Natural disasters, China’s behavior catch public’s attention in 2013
The top 10 international news items selected by Yomiuri Shimbun readers for 2013 indicate that many people are deeply concerned about natural disasters that occurred overseas this year and feel sympathy for their victims. This stands to reason, as this nation is still struggling to rehabilitate areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.
A powerful typhoon that struck parts of the Philippines in November took first place on the list of this year’s 10 major world news reports. Typhoon Haiyan wrecked Leyte Island and other areas, leaving about 8,000 people dead or missing.
Ranked third was the meteorite that streaked across the sky above Russia’s Ural Mountains in February before fragments of the meteor fell to the ground. Video footage of the meteor’s speeding through the atmosphere was broadcast on TV, and many Yomiuri readers apparently were impressed with the ferocity of this extraordinary natural phenomenon.
China’s rise to international prominence has been evident in the number of important news items related to that country in 2013. The past year has generated even more news reports about China than in the past.
Xi Jinping’s elevation to the Chinese presidency in March was awarded fourth place. Backed by its own military muscle, the Chinese leadership has been high-handed in dealing with Japan. All this contributes to the even greater distrust felt by many Japanese toward that nation.
Today, China is confronted with a host of distortions that have accompanied its rapid economic growth, including widening disparities between the rich and the poor and deteriorating environmental conditions.
China’s worsening air pollution due to a high density of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) came in fifth place, indicating that many readers are deeply worried that China’s atmospheric pollution could affect this country.
December brought a stunning report that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, had been purged as vice chairman of the country’s top military body, the National Defense Commission. This was followed by the astounding news that Jang, long considered the No. 2 power in Kim’s regime, had been executed. The incident was added as an extra to the top 10 list.
A purge and a prince
North Korea will remain an element of regional instability, given that the reclusive state seeks to set up an even stronger dictatorship through a reign of terror and continues to develop nuclear weapons and missiles.
The start of U.S. President Barack Obama’s second term in January took ninth place. However, Obama has not made much administrative progress this year, as shown by the numerous difficulties he experienced in dealing with external and domestic affairs.
The disclosures by Edward Snowden, a former employee of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, ranked eighth. Snowden, now a suspect in intelligence leakage and other cases, exposed a wide range of wiretapping activities by U.S. intelligence services both at home and overseas. Cited by him as the target of U.S. eavesdropping, some European countries have expressed strong anger at the U.S. administration.
The affair has also drawn condemnation from Americans, and Obama is under pressure to reexamine the methods used by his country’s intelligence services to gather information.
In early October, the U.S. government staggered into a partial shutdown due to a deadlock between the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Democratic-controlled Senate over the federal budget, an incident that came in 13th.
One of the top 10 news items warmed people’s hearts: In July, Britain’s Prince William and his wife, Kate, welcomed a son they named George. The birth of the royal couple’s first son was awarded second place.
In seventh place was the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in April at the age of 87. Thatcher deserves credit for her successful efforts to revitalize her country’s battered economy during her 11 years in office. In December came news of the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela, an antiapartheid icon who dedicated himself to achieving unity among all races in his country. The achievements of these two political leaders continue to inspire and influence people around the world today.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 30, 2013)