China’s new leadership faces many challenges
China’s new leadership team is due be unveiled at the Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which begins next week in Beijing.The transition takes place against a troubled background. The economy is slowing and tensions are rising in a territorial dispute with Japan. Bo Xilai, who once expected to promoted in the reshuffle, is instead about to go on trial, and the outgoing premier, Wen Jiabao, has just been accused in the New York Times of using his position to accumulate huge wealth for his family. James Kynge, editor of FT China Confidential, and David Pilling, Asia editor, join Gideon Rachman to discuss the state of China at this crucial juncture. Read more
(MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images)
Over the weekend, my son and I walked up to the Peak in Hong Kong. We set off from the wrong point, which meant that that the walk took longer than it should have – and we kept getting cut off, by private roads.
On the other hand, our circuitous route gave us the chance to stare into the front rooms, back gardens and swimming pools of some of the priciest properties in the world. For example, this modest town-house on Severn Road would set you back about $30m (that’s US). If you really want, you could spend twice that on a mere apartment in the most luxurious blocks in Hong Kong.
The downside of the incredible prices being fetched for Hong Kong property is that finding somewhere to live is increasingly tough for people on normal incomes. Now the Hong Kong government, normally noted for its laissez-faire attitude, has acted. Over the weekend it imposed a 15% stamp duty on property purchases by non-residents. Estate agents are predicting a sharp drop-off in interest from buyers from mainland China, who have been driving up prices. Read more
Protesters in Shenzhen burn a Japanese flag during a demonstration over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands (Peter Parks/AFP/GettyImages)
Just when the Japanese thought it was safe to get back in the water, the news that high-level Chinese delegates have stayed away from the IMF meetings in Tokyo has underlined the fact that China is not letting go of the dispute over the islands variously known as the Senkaku or Diaoyu.
It is not just China that is the problem. In recent months, Japan has also clashed with Russia and South Korea over disputed islands. Japanese nationalists always demand a strong response in these cases. But even more moderate voices in Tokyo are worrying that the country’s neighbours now see Japan as weak – and liable to be pushed around. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
Over the past three years, conventional wisdom divided the world’s major economies into two basic groups – the Brics and the sicks. The US and the EU were sick – struggling with high unemployment, low growth and frightening debts. By contrast the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and, by some reckonings, South Africa) were much more dynamic. Investors, businessmen and western politicians made regular pilgrimages there, to gaze at the future. Read more
After a murder comes disposal of the body. Neil Heywood, the British businessman who got mixed up with China’s powerful Bo family, was hurriedly cremated after police pronounced he had died of alcohol poisoning. In Pulp Fiction, when Vincent, played by John Travolta, accidently shoots an informer, he calls for a professional, Winston Wolf (Harvey Keitel), to help him get rid of the evidence.
In both cases time is of the essence. In Pulp Fiction, all traces of the body must be removed by the time Bonnie, who lives in the house where the corpse has been hidden, returns from work. In China, the mess surrounding Bo Xilai, the party secretary of Chongqing whose downfall was precipitated by Heywood’s murder, had to be dealt with by the time of the 18th Party Congress, now set to begin on November 8. Read more
I have just been down my local Sainsbury’s – here in the London suburbs – and was distressed to see that it was full of shoppers. This distress is, of course, entirely hypocritical. I am one of those shoppers. Still, I cannot help feeling bad about the local corner-store, a few doors down. It is a run by a friendly and hard-working family of Indian immigrants. And I know their trade has suffered badly since Sainsbury’s opened up a mini-mart, six months ago.
The whole experience reminded me of the debate they were having in India itself, when I was there, earlier this week. The government of Manmohan Singh has just announced its plans to allow foreign supermarkets, such as Walmart and Tesco, to open up in India. But the scheme has provoked big protests, from those who say that small shopkeepers will be crushed. Read more
Where is Xi? Who knows!
A Party Congress next month is expected to confirm the once-in-a-generation leadership change atop the Chinese Communist Party. But things are not going to plan: the transition is occurring against a backdrop of a slowdown in the Chinese economy and now the mysterious disappearance from public view of Xi Jinping, just weeks before his expected elevation to lead the party. Jamil Anderlini in Beijing, Geoff Dyer in Washington and Tom Mitchell in London join Shawn Donnan to discuss the uncertainty in China. Read more
One day somebody might write a dissertation on the role of Ferraris in the downfall of the Chinese Communist Party.
The scandal surrounding Bo Xilai featured lurid rumours about the high-living of his son, Bo Guagua – who was said to have driven around Beijing in a red Ferrari. Bo Guagua denied the story. But the notion that he spent his time roaring around in fast cars has stuck; and it played its part in the discrediting of his father.
Now another senior figure in the party has experienced a serious setback after a story has surfaced about a Ferrari-driving son. Like Bo Xilai, Ling Jihua was a high-flying official, who was expecting to be promoted in the coming all-important party reshuffle. But now he has missed out on his expected promotion; apparently, after his son was involved in a car crash, which was rumoured to feature a Ferrari. This story has a tragic element since, (rumour again), somebody died in the accident. Read more
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