, bringing to $40 billion what is already one of the largest foreign investments in US history.
With numbers like these, Taiwan’s semiconductor industry is ending the year on the move, continuing to forge ties and gain growing support from businesses and governments in the United States and beyond.
Mixed year: Asia’s “love” for crypto
As in much of the world, investors in Asia – once dazzled if not spellbound by the crypto industry – are ending the year in mixed mood. The industry meltdowns have left many, including in government, wondering if the message of caveat emptor – buyer beware – is enough, and new regulations are looming.
The billion-dollar implosion of crypto exchange FTX has set off alarm bells across the region. Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, which canceled its entire $275 million investment in the now-collapsed FTX cryptocurrency business, has suffered “reputational damage”, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said.
FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried is led by Royal Bahamas Police officers after his arrest.
Mario Duncanson | AFP | Getty Images
Bad year: Sri Lanka, the (unique) pearl of South Asia
Even amid food insecurity and economic concerns across much of Asia, images of angry citizens storming the official residence of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the presidential secretariat stand out in what was definitely a bad year for this “pearl of the South”. Asia.”
Sri Lanka continues to face a multidimensional crisis. A shattered economy, depleted foreign exchange reserves, high inflation – at one point reaching over 70% – and shortages of electricity, fuel and food compounded by the impact of war in Ukraine, a growing “brain drain” and low tourist numbers characterize today this South Asian nation today.
Negotiations for an agreement with the IMF remain complicated by large amounts of Sri Lankan debt held by China, India and Japan.
By September, nearly 200,000 Sri Lankans had left the island nation and thousands of would-be emigrants were planning to follow suit in search of a better future elsewhere.
An IMF deal to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt could provide much-needed liquidity and economic stability, but negotiations remain complicated by large amounts of Sri Lanka’s debt held by China, India and Japan.
Worst year: Chinese citizens besieged and locked up
While China prides itself on an extraordinarily low number of (officially reported) Covid-related deaths, the country has also become a showcase for the negative consequences of efforts to contain the virus. In what should have been a good year for Chinese President Xi Jinping, he saw the year end with a wave of Chinese discontent.
At the end of the year, anti-lockdown protests were reported in many cities, including the world’s largest iPhone assembly plant in Zhengzhou, as China’s zero Covid policy hurt the economy and the mental health of ordinary people.
“We want freedom, not Covid testing,” became a common chant of some protesters, according to Reuters, as individuals “pushed the boundaries by speaking out for change in a country where space for dissent has shrunk.” considerably shrunk”.
The spark that ignited the rare protests was news that 10 people, including several children, died in a building fire in Urumqi, China’s Xinjiang province, in an area that had been closed for several months. A social media storyline that resonated across the country focused on the role Covid checks may have played in those deaths.
Chinese citizens can be confident that these protests may well have had an impact. The Chinese government has started easing zero-Covid restrictions. Yet the country continues to lag the world in openness and advancement, and concerns persist about the country’s elderly vaccination rate.
And so, even as hope has returned for a better year ahead, China’s beleaguered and locked-down citizens take dubious honors for worst year in Asia 2022.