Coronavirus still dominates, but what else does 2022 have waiting for us?

It has been a consequential and eventful 2021, and we are thankful that the South China Morning Post continues to be one of your most trusted news destinations. 

Looking back at an exceptionally unpredictable year that brought us both vaccines and variants, it has become exceedingly clear that we should approach the upcoming year with an informed perspective on the issues that shape the direction of world events and impact the lives of people in Hong Kong and around the globe.

So what should we expect in 2022?

The coronavirus pandemic continues to loom large as governments and the scientific community grapple with the practical implications of transitioning from pandemic to endemic. The emergence of new, more infectious variants like Omicron complicates the global economic recovery, and we will be closely watching medical developments, including new medications, that will hopefully improve health outcomes.

This year brings important anniversaries that mark momentous change. We face an important transition in our home city of Hong Kong, as we reach 25 years since the establishment of the Special Administrative Region, and questions should be raised about where the next 25 years will take us. 

This year, potential aspirants for the city’s top job may soon contest for this challenging post as chief executive, and a new administration will be formed in a transformed political landscape. It is clear that Hong Kong’s next leader will have an unrestricted mandate to pursue their agenda as we enter the second half of the “one country, two systems” journey, and we will be closely following the race for the city’s hot seat. 

February 21 marks the 50th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972, the year that the United States recognised the Communist Party as the country’s legitimate government and established diplomatic ties, with the rest of the major Western countries following suit. 

However, relations between the US and China are now at a critical juncture with tensions building over Taiwan, human rights and territorial disputes. We will continue to watch closely when Joe Biden and Xi Jinping’s long-awaited, in-person presidential summit will take place, while both sides continue to escalate the political rhetoric. 

In the latter part of 2022, the Communist Party will hold its historic 20th National Congress, which is expected to confirm Xi’s third term as president, and this year may be remembered as the moment when China’s strength becomes commensurate with how he handles defining issues of this era. With Xi’s leadership over party and state officially consolidated, the world will be watching how his government addresses the immense political and economic challenges at home and abroad. 

One final thing to look out for this year will be how Chinese regulators may need to take a cautious approach as the country’s big tech firms, along with many of their international peers, are embracing the brave new world of the metaverse. This brings a new dimension to China’s ever-changing technology landscape , and a potential new stage in the US-China tech rivalry.