NEW YORK—If you were looking back at 2008 10 years from now, or 100 years from now, what stories would you choose as the top news stories of the year?
The Epoch Times editors have no handy time machine to help us make these choices. But we use our vantage point as a news organization with an eye on the future to pick the stories that not only had an impact on 2008, but will also, in our judgment, make a difference in all our lives in 2009 and beyond.
So we set aside achievements or milestones that were noteworthy but self-contained, and present to you the Epoch Times Top News Stories of 2008.
Financial Collapse and Global Recession
2008 was the beginning of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. What began as a real estate market collapse in 2007, headed by the sub-prime mortgage gamble that failed, soon sent shock waves through Wall Street and, eventually, Main Street.
Businesses, large and small, failed. Unemployment rose to a 15-year high in the United States, with major layoffs from some of the biggest names. Oil and gasoline prices skyrocketed, then went way down, and stayed down, providing a balm for all the other wounds inflicted by the economy.
The recession ushered in an era where the U.S. government will play a key role in returning businesses to profitability. Congress passed a $700 billion bailout bill in October to help ailing U.S. businesses, including financial companies and automakers. European and Asian governments also passed similar measures to shore up their economies.
The landscape of American finance was transformed. Wall Street as we knew it is gone: all the players either collapsed, were sold, or converted to bank holding companies.
According to many observers, things could get worse before they get better, but the economic law of the land has clearly changed permanently.
Barack Obama Elected President of the United States
Any candidate can promise “change,” but by overwhelmingly winning the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama embodies change, as the first non-white person to be elected to the highest office in the most powerful nation in the world. It is too soon to say that this signals an end to racial prejudice in the land, but it is a clear signal that a nation composed of many different peoples from all over the world can have a leader who reflects that rich and diverse heritage. His heritage has given hope to many across the world. The world will watch to see if he can build on his reputation as a cool and analytical decision-maker, an intent listener, and a man of compassion, and, on a daily basis from the seat of power, deliver positive change during turbulent times.
Fakery and Corruption From Chinese Communist Regime Contaminate Kitchens and Living Rooms Worldwide
In a year when the Chinese Communist Party hoped that its image would be burnished by the Olympics, an assortment of fakes and poisons instead tarnished the CCP. Melamine, an industrial polymer used by unethical food producers in China to make milk products appear thicker and richer, was found to have sickened at least 300,000 Chinese children and killed at least five. More than a dozen nations enacted bans on milk products from China, and the pervasiveness of contamination in the world's food supply is still unknown. This followed on the heels of toxic pet food, toothpaste, and toys from China.
At the Olympics, the CCP stumbled repeatedly. Televised opening ceremonies included a girl who did not sing a song, a piano player pounding away on a fake piano, and fireworks that took place only on computers and TV; not in the Beijing sky. Gymnasts with faked age documents competed, no one was permitted to protest even in the designated protest zone, “sold-out” venues were mostly empty, and the International Olympic Committee president's remarks at the end were mistranslated for the Chinese people.
Among the other acts staged by the CCP were a purported uprising by Tibetan monks (actually CCP soldiers) in March and a spacewalk that actually occurred underwater. No wonder that, steadily and quietly, more Chinese are leaving the party, with 47 million and counting having resigned from the CCP or its affiliated organizations.
Middle East Wars Change Complexion
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a rising tide of violence in Pakistan, and murmurs of war in Iran all kept the Middle East in the spotlight during 2008. As security improved in Iraq, conditions in Afghanistan continued to slide downhill. 2008 ended with more promises of higher troop levels in Afghanistan to battle a resurgent Taliban. But continued deadly suicide bombings in both Iraq and Pakistan make peace in those countries a still-unreachable goal.
Revival of Traditional Culture
Outside of mainland China, traditional Chinese culture rose like a phoenix from the ashes
New York-based Divine Performing Arts brought the grace and splendor of Chinese culture to audiences totaling 600,000 in 66 cities worldwide in its 2008 world tour. The performance features the grace and strength of traditional Chinese dance, telling eternal stories that enchant hearts with goodness and courage, including Chinese history and legends. The 2009 tour will reach even more people, in more than 80 cities on four continents. There are now three complete touring companies of dancers and vocal soloists, two of which are accompanied by live orchestras featuring both Western and Chinese instruments.
New Tang Dynasty TV debuted its full series of nine international Chinese cultural competitions, which promotes and rewards achievements in traditional arts. Some of the 2008 winners of the violin, piano, and vocal competitions joined Divine Performing Arts as soloists. Other competitions aimed at reviving traditional culture included Chinese classical dance, martial arts, Chinese cuisine, Han couture, oil figure painting, and photography.
Cracks in the Façade in Unexpected Places
Canada, the solid citizen of developed Western countries, had a revolt in parliament that nearly broke down and may still lead to the government of recently re-elected Conservative Stephen Harper toppling. In Greece, a shooting by police spun out of control into nationwide riots and protests against the government. Opponents of the government in Thailand occupied the two airports, stopping the vital tourist trade temporarily, and injuring it long-term for the normally amiable “Land of Smiles.” The old conventional wisdom about corners of the world that are sleepy havens, perennially stable, or easy-going may need to be rethought. No place is immune to the currents of change in a community of nations that is more connected and interdependent than ever.
Sichuan Earthquake Kills in China, Exposes Corrupt Tactics of CCP
The world wept for China when an earthquake hit its Sichuan province on May 12, taking the lives of over 60,000 people. Later it was discovered that data forecasting the quake had been deliberately withheld by the Chinese Communist Party. If the forecasts had been acted on, thousands of lives could have been saved. Selective building practices were exposed when government buildings stood undamaged next to the crumpled remains of schools that collapsed, burying schoolchildren beneath.
Chinese authorities denied access to international disaster relief workers until after the first critical 72 hours had passed, dooming thousands. A high-level Chinese military source secretly disclosed that the delay on allowing international aid was because Mianyang City in Sichuan Province holds one of the CCP's largest military armories. The earthquake set off a nuclear explosion in the underground base. The Chinese military later disclosed that 2,700 chemical cleanup workers had been sent to earthquake disaster areas for nuclear chemical emergency rescue.
As the CCP’s corrupt practices were being exposed, the Chinese regime launched a new campaign to divert attention. Beginning on May 17, New York Chinese Consul General Peng Keyu incited hundreds of ethnic Chinese to attack Falun Gong adherents in Flushing, New York, under a false pretext that Falun Gong practitioners were interfering with earthquake relief. A month later, the Chinese regime pressured European satellite company Eutelsat to shut down New Tang Dynasty Television, an uncensored media that broadcasts into China via satellite.