• Richard Murff

2022: The New BiPolar


That's not Beijing...

By now we all should have snapped out of whatever meat-coma and hangover tar-pit we’ve been circling for the last month and started thinking about getting back to work. In the scope of world events, however, there isn’t a whole hell of a lot that we can do about the coming year’s looming disasters, but it does help to prioritize your responses. Fate is like the Running of the Bulls: There is too much you can’t control, so just eyeball the creature most likely to stomp you into Spanish jelly and try to leap out of the way. New opportunities and emerging technologies all bear forward planning, but practically speaking, it never hurts to know whose trying to kill you in the coming year.


Despite all our prepping for the coming confrontation with China, it isn’t likely to be the Red Menace that going to pull the world off its rails in 2022, but the Green one out of Tehran. Yes, the collision with China looms inevitable, but it isn’t likely to be this year. For that matter, it’s likely to be over the Strait of Taiwan, either, but the Gulf of Oman.


What Beijing needs right now is stability at home so President Xi Jinping can secure a historic third presidential term (no one’s done it since Mao), and abroad to build China bloc that can function without the West. On the domestic front, Xi has no real rivals to his grip on power, but the real estate bubble in the middle of that phenomenal growth is set to crater the economy as well as wipe out the savings of an entire middle class – who will not want to go back into the proletariat bag. To keep domestic unrest at bay, it needs what everyone needs: Cheap oil. Oil sales to China doubled in 2021, and look likely to double again this year.


A hard landing in the Chinese economy will tamp down global commodity inflation, but won’t do oil prices any favors. In short, this is not the year for a war with the West.

Which brings us to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – that China bloc designed to operate independently of the Western economies. It consists predictably of Russia, India and, as of last year, Iran. While China’s hard landing might be bad this year, Iran’s economy has already tanked, with the rial losing some 90% of its value since 2015. And yet, Tehran is still the strongest single player in the Middle East largely by sowing chaos throughout the region. As the Islamic Republic was literally (not figuratively) established by its founder as doomsday cult set to bring about the end of the world, chaos is an effective tool – but a slippery one. It’s hard to use it without being consumed by it.


The problem that the US can’t do much about the chaos. The net-net of the United States’ withdrawal the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Obama’s not-great-but-serviceable nuclear deal, is that Iran no longer has to follow anyrules. Or any of our rules, at any rate. By reneging on the deal, Trump’s “maximum pressure” has, ironically, lost all its leverage and swept the Iranian hardliners into power as being sensible has gone out of fashion.


Per the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Iran will listen to China, as well as offer it naval bases in the Gulf of Oman. Which will give Iranian oil a market as well as a Chinese Naval escort. The US will likely be able to move to energy self-sufficiency. Like to previous cold war, it is Europe that will have to choose sides. Practically, that may not be the US.

The Unipolar post-Cold war world is over. The multi-polar world may have been oversold – in 2022 – the world looks likely to return to its comfy bi-polar world.