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2016's Top 10 World News Stories
 NO.52 DECEMBER 29, 2016

British Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech and announces to step down after the Brexit referendum outside his residence at 10 Downing Street in London on June 24 (XINHUA) 

1. Brexit

Contrary to forecasts by major media and academic circles in the United Kingdom, 51.89 percent of votes cast in a referendum held on June 23 were in favor of the UK leaving the EU. The outcome of the Brexit referendum has had a strong impact on Europe and even the wider world. The vote has created a rift between the UK and the whole of Europe, and encouraged by the result, EU-skeptics are preparing for gains in the 2017 elections across the European continent. The UK-EU Brexit negotiations, meanwhile, may drag on indefinitely, and the UK economy's prospects in the interim are not bright, due to the uncertainty the vote has caused.

Republican Donald Trump defeats his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential election in November(XINHUA)

2. Donald Trump's Victory of the U.S. Presidential Election

Republican Donald Trump defeated his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential election in November, pulling a major upset after a controversial campaign period. Before the vote, major media, scholars and think tanks in the United States tilted heavily toward Clinton. The result showed the anxiety shared by the U.S. middle and lower classes in the face of globalization and their dissatisfaction with the current ruling elites.

The victory of Trump is a heavy blow to Western liberalism. Regardless of whether Trump strengthens the United States' hard power in the future, the election has already damaged the nation's soft power. Trump's win also shows the relative decline of U.S. national strength: The United States is incapable of leading the world by itself. Judging by Trump's cabinet nominees, U.S. policy under the new president may be characterized as conservative, self-interested, right-wing and isolated—a style and direction that may become a global trend in the near future.

Citizens mourn for the victims of the terrorist attack in Nice, France, on July 16 (XINHUA)

3. Terrorist Attack in Nice and the Global Expansion of ISIS

On July 14, a truck drove into crowds celebrating France's national holiday Bastille Day, killing 87 and wounding 434. Extremist group ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. France had been attacked many times since 2015: Its satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was targeted on January 7, and a series of terrorist attacks took place in Paris on November 13.

The frequency of terrorist attacks no doubt encouraged far-right forces in the United States and Europe to come into being. Forced by public opinion, traditional mainstream political parties also turned to agenda set by far-right factions. Anxiety over Islam is certain to influence Europe whether or not far-right political parties such as France's National Front come to power next year.


 The Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte swears in on June 30 in Manila (XINHUA)

4. The Roller-Coaster Ride of the South China Sea Maritime Disputes

Around the time of an arbitration award made by an ad hoc arbitral tribunal in The Hague on the South China Sea maritime disputes in July, the issue became one of the most attention-grabbing topics worldwide. However, as the so-called arbitration completely denied China's historic and sovereign rights over the South China Sea, it enraged both the government and the people of China.

The farce of the arbitration came to an end with Philippines' new President Rodrigo Duterte, who stressed the importance of restoring a sound relationship with China while paying a visit to Beijing in October. Duterte's new policy direction beyond any doubt changes course from the extremely pro-U.S. policy of the previous Philippine administration and has reversed the security situation in Asia Pacific, dealing a blow to the U.S. "pivot to Asia" strategy.


UN Security Council adopts a resolution to impose sanctions on North Korea in UN headquarters in New York City on March 2 (XINHUA) 

5. North Korea Nuclear Tests

In January and September, North Korea conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests. Signs show that Pyongyang has achieved its objective of acquiring nuclear capabilities and might now advance its development of delivery vehicles. Against this backdrop, Seoul also announced its plan to deploy the U.S. Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, which brings Northeast Asia to the brink of a new cold war.

The current situation is an outcome of the wrestling between Pyongyang and Washington. Pyongyang believes building a nuclear arsenal could force Washington back to the negotiating table for direct bilateral talks and sees its nuclear activities as a kind of bargaining chip. For Washington, which is actively pushing its "Pivot to Asia" strategy, "a moderately intense situation" on the Korean Peninsula conforms to the interests of the United States, whose primary target is set on China. In the short term, it is unlikely that the problem will be resolved in a peaceful way that satisfies all parties.


Pro-government militia members gather at a camp in the south of Aleppo, Syria, on December 11 (XINHUA)

6. The Battle in Aleppo

The Syrian government forces took control of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo in December. The city has been one of the major locations of the fighting between the Syrian Government and opposition forces since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

Many other powers became involved, including the United States, the EU, Turkey, and extremist militant groups such as the ISIS and Al Qaeda. Turkey, the United States and the EU all insist on overthrowing Syria's Bashar Assad administration by supporting the mainly Sunni Syrian opposition forces, and the ISIS and Al Qaeda also sided with the opposition. Meanwhile, Russia supported the Syrian Government to confront the U.S.-backed Sunnis. The Syrian Government's victory on the battlefield of Aleppo shows that the Sunni camp's objective of overthrowing Assad cannot be achieved in a short time. At present, neither side can secure a decisive victory over the other.


Turkish people demonstrate at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport to show support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 18 after the coup attempt was staged (XINHUA)

7. Turkey's Failed Coup Attempt

During the night of July 15, a faction of the Turkish military staged a coup to try to seize control of several key places in Ankara and Istanbul. However, forces loyal to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rapidly responded and defeated the rebellion. The failure of the coup attempt further strengthened the power of the ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) and also reflected the Turkish people's aspiration for political stability against the background of a worsening security and economic situation.

Since the outbreak of the "Arab spring," Erdogan has attempted to make Turkey a model for the transformation of Arab nations but encountered a series of failures. At present, Erdogan's administration is reassessing its relations with the West. The United States and some other European countries also expressed their objection toward political purges by Erdogan's administration. Turkey is now warming its relations with Russia and Israel. It is expected that Turkey will seek a more balanced foreign policy between the West and East in the future.


People gather on December 10 in protest demanding South Korean President Park Geun Hye step down from her post for her confidante scandal (XINHUA)

  8. Impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun Hye 

On December 9, South Korea's National Assembly voted overwhelmingly to impeach the nation's President Park Geun Hye over a confidante scandal. The scandal began to surface in July. Park's longtime friend Choi Soon Sil, who holds no government position, had access to confidential documents and information through the president. The scandal roused large-scale protests demanding that Park step down.

The scandal exposes certain defects of South Korea's political system. Yet, the broad participation in the public demonstrations also reflects rising political sentiments in the nation. However, whether the political upheaval will benefit development of the Korean Peninsula situation in the long run remains unknown.



Aung San Suu Kyi gives a speech at a national reconciliation conference in Naypyidaw on August 31 (XINHUA) 

9. Aung San Suu Kyi Taking the Helm in Myanmar

On March 31, Myanmar's new government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), took power, and began to address policy. The NLD won a majority in Myanmar's parliamentary election in 2015. Suu Kyi obtained an absolute leading position in Myanmar's politics as state counselor.

Suu Kyi has shown the wisdom of a mature rational political leader since she took charge. NLD handles its relationship with the military by promoting cooperation with little conflict. She has walked a fine line in her dealings with major powers by visiting China, the United States, India and Japan. However, Suu Kyi faces domestic challenges, which may influence Myanmar's stability and development.


Cuban people bid farewell to Fidel Castro on the street of Santiago on December 3 (XINHUA) 

10. The Passing of Fidel Castro

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro passed away at the age of 90 on November 25. The great figure symbolized Cuban and Latin American revolution and also the period of confrontation between the East and West, the end of which his death marks.

At a time when left-wing political forces in Latin America have all become mired in dilemma, the international community doubts whether Cuba can maintain stability and achieve economic growth in the post-Castro era. In the short term, Castro's passing will not have a large impact on Cuba's politics. Since 2011, Cuba has opened its economy to private sector interests and foreign capital. In the meantime, the leadership changeover occurred smoothly, with fresh blood entering the center of power. Against the backdrop of sluggish Latin American economies in the past two years, Cuba has achieved considerable growth.

Copyedited by Chris Surtees

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