By Amie Tsang and Gavin Jackson
After a decade of negotiations, Russia managed to wrangle out a gas deal with China – and just in the nick of time.
Europe has been looking to extricate itself from its dependence on Russian energy, while Putin wants to show Europe that it has friends – and customers – in the east.
When China’s largest oil company signed up to a 30-year deal to buy from Gazprom up to 38bn cubic metres of gas per year from 2018, it helped the Russian gas company to make its first shift away from the west.
Europe’s demand for energy is critical to the Russian economy: gas and oil exports make up some 52 per cent of Russia’s government budget, which has slipped back into deficit in the last two years. So Russia needs to find another market for its energy exports.
A visit by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to Beijing would be an important event, at any time. But, coming on the heels of Moscow’s military interventions in Ukraine, it takes on a special significance.
With Russian relations with the West in the deep freeze over the Ukraine crisis, it is clearly in the Kremlin’s interest to improve ties with China. Beijing is likely to prove a willing partner. They too have an increasingly tense strategic relationship with the US. Meanwhile, the Americans will be watching nervously from the sidelines.
Protesters holding Vietnamese flags attempt to push down the front gate of a factory in Bien Hoa (Getty)
By Ben Bland
Prompted by anger over Beijing’s assertive stance in the South China Sea, the deadly anti-Chinese riots sweeping through Vietnam’s industrial parks have highlighted just how important the country has become to global supply chains.
This has been good for Vietnam too.
With the crucial banking and state-owned enterprise sectors hamstrung by huge debts and a lack of reform since Vietnam started overheating in 2008, it is the thriving manufacturing sector that has kept the economy ticking along, accounting for 17 percent of GDP and generating much-needed foreign exchange.
What’s behind this manufacturing boom?
Containers sit stacked on a cargo ship berthed at Qingdao Port in Lianyungang, China
According to the latest estimates from the International Comparison Program, hosted by the World Bank, China is poised to overtake the US as the world’s largest economy later this year, toppling it from a perch it has held since 1872.
That is several years ahead of all previous estimates and reflects just how much more important the Chinese economy is now to the rest of the world.
Obama’s state visit to Japan
This week, we look at Japan, where President Barack Obama is concluding a state visit. The US leader and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have vital business to discuss, from Japan’s delicate and rather dangerous relationship with China, to the state of the Japanese economy and hopes for a major new trade deal. David Pilling, Asia editor, and Lindsay Whipp, former Tokyo correspondent, join Gideon Rachman to discuss
By Gideon Rachman
Ukraine is a distraction. Syria is a distraction. For believers in America’s “pivot to Asia”, the centre of Barack Obama’s foreign policy must remain the region of the future – Asia. The pivoters will be delighted that this week – despite a raging crisis with Russia – the president is embarking on a four-nation tour of Asia, beginning in Japan.
• Putin is proving his skills as Russia’s great propagandist, with his use of Soviet-era symbolism alarming those fearful for the country’s democracy.
• The Ukraine stand-off offers Beijing a broader role on the global stage.
• The FT’s series on the Fragile Middle continues, with a look at how India‘s petty entrepreneurs face an uncertain future.
• About to take over a crisis-ridden company with a demoralised workforce? Look no further the Vatican under Pope Francis for a case-study in how it should be done.
• As forests of empty new housing towers fill the horizon in Chinese cities, yet more state sanctioned construction would amount to yin zhen zhi ke – “drinking poison to quench one’s thirst”.
• Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former banker accused of fraud and one of the Kazakh president’s main political opponents, says the UK is being manipulated by a kleptocratic dictator after London decided to revoke his asylum status.
• The FT continues its Fragile Middle series with a look at how one in five Chinese are only one pay packet away from losing middle class status.
• War has created civilisation over the past 10,000 years – and threatens to destroy it in the next 40.
• Turkey‘s social media curbs are darkening prospects for its technology sector.
• Despite the undue frostiness that has greeted Iran’s nuclear spring, politicians and diplomats are convinced Tehran wants a deal.
• It took just four years for Kim Yong-chul to go from chief lawyer at Samsung to working in a bakery. Now the most high-profile whistleblower in South Korean history is back in the spotlight.
• China is unlikely to have a Lehman-style moment – but danger is lurking in the shadows.
• Twenty years ago Rwanda descended into the madness of genocide. UN peacekeepers were stretched to breaking point, but one man stood out, taking huge risks to save hundreds of lives.
• Beijing’s military build-up is generating a new Asian arms race as China’s neighbours seek to counter its growing might.
By Gideon Rachman
When political leaders start rewriting the past, you should fear for the future. In Russia, Hungary, Japan and China, recent politically sponsored efforts to change history textbooks were warning signs of rising nationalism.