Monthly Archives: January 2011

I have been in a conference on US-Chinese relations all day, so have only just had a chance to look at the latest leak on the Middle East peace talks. But my first reaction is that a lot of the hysteria about these private discussions is wildly overdone. Far from being a cause for despair, they should be a cause of hope. They show that the two sides are not as hardline in private as they are in public. Read more

A few weeks ago I was sitting in my office, reading Foreign Policy magazine, when I made a striking discovery. Sitting next door to me, separated only by a narrow partition, is one of the world’s leading thinkers. Every year, Foreign Policy lists the people it regards as the “Top 100 Global Thinkers”. And there, at number 37, was Martin Wolf.

The furore over WikiLeaks has died down a little. But the leaked American diplomatic cables are beginning to claim victims. Yesterday the FT reported on the story of Berry Smutny, the head of  Galileo, the European satellite project, who has been forced to resign after a WikiLeak suggested that he regarded the project he is supervising as a “stupid idea”. Smutny has denied saying any such thing. But he still had to go – victim of the extra credibility that comes from reading a document that was never meant for public consumption.

And then there is the ruling family of Tunisia. Read more

Gideon Rachman presents the world weekly podcast. This week: Tunisia – can a stable democracy emerge? As China president Hu Jintao visits the US, how are relations between the world’s top two economies? And what impact will the eurozone bailout disagreement have on European debt? Read more

President Obama sounded more like salesman-in-chief than commander-in-chief when he told Hu Jintao, his Chinese opposite number – “We want to sell you planes, we want to sell you cars, we want to sell you software.” And I’m sure the Americans could probably do the Chinese president a good deal on central heating, if he was interested. Read more

One of my favourite web-sites is The Browser. It’s a site that I think is technically known as an aggregator – in other words, it pulls together interesting articles from all over the web. The site was co-founded by Robert Cottrell, a former colleague of mine, who now (amongst other things) runs a bookshop in Latvia. The Browser highlights whatever amuses or interests Robert, at any given moment. I see that the front-page currently includes a long and serious article on Afghanistan’s opium wars; a funny piece from GQ on a web-site that specialises in leering articles on celebrities’ sex-lives; and a short blog post on how to choose the best title, for almost anything. Read more

Shortly before President Barack Obama visited Beijing for the first time, he set out US policy to China: “We welcome China’s efforts to play a greater role on the world stage,” he declared. “Power does not need to be a zero-sum game and nations need not fear the success of each other.”

With Hu Jintao about to arrive in the US, it seems like a good time to revisit this fascinating question. Americans seem rather confused about this topic. Some opinion polls suggest that most Americans believe that China is already the world’s largest economy. On the other hand some participants in this NPR radio discussion I took part in over the weekend, seemed to believe that the great ”sorpasso” is still many years away – thirty or forty years, at least. So what is going on? Read more

Tunisia is a small country – but right now it is anything but insignificant. The way in which its government is being rocked by street protests is being watched right across the Middle East. (The street protests in Tunis are on the front pages of the papers here in Abu Dhabi.) That is because events in Tunisia could serve as a model – for better or worse – for other larger Arab nations, with similar political dilemmas. Read more

In this week’s podcast: As southern Sudan votes in a referendum on independence we hear from our correspondent in the region, Katrina Manson, about the huge exodus of people from the North to the South in anticipation of the a country being created. Over 300,000 people died in Haiti in 2010 in a devastating earthquake. One year on, what has happened to the reconstruction effort? Andrew Jack reports from Port-au-Prince on a nation struggling to rebuild. And in the US, the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has shocked the nation, and prompted questions about incendiary political debate. Is it acceptable to “target” the opposition? Read more

I am in Abu Dhabi for a couple of days, mainly to chair an FT conference which took place this morning. It is an interesting time to be here, with the oil price within reach of $100 a barrel for the first time since 2008. Read more

By Daniel Dombey, US Diplomatic Corresponden

What exactly is going on with China and the US? And more specifically what is Robert Gates trying to do? Just a week before Chinese president Hu Jintao visits the White House the Pentagon chief is in
Beijing on a trip intended to bolster relations between the two sides.

But it’s not exactly following a touchy-feely script, judging by the events that bookended it. On the way over Gates signalled the US would be ramping up investment in equipment to fight off China. And after having held meetings with China’s top leadership – including Hu himself and heir apparent Xi Jinping, Gates expressed concerns about the Chinese military acting independently of the country’s civilian
(that is, communist party) leadership. Read more

By Daniel Dombey, US Diplomatic Correspondent

Few things on this planet are as important as US-Chinese relations, since between them the two countries do so much to shape world events. So Robert Gates’ extended trip to Beijing, dealing with some of the most difficult aspects of that relationship – their burgeoning military rivalry and their fledgling cooperation on security issues – is a pretty significant event. Read more

When Gabrielle Giffords’ father was asked if his daughter had any enemies, he replied bluntly – “Yeah. The whole Tea Party.” His comments raised the central political question about the Arizona shootings. Is it fair to link the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Giffords – and the killing of six bystanders – to the current political climate in America? Or was this just a random act of violence from which no wider moral should be drawn?

By Daniel Dombey, US Diplomatic Correspondent

Robert Gates, the US’s mild mannered secretary of defence, isn’t exactly an in-your-face kind of guy. So why did he begin his trip to Beijing, long awaited and sought for by Washington, by emphasising how the US will be spending billions of dollars on weapons that could be used against China? The answer, probably, is because he could.

 Read more

The news from Sudan sounds almost too good to be true. The referendum is taking place on time and without violence. The Sudanese government appears ready to accept the partition of the country when – as everybody expects – the South votes to secede. There seems to be a real possibility that this will be a peaceful separation. This sort of thing is hard enough to pull off in Europe. (Think of the Balkan wars.) But, in Africa, it was meant to be impossible. Read more

The idea that there is anything in common between the politics of the United States and Pakistan might seem absurd. But both countries have suffered appalling acts of political violence this week. And in both cases, the victims were moderate voices who spoke out for liberal values.

The political/religious motive in the murder of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, is indisputable. The governor was murdered by a religious fanatic, enraged by his challenge to Pakistan’s Draconian blasphemy laws. The motives of Jared Loughner, the man suspected of shooting and gravely wounding Congressman Gabrielle Giffords yesterday - and killing several other people – are not yet clear. Maybe they never will be. But Loughner had made disturbed videos ranting about gold and the constitution, which are favourite themes of the Tea Party movement. Read more

The political situation in Germany today is eerily reminiscent of what’s happening in Britain. Guido Westerwelle is leader of the Free Democrats, the most liberal (in the European sense) party in Germany and the junior partner in the country’s coalition government.

But ever since joining the coalition as part of the Christian Democrat led coalition, both Westerwelle and the Free Democrats have seen their poll ratings go into freefall. It sounds exactly like what is happening to the Liberal Democrats and Nick Clegg in Britain. Read more

During the past two years, the world has experienced its deepest economic crisis since the 1930s. But – despite the fears of many experts – there has been no major outbreak of protectionism. Globalisation, the economic and political mega-trend of the past three decades, is still firmly in place.

The economic crisis has given new life to an old debate.

I have written a cover story for Foreign Policy magazine in the US on the great decline debate – and I take the gloomy view. Sorry about that. If you are wondering why I’m writing for people other than the FT, it’s a special dispensation to do with the publication of my book. It comes out in the US on February 1st.