2018: Opportunity and Risk Around the World
The year 2019 has arrived. Looking back upon the past year, the international community remained restless. The year 2018 had escalating economic friction, upgraded cooperation, data crises and technological challenges. In fast-changing conditions, the world is still vigorously moving forward, seeking stability despite uncertainties and creating opportunities for development.
Tesla in Space
On February 6, 2018, the world’s most powerful rocket, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, conducted a successful debut test launch. The jumbo rocket carried a payload of a red Tesla Roadster automobile. According to more recent news, however, the car has already passed its intended target as it drifts toward the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which could disrupt its intended purpose of “floating in space for billions of years.” Still, the successful launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket marked another milestone in the history of space travel.
Stephen Hawking Dies
On March 14, 2018, Stephen Hawking died at the age of 76. The Cambridge-educated British physicist was the most renowned contemporary researcher on general relativity and cosmology. He was born exactly 300 years after the death of Galileo Galilei and died on the 139th birth anniversary of Albert Einstein. He fought amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) his entire adult life but never gave up his passion for physics and left countless precious scientific legacies for mankind. In a statement, Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, said: “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years. We will miss him forever.”
Facebook Data Scandal
On March 18, 2018, news broke that Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, had used data improperly obtained from roughly 50 million Facebook users to precisely deliver advertising content to sway Trump’s 2016 election. The company had been hired by the campaign. By April, Cambridge Analytica was accused of illegally harvesting the data of more than 87 million Facebook users to target political advertising. Since then, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has testified two separate times before the U.S. Congress. Data security in the internet era has attracted worldwide attention.
China Opens Up Further to the World
On April 10, 2018, at the Boao Forum for Asia, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced measures that would allow China to open up further. In September, the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was successfully held, and in November, the first China International Import Expo was held in Shanghai. It was the first state-level import-themed expo and a pioneering move in international trade. In December, addressing a conference marking the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up in Beijing, Xi urged sustained efforts to open up further and push for a community with a shared future for humanity. The repeated message of China’s further opening up injected great energy into international efforts to build an open global economy. It was consistent with Xi’s call for efforts to build an open regional economy at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting in November, and to stay committed to openness, cooperation and trade multilateralism at the G20 summit held from November 30 to December 1 in Argentina.
U.S. Withdrawal from Iran Nuclear Deal
On May 8, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a proclamation declaring his intention to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and impose the highest level of economic sanctions on Tehran at the White House. After years of hard negotiations, Iran and six world powers, namely China, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and the United States, struck a 2015 deal over Iran’s nuclear program. Under the accord, Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow monitoring by international inspectors in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions. However, within three years of its implementation, Trump’s statement brought the Iranian nuclear issue back into uncertainty. On May 11, thousands of Iranians protested against the withdrawal of the United States in Tehran.
Historic Trump-Kim Meeting
History was made when U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, the top leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), met at the Capella Hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa Island on June 12, 2018, an important step toward the political settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue. The heads of the two countries discussed the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of a peaceful mechanism. After decades of political isolation and military confrontation, the DPRK and the United States finally sat down at the negotiating table, another sign of easing tension on the Korean Peninsula.
France Lifts World Cup Trophy
France won the World Cup for the second time after two decades of shortcomings by beating Croatia 4-2 on July 16, 2018. Croatian midfielder Luka Modric won the World Cup Golden Ball award, and French teenager Kylian Mbappe was named the best young player. Thibaut Courtois was awarded the Golden Glove as the leading goalkeeper. The mostly young French team fulfilled a career goal early, and French soccer looks promising these days.
Currency Crisis in Turkey and Argentina
Affected by the continued appreciation of the U.S. dollar, the interest rate increase of the Federal Reserve and Trump’s tough trade policy, the exchange rate of the Turkish lira against the U.S. dollar continued to fall in 2018. After Trump announced that the United States would double tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Turkey, the lira tumbled as much as 18 percent on August 10, battering Turkey’s consumption, investment and economic growth. This development threw the global emerging markets into chaos. Many emerging market countries have experienced currency collapse. In the first eight months of 2018, the Argentinian peso has lost half its value against the U.S. dollar, becoming a severely weak currency.
After the Brexit procedure began in 2017, Britain struck a draft divorce deal with the European Union (EU) on November 20, 2018, according to which Britain will remain in the EU until the end of 2020. During this transitional period, the Brexit plan became the focus of controversy between Britain’s opposition Labour Party and the government led by the Conservative Party. On July 6, 2018, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that members of the British Cabinet had agreed to establish a comprehensive “free trade area for goods” with the EU.
China-U.S. Trade Dispute
In 2018, the United States repeatedly imposed tariffs on imports from China, and China slapped necessary countermeasures on imports from the United States. The value of tariff-added products involved in the China-U.S. trade war has reached hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars. Since the outbreak of the trade war, the two countries have held several bilateral talks. On the evening of December 1, 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping was invited to have dinner and meet with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The two leaders discussed economic and trade issues between the two countries and reached consensus to stop imposing additional tariffs.