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The world in 2020: Best of the New Statesman international

A selection of some of the best NS international coverage of an extraordinary year in global affairs. 

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This year saw an extraordinary series of events shape the world. A US election campaign unlike any other, protests on the streets of global cities, the assassination of Iran's top general, war and unrest across the former Soviet Union, an intensifying climate crisis, a catastrophic explosion in Lebanon's capital and growing tensions between China and other world powers... in a normal year any one of these might have been the biggest story of all. Yet they were all overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19 spread from its origins in Wuhan, China, across the world in a matter of weeks early in the year, leading to an unprecedented public health, economic and humanitarian crisis that tested societies and world leaders as never before and that will live on far into 2021 and beyond.

Over the course of the year, the New Statesman has expanded its coverage of global affairs, with a new international team, homepage, podcast and newsletter. As the year draws to a close, here is a selection of some of the best of our international coverage from 2020.

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Trump is just another American president dealing with an old geopolitical nightmare in the Gulf

By Helen Thompson

For at least seven decades, energy security has made the Persian Gulf a geopolitical minefield.

Coronavirus and the geopolitics of disease

By Laura Spinney

After the 1918 flu outbreak killed 50 million, nations created new organisations to fight infection. But in an age of pandemics and renewed great power rivalry, they would no longer be enough, this piece from February warned.

Postcards from an infected world: Reports from the cities impacted by coronavirus

As public life shut down, travel was curtailed and economies faltered, writers from blighted cities reported on the reality of life in the coronavirus era, to which we are all now used.

The state transformed

NS contributors from around the world reflected on how the coronavirus pandemic would transform the ways in which we are governed, in a prescient series from March.

Coronavirus hits the Global South

By Jeremy Cliffe

Early in the pandemic, our writer warned of the humanitarian and economic disaster facing poorer countries as they grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Madeleine Albright: “The US cannot solve the crisis by itself”

By Emily Tamkin

The former US secretary of state and ambassador to the UN on pandemic multilateralism, Iran, and American decline under Trump.

We can’t breathe

By Gary Younge

What connects the most brazen forms of state violence against black people and the struggles of BAME coronavirus patients is systemic racism.

The accelerating rise of a dangerous new nationalism in India

By Emily Tamkin

In Modi’s India, nationalists are using the Covid-19 crisis to further redefine who belongs and who doesn’t.

Erasing histories: why Turkey’s Hagia Sophia should remain a museum

By Elif Shafak

President Erdogan’s decision to reconvert the building into a mosque is a further move against religious pluralism.

Italy in the wake of coronavirus

By Jeremy Cliffe

Travels from Berlin to Naples by train reveal that the pandemic has brought out the best and the worst of the beautiful country.

How Macron’s strategic balancing act is wobbling

By Ido Vock

As France’s 2022 presidential race looms, can the self-styled “Jupiter” hold his voters on the left, our writer asked.

Why the clock is ticking for Belarus’s Lukashenko

By Felix Light and Ido Vock

The opposition’s wooing of Moscow may have sealed the fate of Europe’s “last dictator”, this in-depth examination of Belarusian politics argued.

“The only safe place I had is broken”: how Beirut’s blast sparked political fury

By Lizzie Porter

August's explosion in the port of Beirut upended lives, homes and politics. 

The man vs the myth: George Soros at 90

By Emily Tamkin

Conspiracy theories around the billionaire philanthropist do most harm to those more vulnerable than him.

From Belarus to Lebanon, the US to Thailand, righteous moral outrage is sweeping the globe

By Jeremy Cliffe

Anger, it can seem, is everywhere. It spreads faster than ever. It is viral, but unlike coronavirus cannot be socially distanced into abeyance. 

The world to come

NS writers on how the Covid-19 pandemic will transform our way of life.

Joe Biden must heed the lessons of Andrew Johnson’s presidency: unity, but not at any cost

By Emily Tamkin

Biden will inherit an economic crisis and divided society. He should seize the chance to build something better than what we had before Trump. 

The struggle for a democratic Ukraine goes on, 20 years after my father’s abduction

By Salome Gongadze

The anti-corruption journalist Georgiy Gongadze was murdered two decades ago. Young Ukrainians must not give up his mission, his daughter argued.

In search of a US beyond coronavirus

By Nick Burns

Driving through some of the most desolate reaches of the continental US, our writer hoped to find places untouched by Covid-19. What he saw instead was the true reach of the American government.

Noam Chomsky: The world is at the most dangerous moment in human history

By George Eaton

The US professor warned that the climate crisis, the threat of nuclear war and rising authoritarianism mean the risk of human extinction has never been greater. 

How the dawning era of declining fossil fuel consumption will reshape geopolitics

By Jeremy Cliffe

After a century defined by a global rush to control oil, we may soon see a scramble to dominate decarbonisation.

Thirty years on from reunification, the contours of the new Germany are still emerging

By Jeremy Cliffe

The full transition from the Bonn Republic to the Berlin Republic will take decades longer.

Can Joe Biden defeat Donald Trump?

By Emily Tamkin

In this incisive pre-election profile, our writer asked whether a Biden victory would set the US on a path to renewal.

The making of Kamala Harris

By Sophie McBain

The US’s first female vice president-elect defies easy definition because she resists it.

US-China economic integration shaped today’s world, but now it is going into reverse

By Jeremy Cliffe

A New Statesman Media Group special on the decoupling of America and China.

Forced abortion and secret sterilisation: how China has abused Uighur women for decades

By Ellen Halliday

Women from China’s Uighur minority reveal how the country’s family planning policies, which have long controlled women’s bodies, have been weaponised against them.

Watching the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, I think of my Armenian ancestors fleeing their home

By Anoosh Chakelian

In the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, our writer heard echoes of her family's history, bound up in the displacement of Armenians from their ancestral lands.

The UN’s Mark Lowcock: vaccine nationalism is a “complete delusion”

By Ido Vock

The humanitarian chief warned no nation will be able to protect itself from Covid-19 without helping poorer countries, too.

America and the politics of pain

By Timothy Snyder

Gravely ill in hospital with sepsis, our writer had a revelation on how Donald Trump transformed the US’s inequalities into a suicidal tribalism.

Nathan Law: “Erosion of Hong Kong’s freedom has reached a new height”

By India Bourke

The Hong Kong dissident, now seeking asylum in London, on why he fled his homeland.

Why Moscow’s snowless winters are a warning to the world

By Felix Light

Russia’s warming climate has left it unmoored of its cultural foundations.

What Trump wants now

By Thomas Meaney

In the wake of a gruelling presidential election, our writer explored how misguided fears of a coup exposed the hysterical thinking of the liberal Resistance.

Why the West failed to contain Covid-19

By Robert Skidelsky and Massimiliano Bolondi

As infection rates soared in the US and Europe, East Asian countries suppressed coronavirus without national lockdowns. Why didn’t others follow their lead?

Azerbaijan’s fraught road to reconciliation after victory in the Nagorno-Karabakh war

By Ido Vock

For the jubilant Caucasian country, nationalist euphoria could rapidly tip into disillusionment.