Daily Archives: March 9, 2014

If articles in the China-watching press are to be believed, we have recently learnt a lot about the viewing habits of senior Chinese leaders. Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, reportedly considers the American classic The Godfather his favourite western cinematic indulgence. Wang Qishan, the former vice-premier of finance and now ultimate arbiter for discipline on the Communist party’s standing committee, is said to favour House of Cards. Mr Wang has purportedly told colleagues in Zhongnanhai, the cloistered leadership compound, to keep abreast of the Netflix hit. He apparently was so transfixed by early episodes that he instructed underlings to check the release date for season two.

Political heavyweights from authoritarian regimes tend to favour muscular US movies such as Rambo and Scarface. Apparently, the Latin American strongman Manuel Noriega had a library filled with violent American VHS video tapes (before the era of DVDs). Continue reading »

Events in Ukraine have underscored the importance of effective external support for successful economic and political reform. The international community is finally responding with concrete indications of support.

At one level the situation in Ukraine is unique – a product of the country’s sensitive location between Russia and Europe. At another, however, it is merely the latest example of a phenomenon that recurs all too often. A government that is illegitimate or at least highly problematic is brought down. The world community seeks to support economic reform. A new government, purportedly more democratic and legitimate, is installed in its place. Think, for example, of the transition that occurred after the Berlin Wall fell; or after the Arab uprisings; or in more isolated cases such as East Timor or Rwanda. Continue reading »