China, long accused by the United States of being a free rider by not contributing to the resolution of global issues, has taken a big step into the Middle East, with mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping visiting Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran, strengthening the country's relations with the crisis-stricken region, but at the same time making it clear that it has its own strategic priorities.
During the campaign leading up to the Jan. 16 elections, Tsai Ing-wen, leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), took part in singing the national anthem at public events, but her lips visibly stopped moving when it came to the words "our party," since they referred to the Kuomintang (KMT), which had been in power in Taiwan since the 1940s, save for eight years.
The consternation in Hong Kong over the case of five missing booksellers -- especially the most recent case of the apparent disappearance of Lee Bo, feared to have been kidnapped and smuggled into the Chinese mainland -- shows that the chief concern of the local population has not changed since before the handover in 1997: It is to ensure that their personal security, guaranteed under British colonial rule, will continue after China resumed sovereignty.
The year-end agreement between Japan and South Korea to resolve the issue of wartime "comfort women," which has been poisoning the relationship between the two countries, has been widely welcomed internationally, but not by China.
As a new year begins, China has released plans for its military development, including a second aircraft carrier. At the same time, a military overhaul of its land forces has led to the creation of a General Command of the Army, a Rocket Force and a Strategic Support Force.
China has in recent years sought to depict itself as not a violator but a champion of human rights. Thus, in September, President Xi Jinping co-hosted a United Nations meeting on women's empowerment and said, "All Chinese women have the opportunity to excel in life and make their dreams come true," apparently oblivious of China's imprisonment of five feminists months previously.
China responded with a knee-jerk reaction to the Obama administration's announcement of a US$1.83 billion arms sales package for Taiwan, summoning the charge d'affaires at the American embassy for a dressing down and calling the arms sale a "severe violation of international law" that "severely damages China's sovereignty and security interests."
The successful conclusion of the United Nations conference on climate change, which brought representatives of almost 200 countries to Paris, is an epochal event in mankind's attempt to overcome the global warming threat besetting the world.
The two-day China-Africa summit meeting in Johannesburg last week marks another step in the decades-long process of tightening relations between the world's soon-to-be-biggest economic power and the second fastest-rising region in the world after Asia.
After decades of priding itself on not having a single Chinese soldier on foreign soil (except for those serving in U.N. peacekeeping forces) and having no overseas military bases, China is somewhat awkwardly acknowledging that it is making a 180-degree turn by acquiring military facilities in far-off Djibouti, in northern Africa, near the Gulf of Aden.