Trouble on the North West frontier

It was back in 1982, when then-President Ronald Reagan said “freedom and democracy will leave Marxism and Leninism on the ash heap of history”.

Remind me again when that stopped being policy.

Certainly, there was a case for soft-pedalling the rhetoric and crossing fingers when Deng Xiaoping’s China was obediently joining the world economy and making pacific agreements on Hong Kong.

Continue reading “Trouble on the North West frontier”

Planes, trains and automobiles – and also by foot, sail, cycle – and metal ball

So COP26 kicked off in Glasgow during the weekend. But it’s hard to get too enthused about an international jamboree if you’ve been involved in organising one. 

The striving by the in-group to pre-cook an outcome which can be pitched as ‘successful’; the breathless blow-by-blow media coverage; the travelling circus of groupies, civil society and protesters.  The Times reports on those making the pilgrimage to Scotland’s famously tough city, including “a Greek actor … on the final leg of a 2,000-mile run from Athens to Glasgow”. Which certainly sounds more attractive than the journey from Germany in a “human-sized hamster ball” – although the latter may have protection and shelter benefits.

Continue reading “Planes, trains and automobiles – and also by foot, sail, cycle – and metal ball”

New Zealand’s absence from AUKUS is very much part of the debate

The immediate reaction in the UK to the AUKUS announcement was focused less on the UK’s new commitment and more on the lamentations of French politicians at the loss of a $90 billion Australian submarine deal.  It was left to former PM Theresa May to probe unsuccessfully the extent of Britain’s obligation to defend Taiwan.

Chuckles aside, you might think that anything which outrages France and China has something going for it.  

Continue reading “New Zealand’s absence from AUKUS is very much part of the debate”

Will China’s communist party complete a second century?

The Economist has marked the 100th birthday of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with one of its context-rich historical essays.  It puts its money on the side of the party’s continuing adaptability and resilience.  This is probably the orthodox position.  But, as the Economist’s editorial staff themselves say when hedging their bets, only time will tell.

The more optimistic among us might look beyond the party’s seemingly-monolithic strength and see it – in pleasingly Marxist terms – as a prisoner of its own fundamental contradictions.

Continue reading “Will China’s communist party complete a second century?”

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”