The world has undergone remarkable changes this year, but international security situation on the whole remained stable with "peace" and "development" prevailing as the themes of the times.
In 2008, the world has continued moving toward multi-polarization,resulting in a distinctive shift of international forces. Globalization is developing in depth and regional cooperation is gathering momentum.
The world has been confronted with one hotspot issue after another and non-traditional threats are increasing. The world economic growth took a turn for the worse due to the outbreak of the global financial crisis.
World multi-polarization strengthened
In recent years, the international political structure has transformed gradually from "one superpower coexisting with several other powers," formed after the Cold War, to multi-polarization.
The transformation picked up speed this year, with significant changes in the balance of international forces.
The United States has been acting as the world's only superpower in 2008, but the financial turmoil, which broke out in Wall Street in September, showed its vulnerability.
In addition, the country is still deep in trouble with its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which has undermined its international image.
Some analysts attributed the waning U.S. strength to its policy of unilateralism and expansionism on international issues, and its practice of a laissez-faire free market economy at home. It remains to be seen what consequences of these policies will have on U.S. national strength.
By contrast, Russia's flexing of strong muscles in the international political arena in the outgoing year indicated a marked recovery of its strength.
After sending troops to Georgia in August, Moscow announced its recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and established diplomatic ties with them.
Furthermore, the Russian military forces also carried out operations in Latin America, which has long been considered the "backyard" of the United States.
Washington, which has been pushing NATO's eastward expansion and trying to deploy anti-ballistic missile systems in East Europe, seemed to have no effective measures to deal with Russia's counterattack.
The growing strength of Russia has something to do with its leaders' strong will to make their country regain world power status. Over the past years Russia had seized the favorable opportunities by pursuing a pluralistic and pragmatic diplomatic policy, reviving its national economy and safeguarding its national interest.
Also in 2008, after standing the test of natural disasters following the Wenchuan earthquake in May, China succeeded in hosting the "truly exceptional" 29th Olympic Games in August. In October, the country sent Shenzhou-7 spacecraft into orbit, accomplishing its first ever space walk.
China has showed to the world its overall national strength is on constant increase following 30 years of reform and opening-up. China has become one of the major engines for world economy and contributed significantly to world economic growth.
Moreover, China has played more important roles in international affairs, such as the financial summit and the informal meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) this year.
Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) continued to enhance its independence and influence in international affairs.
In March, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said their countries share a vision of a "global Europe."
"We need Britain and France at the heart of Europe, a global Europe, that is reforming, open, flexible, outward-looking," the two leaders said in a joint statement.
The outgoing 2008 has also seen a large number of developing countries rise with increasing momentum.
From a geopolitical perspective, the center of world power is shifting from both sides of the Atlantic to the western Pacific region, as the emerging countries are mostly located in Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East.
This shows that the existing international system is undergoing readjustment with new reshuffles and restructuring profoundly changing the balance of power in the world.