A medical worker takes swab from a woman for COVID-19 testing in Samut Sakhon province of Thailand (Photo: Xinhua/VNA
HÀ NỘI — The Vietnam News Agency (VNA) has selected the Top 10 events that shaped the world in 2020.
1. COVID-19 pandemic rages, triggers global crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which first appeared in China’s Wuhan city, spread rapidly around the world, infecting more than 78 million people and claiming over 1.7 million lives. It has pushed many countries into a twin public health and economic crisis.
The pandemic has intensively and extensively affected every aspect of the socio-economic life, changed the way people work, live, and communicate, and forced the world to adapt to a “new normal” state. The “race” to seek and develop COVID-19 vaccines has seen considerable progress, with some countries having begun to conduct vaccination programmes. The pandemic remains complex and unpredictable, however, as a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been found in Europe during the final days of the year.
2. Abnormal US presidential election
The “race to the White House” took place amid the COVID-19 outbreak, but nearly 160 million US voters - a record turnout - cast ballots. With more than 81 million votes and 306 out of 538 electoral votes, Joe Biden became the 46th President of the US. Kamala Harris, meanwhile, became the first female Vice President in the country’s over-200-year history.
Protracted arguments and a legal battle following the election on November 3 deepened divisions and disagreements within the US political arena and society. The difficult transition has also hampered efforts to fight the pandemic, with the US already posting the highest number of COVID-19 infections and fatalities in the world.
3. Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) signed
After eight years of negotiations, 10 ASEAN member nations and five partners on November 15 signed the RCEP agreement, forming the world’s largest free trade area, with 2.2 billion consumers, or more than 30 percent of the global population, and a combined GDP of about VNS$27 trillion, or 30 percent of the global economy.
The RCEP is a comprehensive, high-quality agreement that opens up new opportunities for multilateral trade cooperation in Asia-Pacific and creates important momentum for promoting growth and recovering the global economy, which is currently in recession due to COVID-19.
4. Global economy experiences worst recession since World War II
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that the global economy will contract by 4.4 percent in 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19. Lockdown and border shutdown measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus have led to trade stagnation and disruptions in supply chains, triggering a wave of business bankruptcies worldwide, especially in the aviation, tourism, and retail sectors.
The global market has witnessed the strongest ever fluctuations, with prices of light sweet crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange collapsing to negative 40 USD per barrel, while gold prices exceeded 2,000 USD an ounce for the first time, and many stock markets activating the “circuit breaker” mechanism to halt trading. Countries have also launched economic stimulus packages worth trillions of USD, along with unprecedented monetary and emergency lending measures to aid their economies.
5. Israel normalises relations with four Arab countries
Over the course of four months, Israel set up diplomatic ties with four Arab nations: the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco, shaping a new geopolitical complexion in the Middle East.
These agreements, however, were also criticised as running counter to the Arab League’s policy of associating the normalisation of relations with Israel with the foundation of the State of Palestine. There also remain many latent risks of uncertainty in the Middle East after the killing of the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, in a US air strike, and the assassination of Iran’s leading nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
6. Wave of racial, religious protests, violence
The protests against racial discrimination across the US, which followed the death of African-American man George Floyd from police violence, spread around the world. The Black Lives Matter movement resonated in a number of cities in France, Germany, Belgium, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and Thailand, involving hundreds of thousands of demonstrators. Many protests in the US turned into riots, leading to a serious racial crisis.
Meanwhile, a wave of protests was seen in Islamic countries to call for a boycott of French products, following French President Emmanuel Macron’s declaration of support for the publication of cartoons of Prophet Mohammed. Samuel Paty, a French teacher, was murdered by an Islamic extremist on October 16 after showing caricatures of the prophet to his students.
7. Armed conflict re-emerges in Nagorno-Karabakh region
The military clash between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region re-emerged and escalated late in the year. The month of hostilities led to thousands of casualties and jeopardised security and stability across the Caucasus.
After at least three ceasefires were violated, Russian President Vladimir Putin, his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signed an agreement on November 9 to end the military conflict. Russia and Turkey deployed personnel to monitor the new ceasefire in the region, within the framework of joint peacekeeping activities, paving the way for the parties involved to seek sustainable solutions.
8. UK, EU reach historic post-Brexit trade deal
After nearly nine months of tough talks, the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) struck an agreement reshaping their trade relations in the future after the transition period ends on December 31, 2020. The agreement will provide the legal foundation for the UK and the EU to avoid a “chaotic” breakup and ensure that the flow of goods worth hundreds of billions USD will continue between the UK and 27 EU members.
With this deal, the two sides officially completed the Brexit process, the UK’s separation from the EU, nearly five years after the 2016 referendum.
9. Many countries move to strictly “manage” tech giants
Tech platforms with billions of users, like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, have been investigated or sued in many countries for not acting strongly enough to prevent the spread of wrong information or illegal content.
The US, India, Pakistan, and Australia have banned mobile apps such as TikTok and WeChat, citing national security reasons.
10. Sudden death of football legend Diego Maradona
Diego Maradona, one of the greatest footballers of all time, passed away suddenly on November 25 at the age of 60. Argentina held three days of national mourning, with tens of thousands of people coming to pay tribute to him, while many events were held worldwide in his name. Argentina decided to rename the Argentine Professional League Cup the Diego Maradona Cup, while Napoli city in Italy, where he once played, renamed its San Paolo Stadium the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.
Maradona was honoured in 2000 as the FIFA Player of the 20th Century, together with the “King of Football” Pele (Brazil). Though his personal life was often controversial, with his talent, devotion, and capacity as a source of strong inspiration, he won over the hearts of generations of football fans around the globe. — VNS