Marked changes in world's political, economic landscape
www.chinaview.cn 2008-12-28 20:39:56   Print

Special Report: Yearender 2008          

    by Sun Ruijun and Bao Erwen

    BEIJING, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- The world has undergone remarkable changes this year, but international security situation on the whole remained stable with "peace" and "development" prevailing as the themes of the times.

    In 2008, the world has continued moving toward multi-polarization, resulting in a distinctive shift of international forces. Globalization is developing in depth and regional cooperation is gathering momentum.

    The world has been confronted with one hotspot issue after another and non-traditional threats are increasing. The world economic growth took a turn for the worse due to the outbreak of the global financial crisis.

    WORLD MULTI-POLARIZATION STRENGTHENED

    In recent years, the international political structure has transformed gradually from "one superpower coexisting with several other powers," formed after the Cold War, to multi-polarization.

    The transformation picked up speed this year, with significant changes in the balance of international forces.

    The United States has been acting as the world's only superpower in 2008, but the financial turmoil, which broke out in Wall Street in September, showed its vulnerability.

    In addition, the country is still deep in trouble with its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which has undermined its international image.

    Some analysts attributed the waning U.S. strength to its policy of unilateralism and expansionism on international issues, and its practice of a laissez-faire free market economy at home. It remains to be seen what consequences of these policies will have on U.S. national strength.

    By contrast, Russia's flexing of strong muscles in the international political arena in the outgoing year indicated a marked recovery of its strength.

    After sending troops to Georgia in August, Moscow announced itsrecognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and established diplomatic ties with them.

    Furthermore, the Russian military forces also carried out operations in Latin America, which has long been considered the "backyard" of the United States.

    Washington, which has been pushing NATO's eastward expansion and trying to deploy anti-ballistic missile systems in East Europe, seemed to have no effective measures to deal with Russia's counterattack.

    The growing strength of Russia has something to do with its leaders' strong will to make their country regain world power status. Over the past years Russia had seized the favorable opportunities by pursuing a pluralistic and pragmatic diplomatic policy, reviving its national economy and safeguarding its national interest.

    Also in 2008, after standing the test of natural disasters following the Wenchuan earthquake in May, China succeeded in hosting the "truly exceptional" 29th Olympic Games in August. In October, the country sent Shenzhou-7 spacecraft into orbit, accomplishing its first ever space walk.

    China has showed to the world its overall national strength is on constant increase following 30 years of reform and opening-up. China has become one of the major engines for world economy and contributed significantly to world economic growth.

    Moreover, China has played more important roles in international affairs, such as the financial summit and the informal meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) this year.

    Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) continued to enhance its independence and influence in international affairs.

    In March, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said their countries share a vision of a "global Europe."

    "We need Britain and France at the heart of Europe, a global Europe, that is reforming, open, flexible, outward-looking," the two leaders said in a joint statement.

    The outgoing 2008 has also seen a large number of developing countries rise with increasing momentum.

    From a geopolitical perspective, the center of world power is shifting from both sides of the Atlantic to the western Pacific region, as the emerging countries are mostly located in Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East.

    This shows that the existing international system is undergoing readjustment with new reshuffles and restructuring profoundly changing the balance of power in the world.

    GLOBALIZATION, REGIONAL COOPERATION

    The in-depth development of economic globalization has made economic ties and interdependence between countries even closer, boosting the sustained growth of world economy, and benefiting many countries.

    The Doha Round of talks of the World Trade Organization, aimed at furthering global trade, remained deadlocked this year. However, the financial summit and the 16th Leaders' Meeting of APEC in November sent out a strong signal for boosting the talks and gave them fresh impetus.

    Yet, economic globalization has not been plain sailing this year.

    Some developed nations, out of their selfish interest, asked too much of their developing counterparts, leaving the Doha Round of trade talks in an impasse.

    After the outbreak of financial crisis, trade protectionism gained ground in some developed nations. However, economic globalization will continue despite twists and turns, as it is the inevitable outcome that corresponds to the development of productive forces of today's world, and constitutes the general trend of world economic growth.

    It is hoped that developed nations would establish an equal, mutually-beneficial and win-win partnership with developing nations, so as to advance economic globalization toward balanced development, shared benefits and win-win progress.

    Regional integration is another highlight in 2008, with regional and sub-regional cooperation further strengthened.

    The EU continued to boost the process of its integration. Except Ireland, the Czech Republic and Poland, all EU member nations have ratified the Lisbon Treaty, signed by EU heads of state and government in December 2007 and designed to reform EU institutions and streamline decision-making in the ever-enlarging union.

    A charter of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN),which was ratified by parliaments of 10 members of the regional bloc and formally entered into force on Dec. 15, clearly set the strategic goal of setting up an ASEAN community.

    In Africa, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) inaugurated a free trade area in August.

    In October, the SADC and two other regional blocs, the East African Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, held a summit in the Ugandan capital of Kampala to discuss Africa's economic integration.

    COMPLICATED SECURITY SITUATION

    International security situation remained stable on the whole this year despite sporadic traditional threats.

    The U.S.-led NATO continued to take "containment" measures against Russia. Meanwhile, Washington has reinforced its military strength in East Asia.

    The armed conflict between Georgia and Russia in South Ossetia took the world by surprise. Observers noted however, the root cause of the conflict lies in Russia's perceived threat to its strategic security posed by NATO's continued eastward expansion that will recruit Georgia and Ukraine as new members and Washington's insistence on deploying anti-ballistic missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, rather than the apparent differences over South Ossetia's sovereignty.

    The year 2008 has also seen new changes in some old hotspot issues, and the emergence of some new hotspot issues.

    The nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula achieved a breakthrough, but also encountered new obstacles.

    After the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) formally submitted a declaration on its nuclear program, Washington removed the country from the "list of state sponsors of terrorism."

    But the two countries were far apart on the issue concerning verification of the DPRK's declaration.

    Iran's nuclear issue remained deadlocked. Tehran refused to halt its sensitive uranium enrichment activities, while Western nations threatened to launch a new round of sanctions against the country.

    Iraq's security situation has improved, with violent attacks on decline as compared with last year. Washington and the Iraqi government reached a deal on the status of the U.S. forces stationed in the country. But sectarian conflicts, political confrontation, terrorist activities and the U.S. military presence were still threatening Iraq's stability.

    As insufficient U.S. and NATO troops were unable to deal effective blows to Taliban insurgents, Afghanistan underwent the most turbulent year in 2008 since the fall of the Taliban regime, with at least 5,000 people killed in violent attacks this year.

    In the Middle East, Israeli and Palestinian leaders failed to honor their commitment of a peaceful deal made at an international meeting in the U.S. city of Annapolis last November.

    Meanwhile, Fatah and Hamas, two major factions in Palestine, were locked in frequent clashes due to different political views.

    In November, the Sudanese government announced an immediate ceasefire in the war-torn western region of Darfur to pave the wayfor the Arab-sponsored peace negotiations with the rebel movements. But in July, a prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) demanded an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omeral-Bashir, accusing him of "genocide" and other war crimes committed in Darfur.

    The ICC move set a precedent for an institution transcending states prosecuting the incumbent leader of a sovereign state, causing grave concerns among Middle Eastern and African nations, as the move threatened the current international order based on the UN Charter.

    In February, Kosovo's declaration of independence drew mixed reactions from the international community, with Washington voicing support and recognition for Kosovo's independence, EU nations holding different views on the issue, and Serbia and Russia expresses strong opposition to Kosovo's independence.

    Moscow maintained that Kosovo's independence would endanger the system of international law and leave negative consequences for the Balkan region and the world at large.

    In Thailand, Pakistan and Zimbabwe, different political factions, as representatives of different interest groups, got into furious disputes over election issues.

    The year 2008 has also witnessed increasing non-traditional security threats, including terrorism, climate change and piracy.

    On Nov. 26, more than 200 people were killed and some 300 others injured in terror attacks in Mumbai, India's largest city. Afghanistan and Pakistan also fell victim to terror attacks.

    As for climate change, a disaster caused by freezing rain and snow hit a large area in southern China. Hurricanes pounded Central America and the Caribbean. More than 77,000 people were killed and nearly 56,000 people went missing in a severe tropical storm in Myanmar.

    Since the beginning of 2008, more than 120 cases of piracy occurred off Somalia, a war-torn country in Africa, with more than 30 ships hijacked and some 600 sailors held hostages.

    As rampant piracy is posing increasing threats to maritime trade and shipping, some countries were forced to use military force to ensure the safety of their commercial vessels.

    FINANCIAL CRISIS

    In September this year, a financial "tsunami" that broke out in Wall Street, quickly turned into the most serious global financial crisis since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

    According to the U.S. company Goldman Sachs & Co., global financial institutions would suffer a loss of 1.4 trillion dollars in the U.S. subprime crisis. Global financial crisis had already plunged the United States, the euro zone and Japan into recession, and slowed down the growth of emerging economies.

    The International Monetary Fund has predicted a 3.7 percent growth rate for world economy this year, lower than the 2007 figure of 5.0 percent.

    The global financial crisis is blamed on the laissez-faire economic policy adopted by the U.S. government and its failure to exercise effective financial regulation amid the dramatic expansion of financial derivative products since early this century.

    People expect the international community to draw lessons from the crisis and undertake necessary reform of international financial system in a comprehensive, balanced, incremental and result-oriented way, so as to establish a new international financial order that is fair, just, inclusive and orderly and fostering an institutional environment conducive to sound global economic development.

    As long as it joins forces, the international community will be able to tackle all political, security and economic challenges and continue to advance the world further toward justice, peace and prosperity, observers said.

Editor: An
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