Hong Kong’s political crisis
The scale and persistence of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have taken many by surprise. Gideon Rachman is joined by David Pilling, Asia bureau chief, and Tom Mitchell, Beijing correspondent, to discuss the crisis and China’s response.
Protesters remain on the streets of Hong Kong’s central commercial district on Tuesday, following three days of demonstrations. They are calling for changes to the way Hong Kong chooses its chief executive, its top politician. Here’s an explainer of what’s going on.
By Gideon Rachman
The demonstrations on the streets of Hong Kong present China with its biggest political challenge since the pro-democracy movement was crushed in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989. The parallels between the demonstrations in Hong Kong now and those in Beijing, 25 years ago are eerie – and must be profoundly unsettling to the Communist party leadership. Once again, the demonstrations are led by students demanding democratic reform. Once again, the central authorities have lost control – and risk facing a choice between repression and a humiliating climbdown. Once again, the ultimate question is the power and authority of the Communist party in Beijing.
A pro-democracy demonstrator (centre) gestures in front of a police line near the Hong Kong government headquarters © Getty
There can’t be many uprisings where those being tear gassed stop to pick up their own rubbish. It is a mark of Hong Kong’s sense of civic responsibility – of course precisely the quality that makes so eminently reasonable its aspiration to choose its own leader – that even its radical vanguard behaves so courteously. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
In 1990 Kenichi Ohmae, a management consultant, published a book called The Borderless World, whose title captured the spirit of globalisation. Over the next almost 25 years developments in business, finance, technology and politics seemed to confirm the inexorable decline of borders and the nation states they protected.
A spike in the cost of government borrowing is raising the spectre of Venezuela defaulting on its more than $80bn of sovereign debt
Italy’s anti-euro, anti-immigrant Northern League party is seizing on the Scottish referendum to relaunch calls for secession of the north of Italy
A meeting between the leaders of China and India next week underscores the slow thaw in the countries’ relations as their economic links strengthen
Isis is recruiting in Istanbul‘s impoverished suburbs, often through religious study groups, to boost its ranks of fighters and populate its self-declared caliphate. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
At the beginning of the year, I gave a talk about “geopolitical risk” to a big conference of investors. I trotted briskly around the course: Russia, the Middle East, the South China Sea, the eurozone. Afterwards, I was having coffee with one of the other speakers, a celebrated private-equity investor, and asked him how much he thought about geopolitical risk.
By Gideon Rachman
The headlines are dominated by regional crises – in Ukraine, in Iraq and in the South China Sea. But is there a common thread that ties together these apparently unconnected events?
By Lucy Hornby
It was a vintage 1950s moment as foreign diplomats based in Beijing streamed into the Great Hall of the People this weekend for a ceremony designed to re-establish China’s international leadership as an advocate for poorer countries and an alternative to the US.
China’s growing commercial clout is giving it international sway that it has not enjoyed since the 1950s. At the time, Jawharlal Nehru of India allied with charismatic Chinese premier Zhou Enlai to promote the non-aligned movement of countries loyal to neither the US nor the Soviet Union, most of which had only recently broken free of the British Empire.
China is now putting forward a revived vision for how it can use its growing power — at the same time as tensions are flaring along its maritime borders. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
Atlanta coined the catchphrase that it was the city that was “too busy to hate”. During the past 30 years, the countries of Asia have informally adopted that slogan and transferred it to a whole continent. Since the end of the 1970s, the biggest Asian nations have forgotten about fighting each other – and concentrated on the serious business of getting rich. The results have been spectacular. But there are now alarming signs that East Asia’s giants are pursuing dangerous new priorities, and diverting their energy into angry nationalism and territorial disputes.
US and China taking climate change seriously
Gideon Rachman is joined by Pilita Clark, environment correspondent, and Richard McGregor, Washington bureau chief, to discuss renewed efforts to tackle climate change. The Obama administration appears to have succeeded in making climate change a public health issue, and has set a target of reducing US power plant emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. Meanwhile rumours abound that China could include strict targets in its next five year plan, although sustaining economic growth remains its priority.
Chuck Hagel, the US defence secretary, has accused China of using intimidation and coercion to assert its territorial claims in the South China Sea and said America “will not look the other way”.
Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue Asian defence forum, Mr Hagel said China had in recent months undermined its own claims that the South China Sea was a “sea of peace, friendship and co-operation”. Read more
Relations between Russia and China
President Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to Beijing took on added significance because of the deep divisions between Russia and the west, caused by the Ukrainian crisis. The two countries signed a landmark deal on gas supplies, as well as other agreements covering trade and arms sales. So is a new Russia-China axis emerging? Gideon Rachman is joined by James Blitz and James Kynge to discuss.
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. Read more
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. Read more
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? Read more
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. Read more