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Amal Attar-Guzman: China will not invade Taiwan in 2022, and climate migration will rise in the new year

Commentary

To close out the year, we’ve asked our contributors and staff to make a prediction about 2022. You would think, at least since the early days of 2020, that we’d have learned our lesson about making predictions, but we couldn’t resist. Feel free to save these if you want to embarrass us with them later.


By Amal Attar-Guzman

There has been some talk from various foreign correspondents about the growing possibility of China potentially invading Taiwan, what would that look like and how will it impact the region.

Now, despite the growing fear that President Xi Jinping will invade and annex the island, the likelihood of that actually happening in the new year, in my view, is very low.

A recent dialogue with Professor Zhang Weiwei, despite what folks may think about it, shows one thing clear: President Xi Jinping is a strategic, meticulous, and patient person. Just because he and his supporters may clearly have an objective, that does not mean that they would make rash decisions to acquire it. Based on his background and personality, Chairman Xi Jinping does not seem to be someone who is frivolous in his decision-making to acquire long-term goals.

The ultimate goal of an invasion is for it to be successful in the long term, and there is little evidence an imminent invasion of Taiwan would be successful due to present conditions in Taiwan itself. A Brookings Institute report shows Taiwan’s democracy has been progressing and strongly maintained. A 2021 U.S. Department of State report highlights that civil and political rights and the rule of law are protected in the country, while human rights groups can operate without restrictions.

Economic conditions in Taiwan are also strong, ranking the 4th freest economy among 40 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the 2021 Index of Economic Freedom. Taiwan’s economic growth even outpaced China for the first time in decades. Further, despite dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak and being so geographically near to China, Taiwan has been very successful in maintaining the outbreak with strong public health measures. The pandemic did not break down or much weaken the country’s state affairs or its economic growth.

Additionally, according to a Taipei Times poll, 90 percent of Taiwanese citizens self-identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese, and about two-thirds stated that they would be willing to fight for Taiwan in case of war. Altogether, this means that any military intervention would be strongly opposed. While there is a small minority that identifies as Chinese and pro-China organizations have been active, they have yet to have a strong influential presence, with only 1.5 percent supporting unification with China, according to a National Chengehi University survey.

Given present conditions, it’s evident that the grounds for a successful invasion are not fertile enough as there aren’t any clear or major political, economic, or social breakdowns now or in the near future. If China wishes to invade Taiwan, it would take a lot more strategic planning and patience for the wheels of fortune to change.

Now, that isn’t to say that China will not flex its muscles. It has recently done so by sending over thirty-eight warplanes close to Taiwan. But it is important to keep in mind that none of these warplanes actually entered into Taiwan’s airspace, thus not breaching its sovereignty. What China did that day did not signify an invasion in the near future. Instead, it was testing the island and its allies—particularly its American ones, demonstrating its military power as the country celebrated its 72nd anniversary of the People’s Republic of China founding.

The number of climate migrants will rise in the new year

This year, the world has seen many catastrophes due to climate change: a snow blizzard in Spain, a cyclone in Fiji, a sandstorm in China, and wildfires in Greece and Turkey. We’ve even seen it in our own backyard here in Canada: with this past summer’s wildfires in Northern Ontario to a heat dome and recent heavy rains and flooding in British Columbia.

It is clear that the international community is taking great notice of its negative impacts, assembling for COP26 back in November and concluding the conference with a pledge to achieve net-zero by mid-century.

Despite COP26 objectives and goals, it is clear that certain impacts of climate change have already taken shape. One major negative impact is the eventual rise of climate migrants. From these catastrophes, displacement occurs due to the loss of habitable environments, destruction of homes, and the rise of food insecurity.  Further, the countries that are most affected by climate displacement are developing nations, and, as climate change worsens, the World Bank estimates it could trigger 216 million people to migrate within their own countries by 2050.

While achieving certain climate change objectives may lessen the impact, it is already set in motion nonetheless. It is only a matter of time before we see mass migrations go across borders. It already has been happening at the U.S.-Mexico border with the rise of Central American migrants.

As such, it shouldn’t be a surprise, sadly, to see the rise of climate migrants being reported in the new year. Additionally, we will have to have the difficult discussion of whether or not climate migrants legally qualify as refugees.

Will the age of ownership end in 2022? Plus three predictions from the west coast

Commentary

To close out the year, we’ve asked our contributors and staff to make a prediction about 2022. You would think, at least since the early days of 2020, that we’d have learned our lesson about making predictions, but we couldn’t resist. Feel free to save these if you want to embarrass us with them later.


By L. Graeme Smith

There are many bewilderments a new Walmart brings to a small rural town full of long summer boredoms and bereft—until all of a sudden it’s decidedly not—of big-box capitalism. Chief among them, in our home at least, was the five-dollar DVD bin. A wonder. Five or ten dollars here and there and soon you’re building a wall-sized shelf to house the complete Planet of the Apes collection and other wonders of the 20th-century cinematic world.

But nobody owns DVDs anymore. Or hardly anyone. Why would you, when everything is available to instantly stream for just a small subscription fee? Available, that is until it is not. After all, as the fine print is fast to point out, you do not actually own your movies, or TV shows, or music. Or your books, or even your photos. And the things you do have? You increasingly don’t have the right to repair them when they break. 

Paying for something upfront and enjoying its service thereafter is becoming an antiquated concept as the subscription and software as a service model subsumes everything. 

And I truly mean everything. Toyota recently confirmed that moving forward it will cost you $8/month to use your key fob for remote start. Unlocking full rear-wheel steering functionality in your Mercedes EQS requires a $576/year subscription. 

Care about your health? Even your pulse is now pay-to-play. A new Oura Ring heart monitor costs you $399, but the Gen3 model also requires an additional $6/month subscription to fully function. A Peloton Bike membership is $49.99/month. The app just on its own is $16.99/month.

And if you’re young and, like me, yet to own a house? Genuinely, good luck. But don’t worry. A nice beachfront screensaver just opened up in the Metaverse. Surely you’ll be content with that.

As payment becomes more seamless then of course it will become more ubiquitous. If it is fast and frictionless to charge for anything, why wouldn’t you be charged for everything? Mammon is hungry, and once-and-for-all ownership is being consumed by a system of payment in perpetuity.

Is it inevitable that capital will be ceaselessly elevated out of the tangible and into the abstract as our lives and interactions are slowly but surely and bit by digital bit mediated through the online realm? Will 2022 already mark the end of the age of ownership?

I really don’t know, which is what makes this a bad prediction. It is more of a noticing. And I’m just noticing that trends are trending towards a non-fungible future. The water isn’t quite so unbearable yet, but my little froggy feet are starting to feel the fire. 

Am I wrong to clutch desperately at the few actual things still within my reach?

L. Graeme Smith is The Hub’s deputy editor.


Three predictions from the west coast

By Kelden Formosa

1. The BC Liberal Leadership Race Comes Down to Ross and Falcon

Given all the major events taking place in B.C. this year, it was perhaps no surprise that the leadership race for the centre-right B.C. Liberal Party would fly mostly under the radar. The only story that’s attracted much media attention has been the controversial exclusion of popular right-wing commentator Aaron Gunn by party brass. But the race could well heat up before the leadership election in February. Attention is focused on Ellis Ross, the former Chief Councillor of the Haisla Nation and MLA for Skeena, whose folksy campaign has emphasized reconciliation and overcoming poverty in Indigenous communities, defending our beleaguered resource industries, and opposing wokeness and cancel culture, and Kevin Falcon, whose more-polished campaign has emphasized his years of experience as a Campbell and Clark-era cabinet minister. It’s a classic outsider versus insider race, with most of the caucus coming down on Falcon’s side while conservative activists like the aforementioned Gunn and hunting legend Jim Shockey have signalled support for Ross. The other candidates haven’t attracted as much attention, but their second-preference votes will likely decide the outcome, as the BC Liberals use the same electoral system as the federal Conservatives.

2. Education Finally Becomes A Major Issue in Canadian Politics

Potential Omicron-driven school closures across the nation, continuing debates around pluralism, religious freedom, and aggressive laïcité in Quebec schools, efforts to tweak or rewrite parts of the controversial new Alberta curriculum, and renewed battles over the excesses of woke education in Ontario: this could well be the year that Canadians start paying closer attention to what’s going on in their schools. For example, an Ontario teachers’ union recently won a court case where judges ruled a math proficiency test for new teachers was unconstitutional on the grounds that it could have a disparate impact on racialized teacher candidates. How preventing the government from assessing teacher candidates’ math proficiency was supposed to help students was left unclear by the ruling. Look for the Ontario PC government to smell a winning issue and either appeal what seems to be an expression of judicial activism or invoke the notwithstanding clause.

3. Challenges to the Safe Supply Consensus Emerge

Over the last several years, it’s become an article of faith that the best way to treat Canada’s opioid epidemic is for government to provide less-toxic, so-called safe supplies of various opioids to the many people who are struggling with addictions. This was the logical extension of the overall harm reduction approach that provided supervised injection sites and reduced police focus on drug crime enforcement. But as British Columbia, the province which has gone furthest with this approach, suffers yet another devastating year of its highest-ever overdose deaths, questions are finally being asked as to whether we should go further down this path. The Globe and Mail recently published a doctor’s op-ed suggesting it’s not working, while councillors and mayoral candidates in Vancouver have signalled discomfort with the open drug markets in our Downtown Eastside. Meanwhile, neighbouring Alberta has recently promised that addicts who are arrested will immediately be offered recovery-oriented addiction treatment. Plus, opposing drug legalization has generally been a winning issue for federal Conservatives among the Chinese Canadians who abandoned them in the last election. All these factors could help create a real national debate as to whether we want safe supply to be the core of our drug and addictions policy going forward.

Kelden Formosa is an elementary school teacher in Vancouver, BC.