This year will go down as the century’s worst if measured by the disruption, misery and strife that has marked the Year of the Rat. There seems no end in sight to the cascading series of crises afflicting millions of people around the world. Even those with no religious bent must wonder whether the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have been let loose as drought, wildfires, hurricanes, floods and pestilence continue to wreak havoc.
But geopolitical rivalry between Washington and Beijing remains the bookies’ choice for the most destructive runner in the field. The US and China are headed for serious conflict with no circuit-breaker in sight. The speed with which the relationship has unravelled and the systemic impact of the falling-out has surprised even the pessimists. Disputes over trade and technology have now spilt over into telecommunications, business, financial markets, education and national security.