Demonstrators outside the offices of Southern Weekend in Guangzhou on January 8 (AFP/Getty)
Any government that is intent on controlling public debate has traditionally had a number of tools at its disposal. Direct ownership of the press, punishment of unruly journalists or artists and the promotion of malleable ones, book burning, propaganda … the list goes on. The internet, a sprawling, uncontrollable and ever-growing beast may have given birth to a new set of challenges for modern totalitarian powers, but China has thrown its resources at the problem with gusto, keeping a lid on simmering dissent with a mix of technology, commercial incentives, legal restrictions and carefully selected pressure valves.
That is partly why the open revolt by journalists in Guangzhou this past week was so surprising – because it suggested that, just occasionally, spontaneous anger and frustration could yet circumvent the great firewall of China, even if only briefly.
In the FT
Mario Monti (L) with Silvio Berlusconi in November 2011 (ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)
This week’s alliance between Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party and the right-wing Northern League was the last piece of the jigsaw ahead of Italy’s general elections, scheduled for 24-25 February.
With six and a half weeks to go, the situation is still too fluid to make a call on who will win. But, for those not versed in the art of Italian politics, we thought it would be helpful to explain the main players involved, and outline the chances of the two very different men who have held the most influence over Italy in the past few years – Mario Monti and Silvio Berlusconi.
- A centre-left coalition dominated by the Democratic Party, in alliance with the more left-wing Left, Ecology, Freedom party
- Berlusconi’s right-wing alliance between his People of Freedom and the Northern League
- A centrist coalition led by Italy’s technocratic prime minister, now turned politician, Mario Monti. This includes the PM’s own list, Civic choice for Monti, the Christian Democrats and a smaller centre-right party, Future and Freedom for Italy
- The Five Star Movement, brainchild of the comedian-cum-blogger, Beppe Grillo
- A left-wing group, Civil Revolution, set up by the former anti-mafia judge Antonio Ingroia
Italy’s cumbersome electoral law, which is different for the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, makes the lives of the phsephologists even harder. Here’s what we know about the situation in each house. Read more
The world news desk brings you the best reads from around the world… Read more
As we begin 2013 in drizzly rain and chill temperatures (at least in the UK), we thought it would be a good time to share our thoughts on some of the best books we read in 2012 to help see you through to spring. The FT Weekend published its Books of the Year before Christmas, but let’s face it, you probably polished that list off over the festive break and are now, like us, desperately scrolling through amazon reviews to find your next tome. Call off the search! Here are some special recommendations from two of our regular bloggers. You’re welcome.
Gideon Rachman: As President Obama reshuffles his foreign affairs team, it makes sense to look back at the record so far. A good place to start would be “Limited Achievements: Obama’s Foreign Policy” by Zaki Laidi (Palgrave Macmillan). It’s a new study by a French scholar, based at Science Po in Paris. The conclusion is in the title, but this is a systematic and thought-provoking examination of the gap between aspiration and achievement in US foreign policy, dealing with all the major topics from the war on terror to the Arab Spring.
Lest this seem like a harsh verdict from France, its worth noting that a similarly cautious verdict is is reached by “Bending History” (Brookings), which came out last year. The muted verdict is notable because this is a study by three scholars at the Brookings Institution – a think-tank that has probably provided more foreign-policy officials to President Obama than any other. Read more