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from Ian Bremmer:

Chinese leader’s reforms are bad news for Hong Kong protesters

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In 1997, Britain returned Hong Kong to China after some 150 years of colonial rule. In exchange, China agreed to a set of principles: Hong Kong would maintain its capitalist system for half a century, by which point its chief executive and members of the legislature would be elected by universal suffrage. As the thinking went, “one country, two systems” would suffice in the interim; Hong Kong and the Mainland would surely converge on democracy in the half-century to come.

Not so fast. Recently, Beijing has been systematically moving in the other direction. The decision on August 31 to rule out democratic elections for Hong Kong in 2017 was just the latest example. Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s transformational reform agenda is driving this shift — and it does not bode well for Hong Kong.

Xi’s reform agenda has two parts: the first is economic liberalization. The Chinese leadership recognizes that it cannot rely on state-driven investment and cheap labor to provide growth indefinitely. Xi wants to make China’s economy more sophisticated and competitive. He is overhauling inefficient state-owned enterprises and focusing on changes in the financial sector in particular. It’s a top priority of the new leadership, and a requirement for a sustainable and dynamic Chinese economy going forward.

But a prosperous economy is simply a means to an end-goal. Xi is opening up the economy because, above all else, he wants to ensure the long-term survival and stability of the Communist Party leadership. He thinks economic reforms are a good bet despite the risks they will usher in. Over time, reform will require an enormous transfer of wealth from large domestic companies to demanding citizens and it will threaten the vested interests of many powerful elites who have prospered off the status quo. It will inject necessary competition into the economy, which could put jobs, companies, and sectors at risk.

from John Lloyd:

In clashes over Ukraine or Iraq, liberty must be defended

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A few weeks after Winston Churchill became British prime minister in 1940, he had to tell the House of Commons that Britain had just suffered one of the worst military defeats in its history. He announced the setback with these words:

“The House should prepare itself for hard and heavy tidings. I have only to add that nothing which may happen in this battle (at Dunkirk) can in any way relieve us of our duty to defend the world cause to which we have vowed ourselves; nor should it destroy our confidence in our power to make out way … through disaster and through grief, to the ultimate defeat of our enemies.”

from Nicholas Wapshott:

Democracy is on the ropes. So what are we going to do about it?

child holds her father's hand at a polling station in Kabul

Democracy is taking a bashing. On almost every continent, attempts to extend the right of people to choose their own government is running into deep trouble. In Iraq, Egypt, Ukraine, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and many other countries, democracy is being overwhelmed by despotism and despair.

A commonly heard response is that Western democracy is not for everyone, that what works in our society does not automatically work elsewhere. Another is to suggest that we should not try to spread democracy to the rest of the world; it is none of our business.

from The Great Debate UK:

Youth is the answer to the EU’s troubling voter turnout rate

MJC--Dr Marie Julie Chenard is Deputy Head of the Cold War Studies Programme at LSE IDEAS and Academic Officer for the Dahrendorf Symposium Project at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The opinions expressed are her own.--

The European elections are the second biggest exercise in democracy world-wide (behind India). Nearly 400 million EU citizens were eligible to vote their representatives to the European Parliament between the 22nd and 25th May, but only 43% actually did. What can be done to increase participation in elections that have an impact on 500 million people?

from The Great Debate:

Eyewitness Views: From hope to horror in Tiananmen Square


Eyewitness View: From hope to horror in Tiananmen Square On Changan Avenue, a small crowd confronts the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Tiananmen Square after the army stormed the square and the surrounding area the night before. This is near the location a day later where "Tank Man" confronted and momentarily halted a column of the army's tanks leaving the square. (Alan Chin)June 4, 1989. In Chinese the reference is usually made with just the numbers “Six Four,” like in English, “9/11.” As the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen ...

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from The Great Debate UK:

Scepticism about the state runs deep

--Sheila Lawlor is Director of the London think tank, Politeia. The opinions expressed are her own.--

As UKIP's earthquake materialises, with the party topping the European poll and the Conservative party narrowly missing second place, a shift in the political landscape is underway. Even before counting of the council votes had finished, or that for the European parliament had begun, the message from voters was clear - people were returning to the values with which they most readily identify: socialist or conservative.

from John Lloyd:

Modi: Democrat or divider

India’s 815 million voters started the five-week voting cycle earlier this week. It’s already being celebrated as a triumph just for taking place -- “the largest collective democratic act in history,” according to the Economist.

The winner will matter. India now punches far below its demographic weight -- its 1.24 billion people are served by just 600 diplomats, about the same number as the Netherlands. The United States, with 314 million people, has 15,000. But that apparent lack of interest in making a mark on the world seems about to end.

from The Human Impact:

The din of misogyny at Bangkok protests

In fiery speeches at protests calling for her ouster, Thailand’s first female Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has been called ugly, stupid, a bitch, a slut and a whore.

A university professor recommended sending a large group of men to “sexually snare” her. A decorated doctor offered to give her vaginal repair surgery and to change her sanitary pads, andsaid she could become a nude model because she hasn’t yet reached menopause.

from Photographers' Blog:

Somalia’s gradual healing

Mogadishu, Somalia

By Feisal Omar

After 22 years, Somalia clearly shows signs of recuperating from the deep wounds of civil-war and insurgency.

The emergence of a recognized Somali government has positively changed life; particularly in the city which was mostly an Islamist stronghold two years ago. Somalis in the diaspora have returned for the first time and run various kinds of businesses: contemporary hotels, restaurants and shops. The arrival of Turkish companies that busily repair the ruined roads and mass construction of apartments teaches one of the rebirth of Somalia.

from The Great Debate:

Seeking ‘good-enough-governance’ — not democracy

Only rarely have American leaders been able to reconcile the nation’s democratic values, material interest and national security.

Despite these tensions, promoting democracy has always been a lodestone for American foreign policy. Sometimes its attraction has been weak, very weak, overshadowed by more immediate national security concerns. During the Cold, War, for example, the United States backed many autocratic leaders in exchange for their support against the Soviet Union -- or at least for pretending to be democrats. Sometimes, very rarely, as in the case of Germany and Japan after World War Two or Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union, all good things -- freedom, security, economic prosperity -- have gone together. But these moments are exceptional.

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