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2020 look ahead: China faces up to tough regional challenges

South China Sea, Belt and Road Initiative and Taiwan are all on Xi's to-do list

| China
China has unleashed its armada of coast guard.   © Visual China Group/Getty Images

Twenty-nineteen showed how much difference a year can make to the fate and self-perception of even the greatest and most ambitious powers. It also marked the toughest year in the political career of Xi Jinping, China's de facto president for life.

Far from backing down, however, strong-willed Xi is expected to forge on against major regional challenges in 2020, albeit in a diminished form and on more uncertain grounds: U.S. involvement in the South China Sea; resistance to the Belt and Road Initiative; and the problem of Taiwan's presidential election.

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