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What to watch in 2018

The White House, the Shanghai skyline, Moscow's Red Square. Photos: Getty Images

As the new year begins, here are the smartest predictions of what's coming in politics, tech and business in 2018.

The big picture: In many ways 2018 will mirror 2017. The world's largest economies will continue to grow in sync, the #MeToo movement will continue to topple men who behave badly from positions of power, and the North Korean nuclear threat will keep fueling international tensions. But new trends may emerge if the Democrats take the House in the midterm elections or media companies find a solution to the "fake news" epidemic

At home

  • Democrats will take back the House "by an eyelash" in the 2018 midterm elections, the Financial Times' Courtney Weaver predicts. It's typical for the party of the president to lose seats in the midterms, and the Republican Party could "lose big" given Trump's sub-50 approval rating. A Democrat majority in the House would also mean impeachment proceedings against Trump could gain ground in the new year.

Abroad

  • Trump's approach to China is about to change for several reasons, per Sinocism's Bill Bishop: the administration's National Security Strategy very clearly reframed the U.S. government's view of China in a confrontational way, the president believes China is still not doing enough on North Korea, and the administration's "America First" trade contingent is ascendant. Several trade actions are in the planning stages and they will likely hit soon.
  • Uneasy tension around the North Korean nuclear threat will continue — or escalate. Trump tweeted on Dec. 28 that there won't be a "friendly solution" to the issue of North Korea if China violates UN sanctions against the rogue regime. And Admiral Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said on ABC's This Week that the U.S. is closer "than ever before" to a nuclear confrontation with North Korea.
  • UK Prime Minister Theresa May will keep her job, per the Financial Times' Sebastian Payne. "Sealing a Brexit divorce deal has ensured short-term job security," Payne writes.
  • Zimbabwe won't hold free and fair elections in 2018 despite the end to Robert Mugabe's 37-year rule, FT's David Pilling predicts. And Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips writes ,"Emmerson Mnangagwa will surely prove a more capable manager of Zimbabwe's economy than Mugabe, but there are plenty of reasons to fear he'll be just as ruthless and undemocratic."

The global economy

  • Synchronized growth will continue. This year, for the first time since the Great Recession, the world's leading economies grew in sync. And that growth will hold into 2018, Goldman Sachs research economists predict. They're forecasting 4.0% GDP growth for the new year, up from a 3.7% projection for 2017.
  • Emerging markets will grow as well. Average GDP growth for emerging markets will reach 5%, up from 4.7% in 2017, per the Financial Times' James Kynge. "This will mostly be because Russia and Brazil, which have stumbled, will bounce back," Kynge writes.

In tech

  • Big Tech will get stronger. "Silicon Valley got raked over the coals in 2017 about sexism, security and its influence on national affairs. But it hasn't really grappled with the bigger problem: There's too much power in the hands of too few ... Expect to see tech giants flogging their "social good" efforts in the year ahead, but our trust won't be restored by watching them act like benevolent dictators," per the Washington Post's Gregory Fowler.
  • Bitcoin will keep dominating headlines with its dramatic crashes and booms. Goldman Sachs became the first major Wall Street institution to launch a trading desk for the cryptocurrency in 2017, and, as more institutions venture into the crypto world, prices will rise accordingly, CNBC's Eric Jackson predicts.
  • Augmented reality will rise in prominence, Axios' Alayna Treene reports. "In the next few years, we're going to see AR develop significantly and start to break through to the mainstream. Once that happens, it will effect almost every aspect of daily life — from entertainment and work to education and transportation."

In media

  • Transparency will become "the antidote to fake news," Frontline's Raney Aronson-Rath tells Nieman Lab. Per Aronson-Rath, "We've seen Facebook make moves towards differentiating between verified and unverified stories. Twitter and Google, too. But the problem is massive, and these are just first steps."
  • The #MeToo movement will continue toppling powerful men who behave badly in media and every other industry. Here's a list of the 82 men accused of sexual harassment and assault in 2017.