Europe’s false step on tech

You’ve got to hand it to the EU’s leadership.  They are planning to welcome a Joe Biden victory with a proposal for renewed and refreshed co-operation – preferably on Europe’s terms.  

It is billed as a “once-in-a-generation” offer for the US to join the EU’s many committees and after the usual excruciating discussion, agree to adopt its approach in areas like digital regulation, competition policy, security and post-Covid action. 

No doubt a Biden administration will find something to like in the European menu.  But not as much as the Europeans might hope.

Continue reading “Europe’s false step on tech”

How a crash (of sorts) might come

History looks for a trigger for the economy crashing:  the 1929 stock market panic, the 1970s oil shock or the 2008 subprime meltdown.  But while the headline events can be a catalyst, sober analysis usually gives a more complex backstory of growing economic imbalances and disastrous-with-hindsight policy settings.

So casting the Covid shock as the proximate cause, what might be underlying drivers of a sustained deterioration in the economic climate? Continue reading “How a crash (of sorts) might come”

The Chinese government’s actions in Hong Kong are not an event – they are a process

How long does it take to acknowledge that you have a problem? The steps being taken by the Chinese government to subvert Hong Kong’s institutions will be the moment of truth for a few more people.

It’s almost astonishing to recall the fullness of the pledges made by the Chinese government in the 1984 Sino-British treaty to respect Hong Kong’s autonomous institutions and the rule of law.

So perhaps a couple of belated cheers are due for the British politicians and diplomats who negotiated those dishonoured commitments, and some more for their current replacements who are talking about giving UK residency to those born in Hong Kong before the 1997 handover – no small commitment given pressures to reduce immigration numbers.

But if the first step is accepting you have problem, the second is understanding what kind it is. Continue reading “The Chinese government’s actions in Hong Kong are not an event – they are a process”

Bill Gates stumbles on China and Covid

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has done a fine job reinventing himself as a philanthropist.  The foundation he and his wife established has done admirable work for global public health, giving him credibility in his commentary on the Covid crisis.

But he struck a jarring note, when asked whether the Chinese government could be held accountable for deception in the early stages of the Covid pandemic. Continue reading “Bill Gates stumbles on China and Covid”

Coronavirus could bring political change to China – but authoritarianism won’t be weakened in the short term

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the quarantined city of Wuhan on Tuesday for the first time since the coronavirus was identified there, sending a message that Beijing has the situation under control.

His visit comes as China recorded its lowest number of infections, just 19 on Tuesday, all in Wuhan apart from two who had arrived from overseas.

China has seen 80,754 confirmed cases, 3,136 of whom have died.

The visit was  Xi’s first trip to the city since the outbreak began.

According to state media,  Xi arrived in Wuhan on Tuesday to inspect epidemic prevention and control work in the province.

Wuhan and its province, Hubei, have been locked down in order to prevent the spread of the disease. The president visited a community in the city currently in self-quarantine. Continue reading “Coronavirus could bring political change to China – but authoritarianism won’t be weakened in the short term”

Ten years on from ‘Climategate’ things look a bit different

Civil unrest can stop many things but not another UN climate change conference.  But as climate wonks prepare for Madrid, there are unwelcome rumblings from China.

Because autocracies are not that responsive to public opinion, they can sometimes act faster and more transparently than squabbling democrats. Continue reading “Ten years on from ‘Climategate’ things look a bit different”

China and India’s regional trade squabble echoes in Europe

India’s decision not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership promoted by China is politically significant.  But its impact on trade and prosperity is more nuanced, as Bloomberg explains.

It avoids some market opening on both sides (India to agriculture; others to services) that would have been economically beneficial.  But the greater significance of the pact is the restrictions on access it would impose on those outside the regional trade grouping.

“Still, the effect of harmonizing standards at the regional-agreement rather than global level is the opposite of an opening of trade  … The standards that are established across the zone inevitably resemble those of its largest member. That would be fine in a global agreement, but in a regional deal the effect is to raise barriers to nations outside the bloc with different rules.” Continue reading “China and India’s regional trade squabble echoes in Europe”