Monthly Archives: December 2010

What will 2010 be remembered for? In recent years, I’ve devoted my last newspaper column of the year to listing the five most important events of the previous twelve months . This time I’ve decided to do it on the blog, since it’s a topic that deserves to be debated. Here are my picks: Read more

First, my apologies for failing to blog for many days. This is not for want of trying, at least occasionally. Some new blogging software has been installed and it had me foxed for quite a while

I will blog about serious subjects in a little while – Russian democracy (or lack of it), Chinese missiles and the like. But, first some trivia. Read more

China has finally slipped out the long-awaited announcement that it is building an aircraft-carrier. This should be neither a surprise nor a shock. Everybody who follows the story has known for ages that China intends to build carriers. And why not? The United States, after all, has eleven carrier battlegroups. Even Italy, Argentina and India have two aircraft-carriers apiece. The anomaly is that China hasn’t got any yet. Read more

Yesterday it was Athens; on Tuesday it was Rome; this time last week it was London. Urban riots seem to be becoming an almost daily occurrence in Europe.

These are not minor incidents. A former government minister was almost lynched in Athens yesterday. The riots earlier this week were said to be the worst that Rome has experienced for thirty years. In London last week, the demonstrators made headlines by attacking a car carrying Prince Charles. To my mind, even more extraordinary were the scenes of windows being smashed at the Treasury. I can’t remember ever seeing the major departments of state vandalised before. Read more

Italy will hold an early general election in 2011. That is the judgment to be made at the end of a dramatic day in the Italian chamber of deputies. Silvio Berlusconi has narrowly won the vote of confidence that threatened to topple him. Read more

After two weeks of WikiLeaking, many Americans want to see Julian Assange locked up. Instead, they should give the man a medal. Of course, it is embarrassing and awkward to have all these secret diplomatic cables published. Mr Assange certainly seems to be no fan of the US. Nonetheless, he and WikiLeaks have done America a massive favour, by inadvertently debunking decades-old conspiracy theories about its foreign policy.

Watching the Chinese government’s reaction to the award today of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, I can only conclude that it needs to hire a new PR agency.

The government is outraged by the suggestion that it is a repressive regime that does not respect human rights. So how does it react to the Nobel ceremony today? It rounds up dissidents all over the country. It launches it own rival Confucius Prize for peace -only to find that even the Taiwanese politician awarded the prize appears to be bemused by it. It turns the decision over whether countries will send ambassadors to the Nobel ceremony into a crude trial of strength with the West – and rounds up a veritable rogues’ gallery of authoritarians in support of its position: Iran, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Russia. Terrific. Read more

Each week World Weekly will be focusing on some of the major international political stories that are making the headlines – drawing upon the FT’s team of foreign correspondents and international analysts, to make sense of world events Read more

In previous posts, I dismissed WikiLeaks as not such a big deal. Well, that was obviously wrong. I argued that everybody already knew that – for example – Nicolas Sarkozy is vain or Russia is a brutal and corrupt place, so the cables did not add much to the sum of human knowledge.

But that was wrong on two counts. First, there is a difference between an idea being conventional wisdom in the media, and spelled out in a diplomatic cable – both in terms of authority and in terms of political impact. You can see that in the angry reactions to the leaks from everybody from Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to Kevin Rudd, the foreign minister of Australia. (Apparently Rudd is a “mistake-prone control freak”.) Second, with the arrest of Julian Assange on dubious-sounding sexual assault charges – and now the attack on Mastercard’s web-site, apparently by Assange supporters, the whole thing is shaping up into an unpredictable conflict between western governments and internet-based anarchists. Read more

This is the time of year when Europeans dream about escaping to somewhere sunnier. London last week offered an unattractive combination of freezing temperatures, Tube strikes and airport closures. To add to the usual seasonal discomforts, much of Europe is in the icy grip of a debt crisis. For all these reasons, I was grateful to get away to somewhere hotter and more optimistic – and to spend much of last week in Dubai, at a meeting of the World Economic Forum.

My friends the Taiwanese animators have drawn my attention to their latest effort – an animated cartoon explaining the rise and fall of Ireland. Once again, it is an inspired creation. The economics are faultless, the political interpretation is sharp – and I particularly liked the cute Celtic Tiger and the Riverdance theme. Who knew that an economic crisis could be so entertaining?

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In this week’s podcast: Eurozone debt and the risks of contagion, with Richard Milne and Ralph Atkins; Wikileaks and the Middle East with Roula Khalaf; EU structural funds with Cynthia O’Murchu and Peter Spiegel. Read more

I have just flown back into London from Dubai to find the city covered in snow and in a slough of depression, after England’s failure to get the World Cup in 2018. Russia got the nod. And Qatar, incredibly (given the heat there in summer) will host the 2022 World Cup.

The best comment so far was an e-mail I received from a colleague, shortly after the verdict was announced: “Russia get 2018 World Cup; just what a game accused of corruption needs.” Still, at least, nobody would ever associate Qatar with corruption.

Actually, I think it was probably the accusations of corruption in FIFA – emanating from the BBC and the Sunday Times of London – that finally did for the English bid. You don’t have to worry about that sort of thing in Russia, where from time to time investigative journalists are murdered or beaten up. Read more

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RB = Roger Blitz, the FT’s sports & leisure correspondent (in Zurich)
DD = Darren Dodd, an FT news editor

RB Fifa will sell this as votes for new frontiers, a la South Africa. The accusation of collusion is dampened by Russia’s victory. For England, going out in the first round only reinforces the argument that when it comes to football politics, England just does not get it.

Simon Gray in France asks: What time of year are they going to play the 2022 World Cup? In July it is about 50C in the shade in Qatar. Players will be dying, literally. Air-conditioned indoor stadiums? I suppose they can afford it.

Robert Orr in New York says not many tears were shed at the bar over the US losing out to Qatar in 2022. Pundits on ESPN, which was at least broadcasting the decision live, were more concerned about how to pronounce the Gulf state’s name. Cat-ar? Quat-ar? They quickly moved on to the  more important matter of Lebron James’ return to Cleveland later this evening…

Michael Kavanagh is back to reading L’Equipe. The site says Russia won despite a “dangerous risk” around transport considering the huge distances between host cities. It predicts that Russian football, already turbocharged by petroroubles, will gain further prominence.

Mark Mulligan in Madrid says: There’s deep disappointment in Madrid, but television commentators are at least conceding that perhaps Spain – and more so Portugal – have bigger issues to deal with at the moment, a reference to the eurozone crisis.

Iberia’s bid was built around quality of football and transport infrastructure, love of the game across the two countries and their natural appeal as tourist destinations.

Also, of course, Spain felt that it deserved to host a World Cup after its fine performance and subsequent victory in this year’s tournament.

HM: And in all Sepp Blatter’s waffle before the announcement, note how he referred to China as the place where football was born. A 2026 bid from Beijing, anyone? Then again, Blatter did call England “the motherland”.

Henry Mance: So Batman – as WikiLeaks had him – will be flying to Zurich after all!

and the 2022 host is…..Qatar

2018 winner is Russia Read more

The Wikileaks saga continues to dominate the foreign pages. So should I revise my opinion that it’s all a huge fuss about surprisingly little? A bit - but only a bit.

In my last post, I said that there was only one revelation that had half-surprised me – and this was the idea that the Saudis are urging an attack on Iran. Since then, there has one other thing that struck me as real news -and that is the suggestion that China is prepared to accept a reunified Korea, which still played host to American troops. But, even here, it’s not clear that how far the Chinese sources cited actually reflect a unified and settled position in Beijing. It sounds to me more like a single official, reflecting a policy discussion that is underway in China. It’s interesting to get a glimpse of that discussion. But, again, I think you could probably assume that in a sophisticated government like China’s, these kinds of option would be under discussion. Read more