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World
2018's Top 10 World News Stories
 NO. 51 DECEMBER 20, 2018

 

A container ship berths at a port in Tangshan, north China's Hebei Province, on November 19 (XINHUA)

China-U.S. Trade Friction

On March 22, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a memorandum imposing punitive tariffs on Chinese products, with the threat of imposing additional tariffs. For its part, China announced countermeasures. Despite several rounds of consultations and negotiations, the two sides could not reach consensus.

The trade dispute between the world's top two economies has not only hurt their economic development, but has also undermined the recovery of the global economy.

At the 2018 G20 Buenos Aires Summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Trump reached an agreement on December 1. The two sides agreed to step up negotiations to remove all additional tariffs and reach a win-win deal.

 

Republic of Korea President Moon Jae-in (right) and top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Un embrace before holding their second summit on the DPRK side of the border village of Panmunjom on May 26 (XINHUA)

The Korean Peninsula Situation

A big step was taken in improving the situation on the Korean Peninsula. With efforts from the international community, particularly from China, the United States, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK), the security crisis on the peninsula eased.

Xi had three meetings with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un. Kim also held historic meetings with Trump and ROK President Moon Jae-in on peace and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in the border village of Panmunjom. A joint Panmunjom Declaration was issued after the Kim-Moon meeting, confirming their common goal of complete denuclearization of the peninsula.

 

U.S. President Donald Trump signs a presidential memorandum to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, a landmark agreement signed in 2015, on May 8 (XINHUA)

Unilateral U.S. Pullouts

In May, the Trump administration officially announced it would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, pressuring Iran to revise the pact and make more concessions. The U.S. move was denounced by the international community and Iran refused to make further concessions.

Five months later, the United States made another unilateral pullout, announcing it was quitting the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty it had signed with the Soviet Union 30 years ago, alleging Russia had violated the treaty. The INF is an important bilateral treaty and its absence will have far-reaching effects on U.S.-Russia relations, regional security and the development of global nuclear power. Without the curbs the treaty imposes, the United States may strengthen its military presence in the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region, which would affect the equilibrium in these areas. The unilateral pullouts have contributed to destabilizing the global security situation.

 

The roundtable meeting of the FOCAC Beijing Summit is held in the Great Hall of the People on September 4 (XINHUA)

FOCAC Summit in Beijing

The 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was held in September. The summit, attended by Xi and state leaders from 53 African countries, was the largest of its kind since FOCAC was established in 2000.

FOCAC has been an important engine for China-Africa collaboration, promoting cooperation in trade, investment, project contracting, cultural exchanges, finance and security. It has also become an important platform for China and Africa to enhance cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative in the new era. The summit adopted the Beijing Action Plan (2019-21), drawing a roadmap for China-Africa cooperation in the coming years.

 

People windowshop during the summer sales season in Athens, Greece, on August 22. The retail sector welcomed Greece's exit from international bailout programs (XINHUA)

Greece Exits Bailout

On August 20, Greece formally exited the international financial rescue programs introduced by the European Union (EU) after eight years, demonstrating that it does not need to rely on foreign aid to support its own sustainable development. It was an important signal that the country, with the heaviest public debt and the first to be bailed out, was nearing the end of its debt crisis.

During the eight years, European fiscal and financial governance structures have improved and a risk control network for eurozone countries has been set up. However, the conclusion of Greece's bailout does not mean the losses and scars sustained during the European debt crisis have been totally wiped out.

 

Survivors look for salvageable items among the debris of a house in Donggala, Central Sulawesi, after multiple earthquakes on October 5 (XINHUA)

Quakes, Tsunami Devastate Indonesia

Powerful earthquakes and an ensuing tsunami struck Indonesia's Central Sulawesi Province on September 28. The toll was put at 2,090, while more than 87,000 people were forced to flee their homes.

The disasters destroyed infrastructure, including over 68,000 houses, religious buildings and bridges. Roads were badly damaged in many places. The loss was estimated to be about $1 billion.

 

Yellow Vest protesters near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on December 8 (VCG)

France's Yellow Vest Protests

On November 17, protests erupted in France against the government's plan to increase the fuel tax in 2019 in the name of combating climate change. The protests developed into the Yellow Vest movement, getting its name from the fluorescent roadside security jackets worn by the demonstrators.

The movement has since snowballed, protesting the high living costs blamed on President Emmanuel Macron's fiscal and economic reforms. Clashes with police in Paris led to a few casualties. The movement also spread to neighboring countries including Belgium and the Netherlands.

Responding to the Yellow Vests on December 10, Macron announced an economic and social emergency plan to increase minimum monthly wages, scrap a tax on overtime hours, cut taxes for pensioners and pay end-of-year bonuses to workers.

 

Three Ukrainian ships are seized by Russian forces near the Black Sea on November 25 (XINHUA)

Russia-Ukraine Standoff

The tension between Ukraine and Russia escalated after the Russian Coast Guard seized three Ukrainian vessels in the Black Sea near the Crimean Peninsula on November 25. Ukraine declared martial law for 30 days along the border with Russia and in Black Sea coastal areas on November 28. Russia accused Ukraine of playing with fire and Ukrainian vessels of violating the Russian border despite warnings from Russian ships.

Though the international community urged both sides to restore peace, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko submitted a draft law to parliament on December 3, which provides for the termination of the 1997 Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and Russia that is set to expire in March 2019.

 

A man checks the exchange rate at a money exchange shop in Istanbul on May 24, after the Turkish lira's fluctuations (XINHUA)

Turkish Lira Crisis

In August, the Turkish lira dropped sharply by 18 percent, the biggest in a single day since the Turkish financial crisis in 2001. The fall of the lira came after Trump's announcement that the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey would be doubled. Turkey is the eighth largest steel producer in the world and the sixth largest source of U.S. steel imports.

In total, the lira lost more than 35 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar this year, prompting concerns that Turkey's economy, which is heavily reliant on foreign currency loans, could affect other emerging markets.

 

Journalists gather outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, waiting for details about missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi on October 10 (XINHUA)

The Incident of Saudi Journalist

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was a columnist for The Washington Post, went missing on October 2 after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for his marriage.

Days later, news leaked by Turkish authorities said that Khashoggi had been killed inside the consulate, hinting that the Saudi royal family was behind the murder. The news attracted world concern. Saudi authorities admitted the involvement of officials in the killing but denied a connection to the royal family.

The Turkish Government shared the so-called evidence—audio recordings of the killing—with Saudi Arabia, the United States, Germany, France and the UK, but the whole truth is still not known.

Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar

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