Daily Archives: February 25, 2009

Until I arrived in Paris I was under the impression that Nicolas Sarkozy was experiencing something of a renaissance. The French presidency of the EU was generally felt to have gone well. Sarkozy is one of the few political figures in Europe who still radiates a sense of energy and purpose.

But it is not doing him much good in the opinion polls. The papers here report that the bounce he achieved in the second half of last year has now dwindled away and Sarko is now back down to approval levels of between 36% and 44% (according to which poll you choose) – and has fallen between 4% and 9% in just a month. He is back down to the (dis)approval ratings he was achieving during his bling period in the spring of last year. The main explanation for the fall in his popularity is pretty simple – the economy. Read more

I have just spent a fascinating couple of days, closeted with some Chinese academics in a house outside Paris, at a seminar organised by Sweden’s “Glasshouse Forum“.

Several of the assembled profs were members of China’s “new left” – people like Zhiyuan Cui, an economist from Tsinghua University and Shaoguang Wang of Hong Kong university. I was surprised by how confident they seemed. The consensus seemed to be that China would weather the global economic crisis better than most – and that the Chinese political system is sufficiently robust to withstand higher unemployment and slower growth. One of the participants pointed out that in the late 1990s, 60m Chinese people had been thrown out of work in the aftermath of the Asian economic crisis and the restructuring of China’s state-owned enterprises. But the country’s long-term trajectory remained ever upwards.

Another participant joked that China had discovered that whatever country it models itself on is doomed. In the 1950s China had modelled itself on the Soviet Union; in the 1980s there was a fashion for imitiating Japan; and more recently, there has been a fascination  with American capitalism. Read more