Pandemic Deepened Conflict, Division around The World in 2020

The crisis of the novel coronavirus has greatly shaken up politics and society across the world this year.

In the list of this year’s top 10 international news events selected by Yomiuri Shimbun readers, the global coronavirus pandemic ranked second.

Although some positive factors have emerged, such as the start of vaccinations in the United States and Europe, the pandemic rages on.

U.S. President Donald Trump becoming infected with the coronavirus ranked sixth. Despite the president’s careless stance of disregarding masks and other preventive efforts, the top U.S. official being hospitalized became a lesson that anyone could be infected.

In Europe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson becoming infected ranked 13th. French President Emmanuel Macron has recently tested positive for the virus as well.

The United States and China, two major world powers, have intensified their confrontation at a time when the world should be uniting to fight the infectious disease.

Ranked seventh was Trump announcing the withdrawal of the United States from the World Health Organization, criticizing the organization as being controlled by China. There is concern that the WHO, which is in charge of guiding and coordinating measures against the coronavirus in each country, could be weakened.

China, where the coronavirus first spread, was criticized for its slow disclosure of information and poor initial response. The country should be aware that its attitude of not admitting its errors has caused distrust.

In fifth place was China breaking an international pledge that guaranteed Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems,” and enforcing the national security law that strips the pledge of its substance and makes it exist in name only. The move can also be described as a self-righteous attitude by China. The “Chinafication” of free Hong Kong has invited opposition from other countries and prompted them to reconsider their economic relations with China.

Also, in the South China Sea, where China is trying to expand its influence, tensions are intensifying as Beijing has strengthened its confrontation with Washington.

The highest-ranked news event was Joe Biden winning the U.S. presidential election. The result showed a high level of interest from readers in the changes in U.S. policies toward China and the international situation that will be brought about by the transfer of power.

Biden will be tested as to whether he will be able to restore the prestige of the United States by shifting from Trump’s “America first” policy to foreign policies that emphasize international cooperation.

As for U.S. domestic politics, it is an urgent task to repair the divisions in society, symbolized by the police violence inflicted on a Black man and protests against the violence. This news was ranked third. It is also important to work to correct the disparities that have widened due to the virus crisis.

Sen. Kamala Harris becoming the first Black woman to be U.S. vice president ranked 15th. The new administration’s appointments, which respect forms of diversity such as race and gender, are in stark contrast to the Trump administration, which put too much emphasis on white supporters.

The death of Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona ranked ninth. This may be proof that his superb techniques and out-of-the-box playing style left a strong impression on the Japanese people as well.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 23, 2020.