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China’s new leadership
China has just completed its carefully-scripted, once-in-a-decade leadership transition. The Politburo was cut from nine to seven members and incoming general secretary and president Xi Jinping will also become head of the military. With these remaining uncertainties settled, Jamil Anderlini, Beijing bureau chief; James Blitz, diplomatic editor, and David Pilling, Asia editor, join John Aglionby to discuss how the new leadership will cope with an increasingly demanding population and whether the world will engage with Beijing any differently
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s opposition leader, gave an exceptionally interesting interview to the Hindu newspaper ahead of her trip on Tuesday to India, her first visit since she studied there as a schoolgirl nearly half a century ago.
The interview is worth reading in its entirety.
On whether she had ambitions to succeed Thein Sein as president after elections due in 2015, the 67-year-old recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize was pretty unequivocal.
“I’d be prepared to take over the position of president. Not so much because I want to be president of a country but because I want the president of the country to be elected through the will of the people.”
She added that she believes her party, the National League for Democracy, “has the people behind it” but made no reference to the recent divisions within it.
An important test of the irreversibility of reform, she said, would be the military’s willingness to change parts of the 2008 constitution that were undemocratic. This would include sections that guarantee the military one-quarter of parliamentary seats as well as a provision – aimed explicitly against her – that bars people married to foreigners from becoming leader. Such changes would need to be made in advance of the 2015 elections, she said. Read more
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Our selection of interesting articles from around the world today:
Here’s what caught our eyes today:
Singapore’s normally staid airwaves are being shaken up with a raunchy rap video urging the city-state’s population to do what it takes to get the birth rate up.
As the tiny nation of 5.2m gears up to mark 47 years since it was founded next week, candy maker Mentos has issued a call to action in the bedroom, urging Singaporeans in a video to give the country “the population spurt it so desperately needs”.
“We’ve got to go all the way for Singapore, baby, you know what I’m saying,” a male voice sings to a female companion audible in the background. “Let’s put a bao” — bun — “ in your oven”.
Later he tells her that he wants to “explore your body like a night safari” — a reference to the night safaris that have made Singapore zoo famous.
The backdrop is some unfortunate mathematics that threaten the sustainability of Singapore’s economic miracle.
The number of “baby boomers” reaching 65 is rising. That’s not a problem unique to Singapore. But what’s really hurting is that the birth rate among “heartlanders”, as native Singaporeans are sometimes called, has been in steady decline for some time. Read more
Here’s what we’ve been chatting about today:
Here’s what piqued our interest today:
The Olympics are on our doorstep, but we’re still picking up interesting articles from around the world:
Catch up on some weekend reading and our picks from today:
Here are our picks to take you into the weekend: