The year of 2017 has arrived. Will it be more chaotic than 2016, or endowed with more stability and certainty?
2016 was full of black swan events. Donald Trump
's win in the US presidential election, Brexit
and the Turkish coup d'état attempt will all have enduring impact in 2017.
The French election this year will be eye-catching. If the right-wing National Front takes the lead and party leader Marine Le Pen acquires power, it indicates a "Frexit," which will pose an imminent threat to the current European political landscape and the EU. If right-wing forces do not win, Europe, which is already inundated with waves of populism, may catch a breath.
The biggest uncertainty in international politics lies in whether Trump will adopt a path poles apart from that of outgoing President Barack Obama. The US is the sole superpower in the world which claims to fill the task of maintaining world order. But Trump's victory has only added anxieties to this US mission. Europe, the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East will be the critical places to test Trump's policies.
It is highly likely that bilateral relations between the US and Russia will improve. But will Trump put US relations with NATO and European allies above ties with Moscow, or prioritize détente with Moscow? This will affect all of Europe and generate chain reactions.
In the Asia-Pacific, how Trump defines and manages Sino-US relations is key. This complicated bilateral relationship carries enormous weight which constrains policies adopted by both leaderships. If Trump ignores such restraint, the West Pacific risks running into turbulence.
In the Middle East, the long-standing Syrian issue is unlikely to see a conclusion. Whether Trump will overturn the agreement with Iran and re-ignite Iran's nuclear issue will be an arrow on the bowstring. Meanwhile, it is unknown if Turkey will encounter new conflicts as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with powerful religious overtones, continues to rule the country.
From the perspective of war or new military clashes, the West Pacific is the most dangerous zone. The Korean Peninsula is the primary target, and the Taiwan Straits situation is another. The South China Sea seems to remain moderate, and the only cause of a military confrontation in the waters would be China-US rivalry. Once it occurs, it will have an overall impact. It is unlikely that China and Japan will clash over the East China Sea, but possibilities remain.
China faces more external variables than it does from within. But China's national strength is powerful enough to enable it to face up to all external challenges. In 2017, China should put its focus mainly on domestic issues. The success of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and the stability of the Chinese economy will win the country more initiatives.
China is a major power. A deeper meaning of the competition between major powers looks into which society is more united, as it determines how far and steady it will go.