China

By Gideon Rachman

The questions surrounding Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia are lurid and compelling. But they are distracting from a more important and more dangerous story: the growing signs that the Trump administration is heading for a clash with China — one that could even lead to military conflict.

By Gideon Rachman

America is used to setting global trends. But long before Donald Trump vowed to “Make America Great Again”, China, Russia and Turkey had already established the fashion for nostalgic nationalism.

Trump’s Taiwan foray

Donald Trump created a diplomatic storm earlier this month by speaking on the telephone to Taiwan’s leader – the first such official communication since 1979. He then suggested he might ditch US adherence to the One China policy – a bedrock of ties between the two world powers. Does he really mean to change US policy and if so what will the consequences be for US-China ties? Ben Hall puts the question to the FT’s James Kynge and Demetri Sevastopulo.

Donald Trump’s telephone conversation with the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen was a massive break with established policy – which will be greeted with shock in Beijing. When the US re-established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1979, it also severed diplomatic links with Taiwan. Since then there have been no direct conversations between the leaders of the US and Taiwan.

The stakes involved in the triangular relationship between Taipei, Beijing and Washington could not be higher. The Chinese government has repeatedly stressed that it is prepared to go to war, rather than accept Taiwanese independence. The US, while it does not promote the independence of Taiwan, has also promised to resist any attempt to incorporate Taiwan into China by force. I have personally witnessed a conversation between Chinese officials and high-ranking Americans, in which the US side has said openly that a Chinese attack on Taiwan would lead to war between the US and China. Read more

China’s return to strongman rule

Chinese president Xi Jinping was anointed as the “core” leader of the Communist party last week, paving the way for a return to strongman rule. So is China moving towards a more autocratic system? Gideon Rachman discusses the question with the FT’s Beijing correspondent Lucy Hornby, and James Kynge, former bureau chief in the capital.

By Gideon Rachman

From Moscow to Manila, Beijing to Budapest, Ankara to Delhi, the nationalist “strongman” leader is back in fashion. If the US elects Donald Trump next week, it would be following an international trend, not leading it.

By Gideon Rachman

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are criss-crossing America in the last frantic weeks of the presidential election campaign. But events will not stand still, while “America decides”. On the other side of the world, the US has just suffered a significant strategic reverse.

By Gideon Rachman

The assault on the Iraqi city of Mosul that began this week underlines the fact that the next three months will be a perilous period in international politics. Fighting is intensifying in the Middle East. Tensions are rising between Russia and the west. And relations between China and its Asian neighbours are getting edgier. All this is happening while the US is diverted by the Trump-Clinton melodrama and the transition to a new president.

By Gideon Rachman

Australians of a nervous disposition should probably avoid reading the Chinese press and social media at the moment. A combination of tensions over the South China Sea and the Olympics has made Australia the target of wild invective by Chinese nationalists.

Tensions rise in the South China Sea
China and the US clashed over the South China Sea at a defence forum last weekend, amid island-building by Beijing and increased naval and air patrols by the US. Gideon Rachman discusses the escalating tensions with Geoff Dyer, the FT’s Washington correspondent and former Beijing bureau chief, and James Crabtree, contributing editor.

By Gideon Rachman

Politics in the west are so dramatic at the moment that China can look relatively staid and stable by comparison. But that impression is deceptive. Xi Jinping is taking his country in radical and risky new directions.

By Gideon Rachman
When judging forecasts about 2016, beware of the “continuity bias”. This is the temptation to assume that this year will be a bit like last year — only more so. In fact, recent political history suggests that the events that define a year tend to be the big surprises and sudden discontinuities (call them “black swans” or “unknown unknowns”, if you must).

By Gideon Rachman
In 2015, a sense of unease and foreboding seemed to settle on all the world’s major power centres. From Beijing to Washington, Berlin to Brasília, Moscow to Tokyo — governments, media and citizens were jumpy and embattled.

By Gideon Rachman
Nothing can separate us. We are one family”. So said Xi Jinping after becoming the first president of China to shake hands with a president of Taiwan. The meeting between Mr Xi and Ma Ying-jeou was undoubtedly historic.

By Gideon Rachman
American and Chinese presidents do not really know how to talk to each other. They are like computers running on different operating systems.” That was the verdict once offered to me by a US official, who has watched many US-China summits from close quarters.

Australian politics is so cut-throat and brutal that it is easy to treat it simply as a spectator sport – without much wider international significance. But that would be a mistake. The fall of Tony Abbott and his replacement as prime minister by Malcolm Turnbull may well herald a shift in Australian foreign policy that will be noticed in Beijing, Tokyo and Washington.

Put simply, Turnbull is likely to take a softer line on China. Abbott was a firm supporter of America’s pivot to Asia and the effort to push back against Chinese territorial ambitions. But Turnbull seems to be more sceptical. The evidence for his scepticism is set out, in this informative post from the Lowy Interpreter. It is interesting, in particular, that Turnbull has sympathetically reviewed the work of Hugh White, an Australian academic who has argued that the US should do more to accommodate a rising China – and that the alternative might be a catastrophic war. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
The gigantic military parade that will pass through Beijing on Thursday is meant to be all about the past. But, inevitably, many in the Asia-Pacific region will see it as a disturbing message about the future.

By Richard McGregor in Washington

In the confrontational atmosphere pitting Beijing against Washington and its allies in Asia, it is often forgotten that China and much of the west were allies in the region’s defining wartime struggle, fighting their then mutual foe, Japan.

In September, Beijing is planning a massive military parade to remind the west and the rest of the world of that moment, the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the Pacific War. As commemorations go, it promises to be an awkward occasion. Read more

There are drawbacks to being a satirist from a deeply authoritarian state. Exile is a frequent consequence. But it has its advantages.

“I’m really blessed as an Iranian comedian,” Kambiz Hosseini told the audience of democrats, dissidents and defectors who gathered this week in Norway for the annual Oslo Freedom Forum (or “Davos for dissidents”). “There’s no shortage of material for me.” Read more

Over the weekend, my colleague Richard McGregor, reported on the growing clamour in Washington to push back against China’s “island factory” in the South China sea. He pointed to the possibility of a “limited but risky challenge to Chinese actions by the US military”. That challenge now appears to be underway. Read more