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22 December 2021

Crystal ball or shattered glass: how did my 2021 predictions hold up?

As 2021 comes to a close, I take stock of whether I saw into, or was stunned by, the future.

By Emily Tamkin

WASHINGTON, DC – At the beginning of the year, I wrote seven predictions for the year to come. As 2021 is now, finally, coming to a close, this is a better time than most to take stock of whether I saw into, or was stunned by, the future.

1. The US will not achieve “herd immunity” through vaccination until late autumn at the earliest.

What happened: I was more right than wrong. Thanks to a combination of vaccine hesitancy and new variants, the US still has not achieved herd immunity, and some believe that its chance to do so has slipped away forever. Normally, I love being right, but in this case it would have been nice to not be.

Accuracy rating: I’ll give myself this one, though if anything it now reads as optimistic.

2. Tensions between India and China will escalate.

What happened: There arguably wasn’t any single incident as dramatic as 2020’s border clash, which left both Indian and Chinese soldiers dead, but tensions between the two countries continue, with the US continuing to make overtures to India to counter China. Some Chinese Indians are even leaving the country for fear of what will happen to them if they remain.

Accuracy rating: This is partly accurate – tensions between India and China continued and are a major story in world affairs – but it’s not really fair to say that they “escalated”. Let’s call this one “half right”.

3. The “last dictator of Europe” will remain in power a little longer.

What happened: Aleksander Lukashenko did indeed remain in power in Belarus through 2021, as I predicted he would last January. “That isn’t because the protesters aren’t courageous or determined. It is because at present I do not see what levers they can pull to finally force Lukashenko out,” I wrote back then. I still don’t.

Accuracy rating: Accurate.

4. The EU and Amazon are headed for a clash.

What happened: This didn’t really happen. One committee of EU lawmakers agreed to more stringent laws impacting, among others, Amazon last month, which is a step towards EU antitrust boss Margrethe Vestager’s vision for a Digital Markets Act, which in turn would provide handrails for EU tech giants. But that’s not exactly a clash. 

Accuracy rating: This was not accurate. Maybe next year.

5. The Olympics will somehow take place.

What happened: When I’m right, I’m right.

Accuracy rating: I was right.

6. Saudi Arabia will change its formal relationship with Israel after King Salman.

What happened: King Salman is still alive so this whole prediction is rendered moot. Saudi Arabia and Israel do seem to be moving in this direction, but the prediction was about the formal relationship, not about its undercurrents.

Accuracy rating: As my mother always says: “Almost doesn’t count.” This was ultimately not accurate, and also serves as a lesson in making predictions pegged to a world leader’s death.

7. Washington, DC will not get statehood.

What happened: Last year, I wrote: “Even though there is now a Democratic White House and [a] Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress, adding representation for 700,000 people is still seen as socialism, with DC residents perceived as less deserving of representation. And so what is, to me, a very obvious thing that could be done to rectify a longstanding injustice will continue to go undone.” All of this remains true. We still don’t have statehood. Taxation without representation continues apace.

Accuracy rating: Once again, I would have loved to be wrong, but I was right.

I got four and a half of seven predictions correct. I think that, for the most part, stories that I thought would be big narratives in 2021 – India and China, Belarus, the pandemic – were indeed relevant. I’ll be writing seven more predictions for 2022 before the year is over. Have I learned anything from this review? Check back later this month to find out!

[See also: Our international editor made ten predictions for 2021 – how did they turn out?]

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