•Major international organizations project a growth rate of five percent for China in 2023, making it a major growth engine for both Asia-Pacific and the world.
•In October, China proposed the Global AI Governance Initiative to make AI technologies more secure, reliable, controllable and equitable.
On 27 December, the China Media Group unveiled what it identified as the world's top 10 news events of 2023 at a press conference in Beijing. The first was Chinese President Xi Jinping’s diplomatic forays in different parts of the world that helped to create calm in an increasingly turbulent world.
During a state visit to Russia in March, Xi and President Vladimir Putin agreed to deepen the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era. During the same month, Xi proposed the Global Civilization Initiative at the Communist Party of China in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-Level Meeting.
In May, at the China-Central Asia Summit in northwest China's Xi'an City, the Chinese president and his counterparts launched the China+Central Asia (C+C5) cooperation mechanism. In August, Xi attended the 15th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa. In November, in San Francisco, Xi and U.S. President Joe Biden charted the course for improving ties between the world's two largest economies.
In December, Xi paid a state visit to Vietnam, reaching a bilateral agreement to build a China-Vietnam community with a shared future that carries strategic significance. Throughout the year, Xi also met with many leaders in different fields.
Secondly, China hosted the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and announced eight major steps for global modernisation. In October, China hosted the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. Over the past decade, more than 150 countries and over 30 international organisations have signed BRI cooperation documents.
Thirdly, a fresh violence erupted between Hamas and Israel on October 7. This has resulted in over 20,000 fatalities on both sides, an overwhelming majority of them Palestinians. Israel's military actions in the Gaza Strip have led to a humanitarian disaster. Despite a temporary ceasefire mediated by the international community, a lasting and sustainable ceasefire has yet to be achieved. Meanwhile, there is a high risks of the conflict spilling over if it persists.
Fourth, in March 2023, China, Saudi Arabia and Iran issued a trilateral statement in Beijing, announcing Riyadh and Tehran agreed to resume diplomatic ties. The agreement was formalised the following month. The China-brokered reconciliation has generated a ripple effect across the Middle East. Diplomatic ties were also revived between Bahrain and Qatar in April, Egypt and Türkiye in July, and Syria and Saudi Arabia in December.
Fifth, China offered hope amid a stuttering global economic recovery. The world economy remains in recovery, but at a slow and uneven pace. The International Monetary Fund predicts advanced economies will see a 1.1 percent drop in economic growth in 2023. Developing nations and emerging economies are poised to show stronger-than-expected resilience. Major international organizations project a growth rate of five percent for China in 2023, making it a major growth engine for both Asia-Pacific and the world.
Six, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which began in February 2022, fell into a deadlock. Ukraine's summer counter-offensive failed to achieve a major breakthrough, and Russia announced a planned expansion of its armed forces. Despite continued Western support to Ukraine and sanctions against Russia, the US Congress rejected a new aid bill, and the European Union failed to agree on a new aid package.
Seven, in July, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation granted Iran full membership at its meeting of the Council of Heads of State. In August, at the BRICS Summit in South Africa, it was announced that six countries would be offered membership in the bloc – Iran, Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Upon acceptance, membership in the group will take effect on January 1, 2024. In September, at the G20 summit, the African Union became the second regional organisation to join the bloc, after the European Union.
Eighth, the year 2023 saw frequent extreme weather events due to climate change. There were cyclones in southeastern Africa and South Asia, record high temperatures in southern Europe and North Africa, and deadly wildfires in North America, Europe, and Australia. The World Meteorological Organisation said that 2023 was set to become the "warmest year" on record.
Nine, the application of artificial intelligence (AI) saw a surge in 2023, with regulation and governance becoming a global concern. In July, the UN called for containment of technological risks and strengthening of global governance. In October, China proposed the Global AI Governance Initiative to make AI technologies more secure, reliable, controllable and equitable.
The UK hosted the first global AI Safety Summit in November, producing the ground-breaking Bletchley Declaration. In December, the EU's Parliament and Council negotiators reached potentially the world's first-ever comprehensive legal framework on AI.
Ten, Kevin McCarthy was ousted as US House speaker, escalating the political polarisation in the country. In January, Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy became House Speaker after 15 rounds of voting in four days. But just nine months later, he became the first House speaker to be ousted, following a vote of no-confidence.
The two parties' standoff on the debt ceiling and federal budget twice threatened a federal government shutdown. Hope remained dim for gun control legislation, despite the fact that gun violence claimed over 40,000 lives in 2023.
Stephen Ndegwa is the Executive Director of South-South Dialogues, a Nairobi-based communications development think tank, and a PhD student at the United States International University-Africa