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from John Lloyd:

Are we at war? And why can’t we be sure anymore?

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron poses for group photograph taken with G8 leaders at the Lough Erne golf resort in Enniskillen

The question -- “Are we at war?” -- seems absurd. Surely, we would know it if we were. But maybe we’re in a new era -- and wars are creeping up on us.

In the decade after the collapse of communism, the United States and its allies seemed invulnerable to challenges, from military to technological to economic. All changed in the 2000s, the dawning of the third millennium: an Age of Disruption. Russia, under a president smarting publicly at the loss of the Soviet empire, has now delivered an answer to decline: aggressive claims on lost territories.

China, admired for its free-market-driven growth since the 1980s, is feared for the strategic expansion that now accompanies it. This happens in its own region: a dispute between Beijing and Tokyo over disputed ownership of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands remains tense. It is also at work far beyond -- in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America -- where it seeks energy and natural resources.

China is doing what other fast-growing powers -- notably, Germany before both world wars -- have done: expand the military to be consonant with the booming economy. The explanation to the world is the need for defense. The rest of the world sees it as a possible prelude to aggression.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

World War One: First war was impossible, then inevitable

British troops advance during the battle of the Somme in this 1916 handout picture

Why does the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand -- the event that lit the fuse of World War One 100 years ago Saturday -- still resonate so powerfully? Virtually nobody believes World War Three will be triggered by recent the military conflicts in Ukraine, Iraq or the China seas, yet many factors today mirror those that led to the catastrophe in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.

The pace of globalization was almost as dramatic and confusing in 1914 as it is today. Fear of random terrorism was also widespread -- the black-hatted anarchist clutching a fizzing bomb was a cartoon cliché then just as the Islamic jihadist is today. Yet the crucial parallel may be the complacent certainty that economic interdependence and prosperity had made war inconceivable -- at least in Europe.

from Breakingviews:

China’s subway splurge only half on right track

By John Foley

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Take a trip on Beijing’s subway during rush hour and it’s clear that building more lines is a good idea. Asking international capital markets to pay for them, though, is not. Beijing’s issue of a $190 million bond to finance urban transit has been a hit with investors. But in general, public funding for public transport still looks the best route.

from Breakingviews:

Hollywood’s hopes in China rest on Youku

By Rob Cox

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Look around the subway in Beijing or Shanghai and maybe nine of 10 passengers are watching videos on their mobile devices. Chances are most of them are watching content delivered to them by Youku Tudou. The country’s leading internet television operator streams 400 million videos a day. In that sense, Youku is Netflix and YouTube - plus Comcast and Liberty Media - stuffed into one dumpling. It is also the nexus for Hollywood’s high hopes in the Middle Kingdom.

from Photographers' Blog:

Heshan: a poisonous legacy

Heshan, China

By Jason Lee

Heshan, a village with a population of about 1,500 in China’s Hunan province, is sometimes given the grim label: “cancer village”.

Located some 1,200 kilometers (770 miles) from Beijing it stands in an area rich in realgar, or arsenic disulphide.

from Counterparties:

In Beijing we trust

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China’s credit woes are bubbling up into the news again (previously here and here).

The World Bank’s top economist, Kaushik Basu, is worried about China’s reliance on credit to fuel growth. He said last week that eventually credit will catch up with it: “We’ve seen that in the U.S. in 2008, and China may have to face up to that sometime in the coming year, or couple of years because of its bloated finances.” Back in April, the IMF’s Global Stability Report warned that China was risking a financial crisis if it didn’t rein in borrowing, and that the country should settle for lower growth in order to save itself from credit calamity (the WSJ has a good summary of the report). “Pockets of stress have already begun to emerge, particularly in the trust sector, with spillovers to other parts of the financial system,” the report says.

from Hugo Dixon:

Is Greece losing its reform drive?

By Hugo Dixon

Hugo Dixon is Editor-at-Large, Reuters News. The opinions expressed are his own. 

Is Greece losing its reform drive? Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has stuck to a harsh fitness programme for two years. But just as it is bearing fruit, he has sidelined some reformers in a reshuffle. There is only one viable path to redemption for Athens: stick to the straight and narrow.

from Breakingviews:

Alibaba is case study in U.S.-China legal gulf

By Richard Beales

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Alibaba’s coming U.S. initial public offering will probably value the Chinese e-commerce firm at more than $100 billion. But will shareholders actually own the business? That’s the timely concern raised by a U.S. congressional commission. Lack of clarity in PRC law is mainly to blame.

from Breakingviews:

Review: ‘Leftover Women’ may hinder China’s growth

By Katrina Hamlin

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Women’s rights have taken a step backwards in China. A new book by Leta Hong Fincher blames that on the ruling Communist Party’s desire for social stability. But China may be depriving itself of an economic opportunity.

from MacroScope:

Of Iraq and Ukraine

Barack Obama’s message that any military support for Iraq’s besieged government is contingent on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki taking steps to broaden his Shi'ite-dominated government may be having an impact.

Just hours after Maliki's Shi'ite allies vowed to boycott any cooperation with the biggest Sunni party and his government had accused Sunni neighbour Saudi Arabia of backing "genocide", Maliki broadcast a joint appeal for national unity alongside Sunni critics of his Shi'ite-led government.

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