China

• After meeting Hossein Shariatmadari, editor and commentator of Iran’s hardline Kayhan newspaper, the FT’s editor Lionel Barber says the conversation was a reminder that not all Iranians want a nuclear deal and that Iran’s “fractious relationship” with the rest of the world may not be about to end.

• An EU’s “Eastern Partnership” summit is trying to save hopes of a future deal with Ukraine. Russia’s tactics towards ex-Soviet countries preparing to do EU deals have raised questions over the future of an agreement and caused tensions between EU members, reports the FT. Read more

By Luisa Frey

♦ Fears of an accidental conflict are growing following China’s creation of an air defence zone over the Japanese-administered Senkaku islands it claims as its territory, with the US seeing the move as a provocative step, writes the FT’s Demetri Sevastopulo. Read more

It’s back to the pivot. With the Iran deal half-done, the Obama
administration is now starting to shift its attention to Asia. After national
security adviser Susan Rice gave her first speech on the subject last week,
vice president Joe Biden will visit north Asia from Sunday, preparing the
ground for a presidential swing through the region in the spring.

Biden will fly straight into the centre of a new political storm – literally,
in this case – after China declared on Saturday that a large part of the
East China Sea was its own air defence zone
. The new Chinese rules
oblige aircraft of other countries to inform Beijing of their flight plans
through the area, or potentially face “defensive emergency measures”. Read more

By Luisa Frey

Back-channel conversations between the US and Iran paved way for the historic nuclear agreement and broke 34 years of hostility, writes the FT’s Geoff Dyer. Read more

By Luisa Frey

♦ Twenty-three years after German reunification, a report shows that east-west migration is fizzling out. As the socio-economic differences become smaller, investors are pumping capital into the ex-communist east, writes the FT’s Stefan Wagstyl.

♦ Slovenia – which cruised to the EU as the wealthiest of the 10 ex-communist members – is now struggling to avoid a eurozone bailout.

♦ In the US, inequality is moving to the front line of politics. The rich-poor gap has long been an issue, but in post-crisis times it seems more difficult to raise hopes of upward mobility.

♦ “Keeping China moving will keep its leaders busy,” comments the FT’s David Pilling. Xi Jinping – “the world’s most powerful leader” – has nine years left at the helm of an economy that could be the world’s biggest by 2020.

♦ In post-revolutionary times, Arab countries are dealing with the task of rewriting history and figuring out how to teach it. Egypt, Lybia and Tunisia are removing from school textbooks the praise they once heaped on former dictators, writes The Economist.

♦ A video report from the Wall Street Journal follows citizens whose lives were upended by the conflict across Syria’s northern border. “I always try to make my students forget what they saw in Syria”, says a teacher in a refugee camp in Turkey. Read more

By Luisa Frey

♦ The financial crisis has hit a whole generation of English graduates, “for whom a degree has all but ceased to be a golden ticket to a decent job“, writes the FT’s economics correspondent, Sarah O’Connor. Graduates now earn less and owe more in student debt.

♦ “China and Japan are heading for a collision“, says Gideon Rachman, the FT’s chief foreign affairs columnist. The fact that both countries are setting up National Security Councils may be dangerous in times of military jostling related to territorial claims.

♦ In Japan, communities devastated by the 2011 tsunami are receiving support from architects. A project called Home for All seeks to build communal structures incorporating local history and customs, reports Edwin Heathcote.

♦ A middle class is rising in Mexico as the country finally attracts higher-end industries. “Many people are beginning to believe they can get ahead through study and hard work” says the New York Times.

♦ In Syria, veteran commanders say a second civil war has started - in which the goals of freedom, Islam and social equality were replaced by betrayal, defeat and anger towards rival militias, jihadis and foreign powers, reports The Guardian.

♦ “Dispute over gay marriage erupts in Cheney family,” according to the New York Times blog: The Caucus. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

Amid all the noise about the economic reforms launched last week by China, it was easy to overlook another important change. The Chinese government is setting up a National Security Council, co-ordinating its military, intelligence and domestic security structures. The model is said to be America’s NSC. But China’s move also parallels developments in Japan, where Shinzo Abe’s government is also setting up a National Security Council.

By Luisa Frey

♦ The Indonesian province of Aceh, devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, has become a model for reconstruction operations and might offer useful lessons for rebuilding the Philippines.

♦ Hairy crabs – delicacies which used to be one of China’s many currencies of corruption – are feeling the impact of new abstemiousness, reports FT’s Patti Waldmeir. After launching an austerity drive last year, Xi Jinping has announced further measures.

♦ China’s President, Xi Jinping, has admitted watching “The Godfather” and seems to have learned a lesson from it: “the art of amassing and applying power in a small, secretive circle of men”, according to The New York Times’ blog, Sinosphere.

♦ The New York Times also reports on the refugees who try to travel from Indonesia to Australia’s Christmas Island, hoping for better living conditions. More than a thousand have already died on the journey.

♦ After attacking immigrants, Dutch politician Geert Wilders and France’s Marine Le Pen have shifted their focus to the European Union. Both want to form a new Eurosceptic bloc and “fight this monster called Europe”, writes The Economist. Read more

STR/AFP/Getty Images

By Norma Cohen, Demography Correspondent

News that China is planning to ease its decades-old “one child” family planning policy should come as no surprise to anyone who has looked at demographic change in that region.

The working age population – defined as those aged 15 to 64, had been predicted by the United Nations Population Division to peak at 1.01bn by 2015 and fall gradually thereafter. In fact, it had already peaked in 2012 and is now headed the other way.

But the reality is that China’s “one-child” policy did not apply all over. Couples are allowed to have more than one child when both parents are only children. Rural parents were allowed to have more children which is why the current fertility rate for the 2010/15 period is 1.66 per woman. Although that is below the 2.1 children per woman that demographers say is required to keep population steady – not growing – it is clear that at least some women are already having more than one. Read more

Most of the interest in the outcome of the Communist Party plenum in Beijing has focused on the economic decisions. But the Chinese government also announced that it plans to set up a National Security Council – which has obvious echoes of the White House decision-making apparatus.

The Chinese are not alone in making this move. Japan is also in the process of setting up a new National Security Council, which is meant to be operational by the end of the year. Some might find it a little ominous that at a time when Sino-Japanese tensions are so high, both countries are revamping their national security structures. But it could also be that the Chinese and Japanese are simply following foreign-policy fashion in the West. National Security Councils are all the rage. Britain set up an NSC in 2010, allowing the prime minister to chair regular meetings of all the senior ministers and officials dealing with security issues: foreign affairs, defence, intelligence and so on. Read more

China’s third plenum could lead to far-reaching reforms
Xi Jinping was appointed Chinese president just over a year ago and promised to shake up China’s economy. Now Mr Xi’s agenda for the next decade has become a little clearer with the conclusion of a party plenum in Beijing on Tuesday. In a statement the ruling Communist party pledged to implement wide-ranging economic reforms, with a greater role for market forces. In this week’s podcast Gideon Rachman is joined by Tom Mitchell, Beijing correspondent and James Kynge, editor of China Confidential to discuss whether this is a pivotal moment for the world’s second largest economy.

A "Chinese Dream" promotion billboard (Getty)

I spent last weekend in Beijing, as part of a group of foreigners, at a small conference dedicated to “Understanding China”. We met a large cross-section of the country’s senior leadership from President Xi Jinping on down. We heard many reiterations of the idea that China is about to pursue “comprehensive reform”. So I would love to be able to say that I have a crystal clear idea of what is likely to emerge from the much-hyped Communist Party plenum that begins in Beijing this weekend. But that would be an overstatement. Most of the Chinese leaders were understandably cagey about exactly what reforms would be necessary to achieve the “Chinese dream” of national greatness and prosperity. A certain pre-plenum caginess had set in. And indeed many of the important arguments have not been settled. That, after all, is the business of the party plenum.

However, most of the key subjects that need to be tackled are already clear and the outlines of decisions are emerging: Read more

By Gideon Rachman
Foreign commentators and local bloggers regularly predict that China is heading for an economic and political crisis. But the country’s leaders are in strikingly confident mood. They believe that China can keep growing at more than 7 per cent a year for at least another decade. That would mean the country’s economy – already the second-largest in the world – would double in size. And, depending on the assumptions you make about US growth and exchange rates, it would probably mean that China becomes the world’s largest economy by 2020.

What can you trust in China these days? An investigative journalist who says a well-known company has allegedly been manipulating its financial results? Or the company that denies that point blank? How about a police force that crosses provincial lines to arrest the “offending” journalist on suspicion of damaging that company’s commercial reputation?

Above all, can we now trust the confession of the journalist – paraded on state TV with head shaved and in handcuffs – admitting that he was paid to falsify those stories? Read more

Dalian port, China (Getty)

Friday’s GDP data out of China (the economy grew at an annual rate of 7.8 per cent in the third quarter of this year) has illustrated what many economists see as the “new normal”. China is growing slower than it once did. But, given its increasingly outsize role over the past two decades what does that mean for global trade? Together with Valentina Romei from our stats department and the helpful people at the WTO we have been running some of the numbers. Here are a few interesting points to pass on…

China is now the world’s biggest trading nation…

According to Coleman Nee, one of the data gurus at the WTO, China overtook the US as the biggest trader in the world (exports + imports) in the first half of this year. Read more

It’s no secret that the US is at the centre of global trade. But how is what it trades with the world changing? The US International Trade Commission, the independent government agency which investigates anti-dumping cases in the US and also acts as a trade data clearinghouse, this week put out its annual “Shifts in US Merchandise” report. Here’s four things in the report worth thinking about:

1. Americans love their cars and their iPhones. They were the biggest contributors to the $10bn widening of the US trade deficit in 2012. Read more

The debt dragon: China’s growing debt burden
China’s debt has ballooned over the past five years raising questions over the sustainability of such a burden amid slowing growth. Simon Rabinovitch, China correspondent, explains the country’s debt dynamics and answers some of the questions FT readers posted on our blog and sent via social media.

By Gideon Rachman
Japan’s public diplomacy hovers between the ludicrous and the sinister. In recent months, the country has specialised in foreign policy gaffes that seem designed to give maximum offence to its Asian neighbours while causing maximum embarrassment to its western allies.

Ordos, Inner Mongolia (Getty)

Not content with banning lavish banquets and overseas junkets in its efforts to shore up declining moral standards within its own ranks, China’s communist party has moved to stop the building of any more monumental offices.

As the FT’s Simon Rabinovitch points out:

Whether the latest ban has a similarly negative impact on the property market will depend on how it is interpreted by state-owned companies. Chinese corporate executives have felt pressure to comply with Mr Xi’s earlier austerity policies even though government officials, not companies, were his targets.

Beijing has previously tried to stop local governments from building massive new offices, but only with limited success. Even in poorer parts of China, cities and villages have built monolithic offices, replicas of the US Capitol building and faux-European palaces.

But just how excessive are these party palaces? We’ve got a few of them here for your gawping pleasure. Read more

China’s cash crunch
It’s been a nervous few days on Chinese stock markets in the wake of last week’s cash crunch, which saw interbank lending rates in China rise to as high as 28 per cent. The Chinese central bank has made reassuring statements, but some commentators have talked about China being on the brink of a new financial crisis. Stefan Wagstyl, emerging markets editor and editor of the FT beyondbrics blog, and Simon Rabinovitch, Shanghai correspondent, join Shawn Donnan to look at the state of the Chinese economy.