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2008年12月28日 (日)

08回顧・国際 世界を揺さぶった同時不況

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 28, 2008)

2008 saw a recession that rocked the world

08回顧・国際 世界を揺さぶった同時不況(1228日付・読売社説)

The year is drawing to an unusually depressing end.


2008 will be remembered as a year that witnessed a world recession akin to the Great Depression of 1929.


The collapse of major U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., which marked the spread of the U.S. financial crisis across the globe, came third in the list of top-ranking international news stories picked by Yomiuri Shimbun readers.


Following the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, the world was caught up in the throes of a recession in the blink of an eye. Who could have foreseen such a rapid turn of events?


Oil prices, which had been surging since the beginning of the year, hit a record-high 147 dollars per barrel in July--the story that ranked fifth on the list--before plunging, partly due to the global economic slowdown, and had fallen to the lower 30 dollars level around the end of the year.


In June, a world food summit, the first of its kind to address global food security, was held in Rome to tackle the issue of rising grain prices (the story ranking 18th on the list). Grain prices, however, began to drop in autumn as fast as oil prices because of abundant harvests and the withdrawal of speculative money from the market.



1st black U.S. president


This year also saw a series of changes of leaders.


Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama won the U.S. presidential election in November, paving the way for him to become the first black president in U.S. history. This news story topped the list.


In addition to criticism of the Iraq policy of the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, the unprecedented financial crisis dealt a fatal blow to the Republican government, resulting in wide support for Obama. A burning task for the next administration will be financial and economic reconstruction, for which there is no time to waste, and the issue of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.


In March, Ma Ying-jeou of the Nationalist Party was elected president of Taiwan, leading his party back into power for the first time in eight years (25th on the list). Ma launched regular direct flights with China, establishing three direct links--trade, transport and communications--for the first time since Taiwan and the mainland split amid civil war in 1949. The Taiwan Strait likely will remain calm for the time being.


In Russia, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who was endorsed by then President Vladimir Putin as his successor, was elected president (11th on the list). The new president appointed Putin as prime minister, transforming the administration into a Medvedev-Putin tandem system.


Russian forces invaded Georgia in August after Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia, which is seeking independence from Georgia. The fighting between Russia and Georgia then became a full-fledged battle (17th on the list).


Russia's military action drew a backlash from the United States and some European countries, and the dispute contributed to deepening tension between the United States and Russia.


Meanwhile, rumors that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was incapacitated spread following a report that he suffered a stroke in summer (16th on the list).


In October, the United States removed North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, although verification of Pyongyang's nuclear declaration was not fully guaranteed in the six-party talks on the North's denuclearization (13th on the list). Such incaution during negotiations with North Korea may create problems in the future.


In Thailand, antigovernment protesters occupied the prime minister's office compound and two airports in Bangkok, stranding Japanese and other foreign tourists (14th on the list). Two prime ministers supporting ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra were stripped of their posts by the Constitutional Court. The opposition Democrat Party leader, Abhisit Vejjajiva, was elected prime minister this month.




Olympics, disaster in China


This year's top 10 international new stories are conspicuous in that four events related to China were included. Whether it is a good or bad thing, China came under the spotlight this year.


Before the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics in August, protests in Tibet against Chinese rule developed into large-scale riots by Buddhist monks and other citizens. The Beijing Olympics ranked fourth on the list, while the Tibetan riots came eighth.


The security authorities quelled the riots, but the Olympic torch relay turned into a farce as it was blocked by protesters in many cities along the way, including London and Paris (ninth on the list).


In May, a massive earthquake measuring 8 on the Richter scale hit Sichuan Province in China, leaving more than 10 million people homeless (second on the list). Efforts by Japanese rescue teams sent to quake-stricken areas seemed to help ease deep-rooted anti-Japanese sentiment in China.


Also in May, powerful Cyclone Nargis battered Myanmar, leaving more than 130,000 people dead or missing (sixth on the list). The military junta initially refused emergency humanitarian aid from overseas, causing a delay in rescue operations that compounded damages.



Terrorist attacks in South Asia


This year also left a deep impression as a result of the series of terrorist attacks that occurred in South Asia.


Mumbai, India's commercial center, was rocked in November, when terrorists launched simultaneous attacks that killed about 170 people, including one Japanese (seventh on the list). Indian security authorities arrested the suspected mastermind of the attacks, which are believed to have been carried out by Pakistan-based Islamic extremists.


For the sake of regional stability, India and Pakistan, which have nuclear arms and which have fought each other in three wars in the past, need to maintain self-restraint.


In Islamabad, a suicide truck bomb attack on a luxury hotel that is part of a U.S. chain killed 53 people in September (20th on the list).


There is no sign that terrorism will cease in Afghanistan or Iraq, either. The war against terrorism needs continuing patient efforts.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 28, 2008)

200812280139  読売新聞)


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