Posts Tagged ‘China’

Trump has got a point on NATO, Russia and climate change

15/02/2017, 10:19:43 PM

by Julian Glassford

Winston Churchill is widely regarded as the greatest Briton in history. Here was a larger than life, notoriously brash and uncompromising Western leader, and one who allied himself with a Russian tyrant. 70 years on, and the political mainstream finds itself consumed with juxtaposed vexation. The source of all this consternation: a similarly bold and irrepressible, if relatively uncultured, rabble-rousing “Russophile”.

Granted, Donald Trump is no Churchill, but rather than jumping the gun in mourning the presumed death of American exceptionalism and Pax Americana, perhaps we ought to take the opportunity to pause, contemplate, and culture our concerns.

The cry that “democracy has lost its champion” smacks of selective amnesia regarding a string of less than illustrious foreign adventures from Vietnam to Iraq. It is also as if certain commentators skipped classes on the role of European ‘soft power’ and complex interdependence. It should be clear to any learned, objective analyst that increased stability and human flourishing has in many instances occurred not because, but in spite, of US-led interventions and initiatives.

Clearly, there is much to be said for the exercise of high minded influence by major players on the world stage – no-one wants to see a return to the dark days of American isolationism – but beware the false dichotomy. Notwithstanding the solipsistic antics of a certain “dangerous vulgarian” i.e. widely condemned neo-mercantile Trumponomics and discriminatory migration policy, a United States of Anarchy is not a realistic prospect.

Precarious as the present international order may be, it is unwise to presuppose that an unfiltered US President – or British foreign secretary, for that matter – will send the house of cards crashing down; that is, so long as the UN Security Council remains united in their opposition to nuclear proliferation, and the East-West arms-race in prospect confined to peaceful competition. (more…)

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With Trump in the White House, 2017 will be the year of living dangerously

04/01/2017, 10:27:31 PM

by Rob Marchant

It seems like a statement of the blindingly obvious but, during the current calm of the Obama fin-de-siècle, and before the storm which the Trump inauguration is likely to kick off, it seems like America has almost forgotten itself. The impact of the outsider’s November victory has temporarily become 2016’s giant elephant in the room. But the impacts may well resonate for years.

Those who think Trump is a Good Thing remain delighted, revelling in their apparent vindication, although perhaps slightly nervous at a victory they did not expect. On the other hand, the majority of voting Americans – who did not want Trump, and whose number included many registered Republicans – almost seem to have become numb to what is about to happen. They should not.

As New Republic’s senior editor Jeet Heer put it,


In many ways, this numbness, this complacency is something that Democrats have brought upon themselves. Not, to be clear, because they fielded the wrong candidate: it has now become a particularly dumb conventional wisdom on the left that the Dems should blame themselves, as if somehow the primary process could be manipulated by the DNC to get the candidate they wanted, and they chose Clinton.

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Forget Sajid Javid, the mess at Port Talbot is down to George Osborne

06/04/2016, 10:06:42 PM

by Ranjit Sidhu 

It was just a couple of months ago, in February this year, that it was reported the UK government was central to sinking the European Union’s initiative to increase tariffs on dumping by Chinese companies, such as with steel.

Then, as now, Sajid Javid justified it’s stance with the familiar neo-liberal economic line that increasing tariffs would hit UK businesses by making the steel they purchase more expensive and that it would be wrong to put tariffs in the way of the cleansing winds of the free trade.

It is a familiar argument that has held sway over British politics ever since it was used to bludgeon the coal industry out of existence in the 1980s.

The stance on trade in the Conservative manifesto of “pushing for freer global trade” gave ethical backing for the policy driven by the chancellor George Osborne on China, nicknamed “The Osborne Doctrine”

At core the policy was to push under the carpet human rights and other ethical differences, become China’s “best partner in the west” by, for example sinking any new European tariffs on Chinese companies, allow Chinese companies to invest in the UK’s critical infrastructure, then hope the Chinese reciprocate by allowing UK companies into the fiercely guarded internal market – everybody wins.

Except, Port Talbot shows they don’t.

Why this policy inevitably led to events like the potential closing down of Port Talbot is obvious when you look a bit deeper into the economics of steel production:  the largest Chinese “companies” that produce steel are Baosteel and Hebei Iron and Steel, both are completely state owned and run organisations.

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Blair switches on Syria: We need to do a deal with Assad and accept he’ll remain president

23/04/2014, 10:47:36 AM

by Atul Hatwal

In a wide-ranging speech on the middle east, Tony Blair today made a significant intervention to recast the British debate on Syria.

Until now, the assumption has been that President Assad would have to go as part of any peace deal. The dividing lines of the conflict seemed to be clear: Assad was the oppressor, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of his own people, while the opposition represented Syria’s best hope for a more democratic and enlightened future.

The idea of President Assad remaining in power was unthinkable.

But as the tide of the conflict has turned in Assad’s favour, and Islamist factions in the opposition have gained prominence, Blair’s speech signals a fundamental reappraisal of the negotiating position.

At the time of the parliamentary vote on military action in Syria, within Labour it was the Blairite wing of the party which was most in favour of punitive measures against President Assad. There remains an abiding sense of grievance among many in the party at the manner in which Ed Miliband first backed intervention, and then opposed it.

Now, however as the facts on the ground have changed, so has the solution – at least in Tony Blair’s view. In the Bloomberg speech he states,

“But the truth is that there are so many fissures and problems around elements within the Opposition that people are rightly wary now of any solution that is an outright victory for either side. Repugnant though it may seem, the only way forward is to conclude the best agreement possible even if it means in the interim President Assad stays for a period. Should even this not be acceptable to him, we should consider active measures to help the Opposition and force him to the negotiating table, including no fly zones whilst making it clear that the extremist groups should receive no support from any of the surrounding nations.”

Contrast this with his view in June last year,

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Cameron’s conduct in China was bad politics, bad ethics and exceptionally bad foreign policy

09/12/2013, 01:34:28 PM

by Sam Fowles

It’s that time of year again: Winter enough for the christmas lights to go up on Clapham High Street but still autumn enough for everyone to complain about it. The time of year when the fact that the hot water cylinder in my four person house only produces enough hot water for three stops becoming “something we’ll laugh about later in life” and starts becoming a significant cause of frostbite. Basically it’s getting cold. It’s the time of year when we all start wistfully staring at summer breaks in between the usual workplace internet pastimes of Buzzfeed and cat videos.

David Cameron, of course, isn’t restrained by such limitations. With winter descending on London he took 100 of his closest friends on a field trip to China. There to engage in such hi jinks as fungus banquets, playing with puppet horses (actually this one sounds pretty fun) and not talking about human rights.

I’m being flippant but there’s a serious point here. Cameron’s trip to China and his pledge that Britain will be China’s “biggest advocate in the West”, was bad politics, bad ethics and exceptionally bad foreign policy.

I’m not about to join in the various comparison’s of China to a string of historical baddies (although the Kaiser simile in the FT is particularly fun). China is a danger to the world because of it’s actions in the here and now. Even more of a threat are international lightweights like Cameron who think that jet setting around the world’s ugliest regimes with a carpet bag full of British products and a plastic smile makes them a statesman. Those with democratic mandates were conspicuous by their absence amongst the Prime Ministers “representatives of Britain. Evil may flourish when good men do nothing, but it’s certainly helped when mediocre men give it a round of applause.

The bad politics has been fairly well covered. Cameron came into office advocating a tougher stance on China’s human rights violations. He met with the Dalai Lama, prompting a diplomatic freeze from Beijing. Then he tried to row back, prompting some particularly unstatesmanlike groveling. This is amateur. You can’t imagine Barack Obama, Angela Merkel or even Francois Hollande accepting the sort of snubs that Cameron has suffered while in China. Yet our Prime Minister smiles and laps up what scraps of friendship the Chinese are prepared to toss his way like the desperate cousin at a wedding. Cameron’s obsequiousness has raised the status of the Chinese leaders at his own expense. You don’t need a degree in international relations to see that this is a pretty poor negotiating tactic.

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Wanted: leadership in the western world

03/02/2011, 12:00:57 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Francis Fukuyama is best known for confusing the period between the falls of the Berlin Wall and Lehman Brothers with the end of history. This was to be defined by the global triumph of liberal democracy and market economies. He recently conceded:

“The most important strength of the Chinese political system is its ability to make large, complex decisions quickly, and to make them relatively well, at least in economic policy”.

China is neither liberal nor democratic, but its state-directed model of capitalism is reshaping markets across the globe. Nonetheless, everyone from George W. Bush to Will Hutton is confident of the model’s limitations. It is thought that history hasn’t ended yet, but that it will, and on the lines that Fukuyama proclaimed.

“Trade freely with China and time is on our side”, said Bush. These economic freedoms will, ultimately, it is argued, require political freedoms. This is because per capita western incomes depend upon what Hutton calls the “enlightenment infrastructure” – pluralism (multiple centres of political and economic power), capabilities (rights, education, private ownership) and justification (accountability, scrutiny, free expression).

Hutton made this argument in a debate with Meghnad Desai in Prospect just before the credit crunch. Desai scoffed: “For you, there is only one road to capitalism – the Western one – and only one political system – ours”. The crunch must place at least a question mark next to Hutton’s Whiggish confidence. (more…)

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Labour can help with Chinese democracy

07/11/2010, 10:30:41 AM

by James Watkins

THE FEAR of China continues to dominate debate in Britain – from its portrayal as a fire-breathing dragon on the cover of this week’s Spectator to David Cameron’s bizarre claim during the election campaign that Britain may need nuclear weapons because of China. This is not the ideal backdrop for the prime minister’s forthcoming visit to Beijing.

The list of worries laid at China’s door is manifold: from human rights abuses to currency manipulation and from poor working conditions to obstructing climate change talks. At the heart of them all is the fear that a lack of political reform in China will make things even worse.

But if the British government were to take a new approach to China, the prime minister’s visit could be the start of a new direction for Chinese democracy.
At first glance, such a view may seem overly rosy. Since the dissident, Lin Xioabo, won the Nobel peace prize in October, a crackdown on dissidents has been reported. But there are also signs that the Chinese political elite now recognise that political reform is needed. In early October, prime minister Wen Jiabao told CNN that “the people’s will for, and need for, democracy and freedom is irresistible”. (more…)

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