Daily Archives: October 21, 2010

UK defence cuts, Middle East peace process and the Vatican bank’s frozen assets

In this week’s show, we hear from diplomatic editor James Blitz on the UK defence cuts, Tobias Buck in Jerusalem on the latest in the Middle East peace process, Christian Oliver on the currency wars and get the latest on the Vatican bank’s Italian court case from Guy Dinmore, hosted by David Blair.

Gideon Rachman

They claim that by the time the Shanghai Expo closes, in about a week’s time, some 70m people will have visited since it opened at the beginning of May. I was a bit sceptical about that number. But having spent a few hours there, I can believe it. The queues of visitors from all over China are simply enormous. It usually takes around three or four hours to get into a popular pavilion, like the Italian or French ones.

The longest line, however, is for the Saudi pavilion. On an average day, it takes eight hours to get in. As an official visitor, I got to skip the queue and see what all the fuss was about. As one might expect, the Saudi pavilion is large and opulent. There is an impressive IMAX style film presentation about the country, projected onto vast walls, which you watch from a moving pavement. It was OK. I would definitely have queued twenty minutes to see it. 

Gideon Rachman

America has its mid-term elections, France has its strikes and Britain has its austerity drive. But here in China (I’m in Shanghai), there is also very big political news. This week has seen the effective confirmation of the identity of China’s next president, when Hu Jintao steps down in 2012. It will be Xi Xinping – the senior Communist Party official who oversaw the Beijing Olympics. He has been tipped for the presidency for a couple of years. His appointment this week as vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission – the civilian overseer of the military – is seen here as effective confirmation that he will indeed be the next president. The next prime minister, taking over from Wen Jiabao, is assumed to be Li Keqiang – although he apparently has health problems.