In Asia, affairs regarding the People's Republic of China changed significantly following the recognition of the PRC by the United Nations, the death of Mao Zedong and the beginning of market liberalization by Mao's successors. Despite facing an oil crisis due to the OPEC embargo, the economy of Japan witnessed a large boom in this period, overtaking the economy of West Germany to become the second-largest in the world. The United States withdrew its military forces from their previous involvement in the Vietnam War, which had grown enormously unpopular. In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, which led to an ongoing war for ten years.
The economies of much of the developing world continued to make steady progress in the early 1970s because of the Green Revolution. They might have thrived and become stable in the way that Europe recovered after World War II through the Marshall Plan; however, their economic growth was slowed by the oil crisis but boomed immediately after.
Yom Kippur War (1973) – the war was launched by Egypt and Syria against Israel in October 1973 to recover territories lost by the Arabs in the 1967 conflict. The Israelis were taken by surprise and suffered heavy losses before they rallied. In the end, they managed to repel the Egyptians (and a simultaneous attack by Syria in the Golan Heights) and crossed the Suez Canal into Egypt proper. In 1978, Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel at Camp David in the United States, ending outstanding disputes between the two countries. Sadat's actions would lead to his assassination in 1981.
The most notable International conflicts of the decade include:
Major conflict between capitalist and communist forces in multiple countries, while attempts are made by the Soviet Union and the United States to lessen the chance for conflict, such as both countries endorsing nuclear nonproliferation.
In Cambodia, the communist leader Pol Pot led a revolution against the American-backed government of Lon Nol. On April 17, 1975, Pot's forces captured Phnom Penh, the capital, two years after America had halted the bombings of their positions. His communist government, the Khmer Rouge, forced people out of the cities to clear jungles and establish a radical, Marxist agrarian society. Buddhist priests and monks, along with anyone who spoke foreign languages, had any sort of education, or even wore glasses were tortured or killed. As many as 3 million people may have died. Vietnam invaded the country at the start of 1979, overthrowing the Khmer Rouge and installing a satellite government. This provoked a brief, but furious border war with China in February of that year.
Growing internal tensions take place in Yugoslavia beginning with the Croatian Spring movement in 1971 which demands greater decentralization of power to the constituent republics of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia's communist ruler Joseph Broz Tito subdues the Croatian Spring movement and arrests its leaders, but does initiate major constitutional reform resulting in the 1974 Constitution which decentralized powers to the republics, gave them the official right to separate from Yugoslavia, and weakened the influence of Serbia (Yugoslavia's largest and most populous constituent republic) in the federation by granting significant powers to the Serbian autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina. In addition, the 1974 Constitution consolidated Tito's dictatorship by proclaiming him president-for-life. The 1974 Constitution would become resented by Serbs and began a gradual escalation of ethnic tensions.
Haile Selassie was overthrown from power in Ethiopia, ending one of the longest-lasting monarchies in world history.
1974 – (25 April) Carnation Revolution in Portugal started as a military coup organized by the Armed Forces Movement (Portuguese: Movimento das Forças Armadas, MFA) composed of military officers who opposed the Portuguese fascist regime, but the movement was soon coupled with an unanticipated and popular campaign of civil support. It would ultimately lead to the decolonization of all its colonies, but leave power vacuums that led to civil war in newly independent Lusophone African nations.
Rise in the use of terrorism by militant organizations across the world. Groups in Europe like the Red Brigades and the Baader-Meinhof Gang were responsible for a spate of bombings, kidnappings, and murders. Violence continued in Northern Ireland and the Middle East. Radical American groups existed as well, such as the Weather Underground and the Symbionese Liberation Army, but they never achieved the size or strength of their European counterparts.
On September 6, 1970, the world witnessed the beginnings of modern rebellious fighting in what is today called as Skyjack Sunday. Palestinian terrorists hijacked four airliners and took over 300 people on board as hostage. The hostages were later released, but the planes were blown up.
The presence and rise of a significant number of women as heads of state and heads of government in a number of countries across the world, many being the first women to hold such positions, such as Soong Ching-ling continuing as the first Chairwoman of the People's Republic of China until 1972, Isabel Martínez de Perón as the first woman President in Argentina in 1974 until being deposed in 1976, Elisabeth Domitien becomes the first woman Prime Minister of Lesotho, Indira Gandhi continuing as Prime Minister of India until 1977, Lidia Gueiler Tejada becoming the interim President of Bolivia beginning from 1979 to 1980, Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo becoming the first woman Prime Minister of Portugal in 1979, and Margaret Thatcher becoming the first woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
In Guyana, the Rev. Jim Jones led several hundred people from the United States to establish a Utopian Marxist commune in the jungle named Jonestown. Amid allegations of corruption, mental and physical abuse by Jones on his followers, and denying them the right to leave Jonestown, a Congressional committee visited Guyana to investigate in November 1978. They were attacked by Jones' guards, and Congressman Leo Ryan was killed. The demented Jones then ordered everyone in the commune to commit suicide. The people drank or were forced to drink, cyanide-laced fruit punch. A total of 900 dead were found, including Jones, who had shot himself.
Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative party rose to power in the United Kingdom in 1979, initiating a neoliberal economic policy of reducing government spending, weakening the power of trade unions, and promoting economic and trade liberalization.
Francisco Franco died after 39 years in power. Juan Carlos I was crowned king of Spain and called for the reintroduction of democracy. The dictatorship in Spain ended. The first general elections were held in 1977 and Adolfo Suárez became Prime minister of Spain after his Centrist Democratic Union won. The Socialist and Communist parties were legalized. The current Spanish Constitution was signed in 1978.
In 1972, Erich Honecker was chosen to lead East Germany, a role he would fill for the whole of the 1970s and 1980s. The mid-1970s were a time of extreme recession for East Germany, and as a result of the country's higher debts, consumer goods became more and more scarce. If East Germans had enough money to procure a television set, a telephone, or a Trabant automobile, they were placed on waiting lists which caused them to wait as much as a decade for the item in question.
The Soviet Union under the leadership of Leonid Brezhnev, having the largest armed forces and the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world, pursued an agenda to lessen tensions with its rival superpower, the United States, for most of the seventies. That policy known as détente abruptly ended with the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan at the end of 1979. While known as a "period of stagnation" in Soviet historiography, the Seventies are largely considered as a sort of a golden age of the USSR in terms of stability and relative well-being. Nevertheless, hidden inflation continued to increase for the second straight decade, and production consistently fell short of demand in agriculture and consumer goods manufacturing. By the end of the 1970s, signs of social and economic stagnation were becoming very pronounced.
Enver Hoxha's rule in Albania was characterized in the 1970s by growing isolation, first from a very public schism with the Soviet Union the decade before, and then by a split in friendly relations with China in 1978. Albania normalized relations with Yugoslavia in 1971, and attempted trade agreements with other European nations, but was met with vocal disapproval by the United Kingdom and United States.
1978 would become known as the "Year of Three Popes". In August, Paul VI, who had ruled since 1963, died. His successor was Cardinal Albino Luciano, who took the name John Paul. But only 33 days later, he was found dead, and the Catholic Church had to elect another pope. On October 16, Karol Wojtyła, a Polish cardinal, was elected, becoming Pope John Paul II. He was the first non-Italian pope since 1523.
Major changes in the People's Republic of China. US president Richard Nixon visited the country in 1972, restoring relations between the two countries, although diplomatic ties were not established until 1979. In 1976, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai both died, beginning a new era. After the brief rule of Mao's chosen successor Hua Guofeng, Deng Xiaoping emerged as China's paramount leader, and began to shift the country towards market economics and away from ideologically driven policies.
In Iraq, Saddam Hussein began to rise to power by helping to modernize the country. One major initiative was removing the Western monopoly on oil, which later during the high prices of 1973 oil crisis would help Hussein's ambitious plans. On July 16, 1979, he assumed the presidency cementing his rise to power. His presidency led to the breaking off of a Syrian-Iraqi unification, which had been sought under his predecessor Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr and would lead to the Iran–Iraq War starting in the 1980s.
Japan's economic growth surpassed the rest of the world in the 1970s, unseating the United States as the world's foremost industrial power.
From 1975 to 1979, the Khmer Rouge carried out the Cambodian genocide that killed nearly two million.
On April 13, 1975, the Lebanese Civil War began.
1978 Zia ul Haq comes to power
1979 Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto hanged in jail
Idi Amin, President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979, after rising to power in a coup becomes infamous for his brutal dictatorship in Uganda. Amin's regime persecutes opposition to his rule, pursues a racist agenda of removing Asians from Uganda (particularly Indians who arrived in Uganda during British colonial rule). Amin initiates the Ugandan–Tanzanian War in 1978 in alliance with Libya based on an expansionist agenda to annex territory from Tanzania which results in Ugandan defeat and Amin's overthrow in 1979.
Jean-Bédel Bokassa, who had ruled the Central African Republic since 1965, proclaimed himself Emperor Bokasa I and renamed his impoverished country the Central African Empire in 1977. He was overthrown two years later and went into exile.