Vladimir Putin with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban
In the West, Vladimir Putin is often viewed as something of an international pariah. Shift your perspective, however, and it is quite striking how many international friends, the Russian president has cultivated.
Mr Putin, who enjoys posing bare-chested, is particularly good at making friends with other “strongmen”. His roster of special friends include Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the president of Egypt, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, and Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa. This week, Mr Putin has also been demonstrating that he is capable of finding pals even inside the “enemy camp” – the European Union. The EU may have imposed sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, but that has not stopped Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary – and another self-styled strongman – from rolling out the red carpet for Mr Putin. Read more
During Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests last year, chief executive CY Leung found himself the subject of many unflattering comparisons – from a vampire to Pinocchio to Adolf Hitler.
But his best-known alter ego is as “the wolf”. And now he’s seeking a more sheep-like population to govern. Read more
The scenes of chaos during President Jacob Zuma’s speech at the opening of South Africa’s parliament last week will be remembered as one of the darkest days of the post-apartheid era
Visitors from the Chinese mainland to Hong Kong are known as “locusts” and now a long-simmering resentment at their presence in the territory is boiling over into angry protests
Greece must impose capital controls or repeat the costly mistake of Cyprus, where emergency funding from the ECB was spirited out of the country, argues Hans-Werner Sinn
What Isis Really Wants: The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. Here’s what its beliefs means for its strategy – and how to stop it (The Atlantic)
Washington’s uneasy partnership with Tehran now extends to Yemen (Foreign Policy) Read more
By Gideon Rachman
China’s education minister has just issued an edict to the country’s universities that sounds like something from the heyday of Maoism. “Never let textbooks promoting western values enter our classes,” thundered Yuan Guiren. “Any views that attack or defame the leadership of the party or socialism must never be allowed.”
I’ll say one thing about Chinese chief executives: they have a more colourful back-story than most of the developed world executives at Davos.
Ren Zhengfei, elusive founder of Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications group, made a rare public appearance at the World Economic Form on Thursday, in a one-on-one interview. Read more
The recent Sri Lankan presidential election was remarkable for several reasons.
First, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the over-confident incumbent, lost the vote, despite a booming economy. Second, Mr Rajapaksa – who was often accused of authoritarian and dynastic tendencies – seems to have accepted the voters’ verdict without a fight. His best riposte to those who accused him of not being a democrat may turn out to be the way in which he accepted unfavourable election results, and allowed his rival, Maithripala Sinisena, to assume power. The change of government in Sri Lanka also has a wider geopolitical significance. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
For centuries European navies roamed the world’s seas – to explore, to trade, to establish empires and to wage war. So it will be quite a moment when the Chinese navy appears in the Mediterranean next spring, on joint exercises with the Russians. This plan to hold naval exercises was announced in Beijing last week, after a Russian-Chinese meeting devoted to military co-operation between the two countries.
A breakthrough in the fight against climate change
The US and China surprised the world last week with an outline agreement in which both countries agreed to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. Gideon Rachman is joined by Pilita Clark, FT environment correspondent, and Paul Bledsoe, senior fellow on climate and energy in the German Marshall Fund in Washington, to discuss how big a breakthrough it is.
The announcement of closer Russian-Chinese military co-operation is a striking sign of how geo-political competition is hotting up – as both Russia and China look to push back against a US-dominated world. Read more
Saturday night at the protest camp © Amie Tsang
“If you have not shown up by midnight I will assume you are a no-show. Checkout is at noon. You are alone? For girls on their own, for safety, we recommend these tents here.” The receptionist gestures to a row of camouflaged tents nearby. “The only problem is it will be more noisy.” Read more