Project Syndicate, which has syndicated superb commentary for-a-fee and for-free in 150 countries for 15 years, is intensely gloomy about the world in 2014. Its annual review – a media ritual – describes the waning year as distinguished by “the loss of order”. It likens 2014 to 1914, “the annus horribilis… a year of repeated tremors that fractured, perhaps fatally, the international order.”
This dying year, says Project Syndicate, also suffered many shocks to the global system.
Is this a deliberate extension of the neat symmetry that comes about naturally when comparing two periods a century apart?
Or were the “shocks to the global system” in 2014 really of the magnitude of 1914?
At the end of June, the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a 19-year-old Serbian nationalist, triggering the July crisis and World War I.
What happened in 2014 that might cast so long a shadow over history?
Project Syndicate’s list of 2014’s global shocks includes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea; the emergence of Islamic State (though this actually started early 2013); mounting tensions in the South and East China Seas; Chinese President Xi Jinping’s taboo-breaking purge of senior Communist Party leaders and the BRICS’ challenge to the IMF and World Bank.
It also discerns perilous times ahead for the world economy (something that could really be said every year from 2008) basing its analysis on fears of a Chinese hard landing after three decades of uninterrupted rapid growth; signs that Shinzo Abe’s effort to kickstart Japan’s economy is running aground and the sharp slowdown in the BRICS economies (though this started to become very apparent late 2012, early 2013).
2014 then seems to have been more the continuation of a bad news story than a particular tremor that shook the world.