Tag Archives: world

China: Is it the future of world politics – or not?

Colonel Sanders is looking young - and Chinese - at the opening of a new KFC outlet in Beijing.

It’s well past time that people woke up to China’s role in the world and I don’t just mean noticing “Made in China” on the base of that thing you’ve just bought. (It’s probably from Vietnam or the Philippines these days anyway – or perhaps Madagascar if it’s clothing.) And eating Chinese doesn’t count either.

It’s crazy how tightly schools cling to European languages to the exclusion of Chinese. Sure, Spanish can be number one – it’s on the doorstep, good weather, world language, beautiful songs. But why should Chinese be relegated below French, German, Russian (!), Italian, Latin, Greek, etc?

Then again, there are some people who are in a constant tizzy about the spread of Chinese influence – soft power, economic investment, military infiltration. The panic has reached such intensity in parts of the blogosphere that it reminds me of that old cartoon (anyone know it?) that had Americans imagining that it was Vietnam bordering Texas instead of Mexico. (Though with the low intensity warfare going on in Mexico these days…)

So is China really the future? Is western democracy tired and doomed to go down with the listing economic ship? Have the Chinese actually got it right in terms of development and never mind the niceties of freedom?

Two Continue reading

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20 reasons why it’s all kicking off

This is an attempt to find common reasons behind all the upheavals happening in the world at the moment. It’s from the BBC Newsnight‘s economics editor Paul Mason, who’s also on Twitter.

As the cartoon on the left from Buttersafe suggests, having a wee scoot around the web is a way to lose aeons of time, but you sometimes find interesting things like Paul Mason’s take on the global social dynamic.  The short version identifies graduates, often female,  with no future, but access to social media and less tied to old ideologies as drivers of change. See what you think of his longer version:

We’ve had revolution in Tunisia, Egypt’s Mubarak is teetering; in Yemen, Jordan and Syria suddenly protests have appeared. In Ireland young techno-savvy professionals are agitating for a “Second Republic”; in France the youth from banlieues battled police on the streets to defend the retirement rights of 60-year olds; in Greece striking and rioting have become a national pastime. And in Britain we’ve had riots and student occupations that changed the political mood.

What’s going on? What’s the wider social dynamic? Continue reading

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Stop looking for answers in everyone’s eyes…

Trish Keenan died last month. She was the singer from UK electronic band band Broadcast.

My mate Mark introduced me to their music.

Their song Come On Let’s Go offers a wealth of good advice for social occasions:

1. You won’t find it by yourself – you’re gonna need some help.
2. Stop looking for answers in everyone’s face.
3. (At a busy loud party.) What’s the point in wasting time on people that you’ll never know. Come on let’s go.

Just listening again to the lyrics, like many Van Morrison love songs, you could imagine that they’re addressed to God.

And speaking of looking for answers in other people’s faces…

Here’s a face in a million. It’s made from almost 10,000 pieces of toast. A back-breakingly prepared birthday surprise which is apparently recognised by the Guinness Book of Records, (beating the previous record-holding school in the Netherlands).

Laura Hadland from Leicester decided to mark her mother-in-law Sandra Whitfield’s 50th birthday with this toast mosaic.

It took 600 loaves of bread, 50 people, 128.05 square metres, 9,852 slices of toast (dark, medium & light)  and seven hours of toasting and sticking down.

The birthday girl’s verdict? “I love toast, but it was a massive shock seeing my face made out of it.” (You can get the full story Pick Me Up Magazine – essential reading.)

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Phew! We’re not all doomed after all

If fear of impending global disaster is seldom far from your mind, you can take a deep breath, let it out… and relaaax. Apparently the population timebomb is a myth. Continue reading

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In Basel (not Brüges)

Sam Spade investigates (Humphrey Bogart smoulders) in The Maltese Falcon, 1941.

“When I see you turn the corner, I will know the target is coming just behind,” he said, “and then I will begin shooting.” It was my first day on the job and I wanted everything spelled out clearly.

“Won’t they mind?” I asked. But my concerns were brushed aside. This was Switzerland, nobody gets excited here, except, sometimes about football.

I had been roped in to help a private detective with some surveillance. Continue reading

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“There are worse things than extreme tyranny…”

The Revenge of Geography by Robert D Kaplan is an alarming – or alarmist – view of an unstable political future for what he calls the  “shatter zones” of Eurasia. Some critics say Kaplan is too fond of war, but it’s an interesting read whether you agree or not. Here’s the opening, and some excerpts:

 “When rapturous Germans tore down the Berlin Wall 20 years ago it symbolized far more than the overcoming of an arbitrary boundary. It began an intellectual cycle that saw all divisions, geographic and otherwise, as surmountable; that referred to “realism” and “pragmatism” only as pejoratives; and that invoked the humanism of Isaiah Berlin or the appeasement of Hitler at Munich to launch one international intervention after the next. In this way, the armed liberalism and the democracy-promoting neoconservatism of the 1990s shared the same universalist aspirations. But alas, when a fear of Munich leads to overreach the result is Vietnam—or in the current case, Iraq.

“And thus began the rehabilitation of realism, and with it another intellectual cycle. “Realist” is now a mark of respect, “neocon” a term of derision. The Vietnam analogy has vanquished that of Munich…  …and this is the key insight of the past two decades—that there are worse things in the world than extreme tyranny, and in Iraq we brought them about ourselves. I say this having supported the war.

“And of all the unsavory truths in which realism is rooted, the bluntest, most uncomfortable, and most deterministic of all is geography.

 “Man and not nature initiates, but nature in large measure controls.”

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