International media has considered the year 2024 as a crucial year. The first reason is that global peace is in jeopardy, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, the resurgence of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the United States bombing in the Red Sea, North and South Korea shelling each other (North Korea has designated South Korea as a national enemy in its constitution), and frequent military exercises in the Pacific Ocean especially creating tension in the South China Sea, The Philippines, disregarding its interests, has once again taken up a pro-U.S. foreign policy like a U.S. colony. At the same time, the Taiwan Strait is sensationalized as the world's most dangerous zone by the media. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan, narrowly won a third term of Administration but lost the majority in the legislative yuan, leading to uncertainties in its political stability. Additionally, global economic contraction raises the specter of a potential world recession. While the Russia-Ukraine war needs mediation, the Israel-Palestine conflict escalates, and the Houthis' attacks on the oil freight choking the shipping lane in the Red Sea have led the U.S. and its allies, to all of the above troubles may trigger a world war. The New Year of 2024 can be described as anything but peaceful.
The second reason that 2024 is significant is that a multitude of national elections were scheduled to take place in various countries throughout the year. Elections in 36 governments, including presidential parliamentary elections, are known. These include eight in January, six in February, five in March, two in April, four in May, five in June, one in July, two in October, and one in November. More notable elections are
Bangladesh (1/7/24), Taiwan (1/13/24), Finland (1/28/24), El Salvador (2/4/24), Pakistan (2/5/24), Iran (3/1/24), Russia (3/15-17/24), South Korea (4/10/24), Panama (5/4/24), Mexico (6/2/24), Mongolia (5/28/24), Rwanda (7/15/24), Mozambique (10/9/24), Uruguay (10/27/24), and the United States (11/5/24). Putin has already indicated his intention to seek re-election in the March Russian election, a victory expected.
A significant election at the beginning of the year is in Taiwan. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for 8 years had nominated the pro-independence candidate Lai Ching-te to face two competitors – the Kuomintang's (KMT) nominee, Hou You-yi, and the People's National Party's (PNP) Ko Wen-je. Lai, with the ruling party's advantage, won by a slim margin of 40% of the votes (28.6% of the eligible voters), securing the presidency but the party lost the majority control in the legislative yuan. While this may be disadvantageous for the DPP's governance, it could potentially benefit the cross-strait situation, (since Lai may refrain from advancing his pro-independence policies which may challenge China's red lines), thereby reducing tensions in the Taiwan Strait. This will be a focal point that the world needs to pay attention to in 2024. The U.S. presidential election in November will be the final election of 2024, but its campaigning has already begun. President Biden has announced his intention to seek re-election, and Trump has decided to run again. In the Iowa Republican primary in January, Trump established a strong momentum by defeating DeSantis and Haley with over 51% of the vote. While the Democratic Party still supports Biden, his low approval ratings (lower than Trump’s persisting) may raise the possibility of a Democratic candidate replacement in November. On the other hand, Trump with so many legal charges against him may also jeopardize his candidacy. If Biden is re-elected, his 'building alliance against China and Russia' strategy is likely to continue, but the intensity may vary depending on global circumstances. If Trump returns to office, uncertainties will increase significantly, and his diplomatic approach, based on his personality, may take a poker player-like thinking. These are important events to watch in the global arena in 2024.
Another crucial mid-year election, though an annual occurrence, becomes significant in the nerve-wracking 2024, This is the election of the rotating non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). With 15 members in total, the permanent members are the U.S., China, Russia, the UK, and France, while the non-permanent members are elected for two-year terms, with five members changing every year. The candidates (usually with intense lobbying) for this year's mid-year election are Somalia, Mauritius, Pakistan, Denmark, and Greece, they will replace Ecuador, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, and Switzerland. While the UNSC cannot completely resolve all global security issues, its votes can still influence world opinions. For example, the UN General Assembly condemned Israel's inhumane actions during the Israel-Gaza conflict, though the resolution was vetoed by the U.S. in the UNSC. Nevertheless, the unanimous support from other countries added diplomatic pressure on the U.S. and Israel. With Japan exiting and Pakistan entering after the mid-year election, it may have some impact on issues in the Middle East and Central Asia. The current path of U.S. hegemony and its efforts to suppress China's rise have violated the spirit of the United Nations. During Trump's presidency, there were actions to withdraw from UN-affiliated organizations, and Biden, holding onto the Cold War mentality, may not repair the U.S.-UN relations and may just continue along similar lines. Therefore, regardless of the result of the U.S. election, be it a Trump victory or Biden's re-election, the world prospect may not be so different, unless China and the U.S. accept their differences and change to healthy competition for mutual and world benefits.
As we welcome the Year of the Dragon (Begins on February 10th, 2024), we should reflect calmly on the changes that have occurred in recent years. The deterioration of U.S.-China relations has heightened global tensions, but upon careful analysis, China's behavior appears to be that of a progressing normal major power. Conversely, the U.S., fearing China's rise, has adopted abnormal policies. Renowned American diplomats such as Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski predicted China's rise and they warned of the mighty power of an alliance between China, Russia, and Iran (Three large landmass nations) – a warning that Biden, during his presidency, seems to be ignoring and pushing its formation with his foreign policies. For self-protection and to counter U.S. sanctions, these countries have initiated a financial transaction system independent of U.S.-controlled SWIFT and using the Chinese yuan as the currency for energy trades. China successfully organized the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and S. Africa) with significant growth and amazingly managed to make Saudi Arabia and Iran establish diplomatic relations. China impressively developed and showcased its infrastructure domestically, the impressive statistics such as 68 billion annual railway passengers and over a million STEM graduates every year can illustrate its progressive energy and efficiency in governance.
China has extended its infrastructure capabilities and technologies to other countries through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a global project benefiting China and other nations. Rather than invoking envy and suppression, BRI should invite cooperation for mutual benefit, it is no wonder its membership is now 155 countries. According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), China leads in 37 out of 44 technology-manufacturing fields, while the U.S. leads in only seven with China closely behind。
With the Year of the Dragon being the most favorable and cherished zodiac year in Chinese culture, many babies are expected to be born. As we welcome 2024 and the dragon year, this author hopes that people worldwide, especially Americans, will gain a better understanding of China. China has pursued peace and development for thousands of years, undergone the integration of diverse ethnicities, and risen after facing aggression from imperial powers in the past two centuries. China now advocates for the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind. Shouldn't the world respond positively to that? This author hopes that the Year of the Dragon will offer mankind a turning point walking toward peace, cooperation, and prosperity!