ASPI suggests: a look back at 2018
21 Dec 2018|

In 2018, we’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of … well, almost everything. Brexit, a trade war, a migrant caravan, a Saudi journalist murdered, renewed relations on the Korean peninsula, the breakdown of the INF Treaty, turmoil in Ukraine, a damning climate change report, rovers on Mars, internment camps in China, drought in Australia, conflict in Yemen. The list goes on. And as the pessimists among you will bicker about the year behind and, much like Bloomberg, be cynical about the year ahead, we here at ASPI would like to give you a brief look at the year that was.

To kick off, let’s talk about Australia’s new national sport, leadership challenges. As betting companies proposed odds and the nation sat down with a bowl of popcorn, Australia witnessed yet another leadership spill. The Financial Review pulled together the international reaction to the state of Australian politics with headlines and quotes that you have to laugh at … or it’s just sad. The Guardian brings it down a notch with a review of Australia as a whole this year, conveying the important message that the purpose is more important than the prize.

US President Donald Trump has had a tumultuous year with the midterms and the ongoing Mueller investigation, or the ‘Witch Hunt’, as The Donald likes to call it. Business Insider brings you the 20 biggest bombshells of the investigation from 2018. Trump’s Twitter antics are something we all struggle to get our heads around and the New York Times has compiled a list of 550 people, places and things that the president has insulted on Twitter since he announced his candidacy, paired with the insults themselves.

Heading south, the migrant caravan captured the attention of the world as it passed through Central America and arrived at the US–Mexico border. See a timeline here.

China had a big year with Xi Jinping becoming ‘leader for life’, more demonstrations of aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea, the continued construction of ‘re-education’ camps and, to top it all off, the censorship of Peppa Pig. The Peterson Institute for International Economics has an interactive series of timelines outlining the trade war with the US.

Reuters has a great interactive explainer of the situation in Myanmar, where leaders are attempting to repatriate almost a million Rohingya people from surrounding nations after what the UN this year described as a genocide. And relations between North and South Korea are becoming warmer after 68 years of conflict; will it put a strain on the US alliance with the south as priorities on the peninsula drift apart?

Instability throughout the Middle East is, regrettably, just as pervasive as ever. Conflicts of all sizes and severity are ongoing, from Palestine and Israel through to Afghanistan (where, after 17 years, the government and Taliban may meet for peace talks). The forgotten war in Yemen continued to rage this year and featured heavily in ‘ASPI suggests’ for good reason. CNN has the fast facts you need to know about a conflict that has caused tens of thousands of casualties and an estimated 85,000 child deaths from starvation, while the BBC asks the important question—why is there a war? After a series of ceasefires and confrontations between regional players, Syria has now suffered through seven years of war with questions over its future remaining—especially after Trump’s announcement that US troops will pull out of the country.

Brexit has dominated the headlines coming out of the UK. The BBC offers a brilliant explainer of what’s happened this year and where negotiations sit now. And who could forget British Prime Minister Theresa May’s audition for Dancing with the Stars during a visit to South Africa, which was quickly followed up by a marvellous entrance to the Tory party conference. And looking at NATO, defence spending for the organisation rose by 5% this year.

The South African city of Cape Town narrowly avoided ‘day zero’, when its taps were set to run dry and leave its roughly 4 million residents without fresh water. It was also a big year for Rwanda. The country’s tariff moves may be a sign of wider intellectual and economic independence across Africa. Having said that, Chinese influence throughout the continent has only grown this year, mainly through loans and infrastructure investment.

Vox has captured 10 of the year’s best scientific discoveries, some of which are almost as impressive as the size of Knickers the steer. Farmers in northern Germany are facing the challenge of dealing with a growing population of large flightless birds native to South America called rheas that have surprisingly thrived in the European climate and taken a liking to German crops.

Still need to buy Christmas gifts or just fancy a good read? Datebook has compiled a list of the best books of 2018 to keep you and your loved ones busy over the break.