The year that just began will be crucial for the Asian continent. Although the fight against the pandemic will continue to be the main concern for many governments, several political events are already scheduled. Some of the main dates call for close monitoring.
Several moments will mark the new year in Asia: politics, sports, anniversaries, Church
In January, Cambodia will take over the presidency of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Prime Minister Hun Sen has already announced that early in the year he will visit General Ming Aung Mlaing, head of the ruling junta in Myanmar, reversing the organisation's policy of non-interference maintained until now. This is causing concern in Washington, which fears a repositioning of the region vis-à-vis Beijing. In Southeast Asia, the G20 is set to meet in Bali in October, Indonesia (new coronavirus variants permitting). A month later, COP27 will be held in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt.
Presidential elections are scheduled in March in South Korea and in May in the Philippines. In the latter, Marcos junior, son of the country's late dictator, is still leading in the polls. Lebanon holds a general election in March while Hong Kong picks a new chief executive that same month, following parliamentary elections on 19 December that saw a record low turnout.
Eyes on China: In March, the National People's Congress will open. Preparations are underway for the most important event of the year: the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China in early November. In 2018, China removed the two-term presidential limit, so many analysts expect Xi Jinping to get a third five-year term, but much will depend on the party's internal dynamics. Ample space will be certainly given to domestic social reforms. Towards the end of the year, BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) will hold their 14th summit, with China taking on the presidency in 2022.
A news items that has passed quietly concerns Biden's statement that he wants to end US military combat operations in Iraq by the end of the year. This withdrawal will be closely monitored after the one in Afghanistan whose future seems very uncertain.
The new year include a number of important historical anniversaries. Egypt will celebrate 100 years of independence from the United Kingdom early in the year and the 70th anniversary of the 1952 coup d'état. Another centenary will be that of the arrest of Mahatma Gandhi in India, a country that together with Pakistan will celebrate 75 years of independence in August.
July will mark 25 years since Hong Kong's handover from the United Kingdom to China. In the Middle East, the 50th anniversary of the massacre of the Munich Olympics will be commemorated in September, while November will mark another centenary, that of the end of the Ottoman Empire.
The new year will see the opening of the controversial Beijing Winter Olympics, which several English-speaking countries plan to boycott at the diplomatic level. The Asia Cup will be held in Sri Lanka in April, while the Asian Games will take place in Hangzhou, China, in September. At the end of next year, in November and December, the FIFA World Cup will be held in Qatar, already widely criticised for its inhumane treatment of immigrant workers.
In 2022 the Churches of Asia will continue the local phases of the synodal path set to end in Rome in 2023. Other key events will take place at the Vatican. In May Pope Francis will officially canonise Lazarus Devasahayam (1712-1752), a court official who converted to Christianity and preached the equality of Dalits. He will be the first Indian layman to be proclaimed a saint. In a recent interview, the pontiff also expressed the desire to make an apostolic journey to East Timor and Papua New Guinea in 2022. Initially scheduled for 2020, the visit was postponed due to the pandemic.