In 2020, what kind of stormy days will the world face or what type of sunny days will the world witness?
BREXIT: LESS MISTY
In 2020, the fog that has blurred for years Britain’s way to fulfill Brexit is expected to temporarily lift. After British Prime Minister Boris Johnson led the Conservatives to victory in a snap election, the House of Common has given overwhelming backing for Johnson’s re-shaped Brexit deal in principle, which has raised the probability of a formal Brexit on Jan. 31, 2020.
Even though Britain has taken such a crucial step, it does not mean that Brexit is done. According to the current Brexit agreement, after the divorce between Britain and the European Union, negotiations on the economic and trade relationship in post-Brexit era will begin, which may trigger a new round of protracted games.
U.S. ELECTIONS: CONTINUED HEAT
The U.S. presidential election will be held in November 2020.
Catalyzed by the impeachment case against President Donald Trump, U.S. political polarization has intensified, and so have the conflicts between Democrats and Republicans. The race is to be continued in 2020.
After the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed two articles of impeachment against Trump, the Senate is expected to begin a trial in January. With Republicans controlling the majority in the Senate, the case is highly expected to be vetoed.
Nevertheless, how will the case affect Trump’s election? There is little doubt that the outcome of the presidential election will exert a significant influence on the United States and the rest of the world as well.
RUSSIA-WEST RELATIONS: GENERALLY FROSTY
Just like a never-ending winter, the frosty relations between Russia and Western countries have lasted for more than five years since the Ukraine crisis. The differences between Russia and the United States remain difficult to resolve on thorny issues such as the Syrian crisis and the Iran nuclear issue.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said at an annual press conference that he is willing to promote the normalization of Russia-Europe relations. Moreover, leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany concluded their first meeting in three years in Paris in December, agreeing to meet each other again in four months.
It is expected that the temperature will still remain low in 2020, but there is still hope for occasional warmth.
KOREAN PENINSULA: UNPREDICTABLE
The year 2019 has been on a roller coaster for the Korean Peninsula. On Feb. 28, top leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Un and Trump ended their second summit in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi. The two met again in June in the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom.
On Oct. 5, negotiators from both countries met in Stockholm, Sweden in an effort to resume denuclearization talks. However, the talks ended without progress. The two sides jumped into a war of words at the end of the year.
The situation of the peninsula is set to remain unpredictable in 2020.
The DPRK hopes to get rid of sanctions early through negotiations and is committed to developing its economy. Although the United States has said that it is willing to resolve the nuclear issue of the peninsula through negotiations, it has yet to walk the talk. As the United States enters an election year, the situation of the peninsula will become even more elusive.
IRAN NUCLEAR ISSUE: OVERCAST
Since May this year, Iran has gradually suspended the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement and the resumption of U.S. sanctions.
As it is bracing for the 2020 presidential election, the United States is less likely to launch a military strike against Iran, but more likely to continue to exert “maximum pressure” on the Middle East country.
Despite great pressure from sanctions, Iran’s economy is not projected to collapse in the short term. Moreover, Iran will not easily throw in the towel as it still holds such strategic cards as restarting the nuclear process and blocking the Strait of Hormuz.
In 2020, the intensity of U.S. sanctions against Iran, the speed at which Iran resumes nuclear activities and the extent to which some European nations will mediate are all likely to affect the progress of the Iran nuclear issue. It is expected that the cloud will not disperse soon.
GLOBAL TRADE: WARMING UP IN EAST
In 2019, international economic and trade frictions have intensified and the global free trade system has been under threat. The United States has taken unilateral actions against its major trading partners, damaging global trade as a whole.
The International Monetary Fund and other institutions have forecast that the world’s major economies are likely to suffer a slowdown in growth in 2020. The downward pressure on the economy may lead to a further contraction in demand, thus causing rising protectionism from some countries and increasing the uncertainty of global growth.
Nevertheless, negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was mostly concluded in early November this year. China, Japan and South Korea have actively promoted the signing of RCEP as scheduled in 2020, which will inject tremendous vitality into the economic and trade development in the Asia-Pacific region and bring plenty of positives to global trade.
DIGITAL CURRENCY: ROLLING THUNDERS
In 2019, U.S. social media and technology company Facebook put forward the concept of “Libra,” which has sparked a heated debate worldwide over digital currencies.
Several central banks around the world have announced their research and development progress in digital currencies. France will start testing a central bank digital currency for financial institutions since 2020. European Central Bank officials said the bank’s research and development in digital currency has entered the technical level.
Meanwhile, the Bank for International Settlements plans to launch a central bank digital currency for inter-bank wholesale businesses. The People’s Bank of China is also accelerating its research for legal digital currencies.
Waves of thunderstorms arising from central bank digital currencies indicate a changing global monetary system. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has reckoned the creation of a network of central bank digital currencies as a means of overcoming the destabilizing dominance of the U.S. dollar on international trade.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: UNCERTAIN
New progress has been made in artificial intelligence (AI) research in 2019. Pluribus, an AI program developed by Carnegie Mellon University in cooperation with Facebook, defeated many of the world’s top poker professionals in six-player Texas Hold’em. It proves that AI can not only defeat human beings in duo games like chess, but also triumph in multi-player strategic games more similar with the real world.
In 2020, with the large-scale commercial application of 5G technology, AI will obtain more data support and its application will be further expanded.
However, this also requires more urgent formulation of relevant ethics and rules. In particular, whether the competition among some big countries in military use of AI can be effectively controlled will determine whether this new technology brings more benefits or harm to mankind.