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
By Luisa Frey
♦ Deflation is threatening Spain, which just emerged from recession– falling prices result in higher real value of debt, making families’ and businesses’ lives harder.
♦ In China, reforms announced by the Communist party are compared to “small repairs on an old road”.
♦ The New York Times revealed that JPMorgan Chase hired a consulting firm run by the daughter of Wen Jiabao, the former Chinese prime Minister and US authorities are scrutinising these ties as part of a wider bribery investigation.
♦ The New York Times also writes in its blog Sinosphere about a code used by Bloomberg to keep articles away from the eyes of powerful people in China.
♦ Since its independence, almost every political transition in the Central African Republic has come along with violence. The current conflict is no exception with the country risking genocide, writes Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. Read more
♦ From our comment pages: “How a digital currency could transform Africa“.
♦ Pigs’ trotters are crucial to the advancement of lowly Chinese Communist party officials.
♦ Some interpreted the Westgate attack in Kenya as a sign of al-Shabaab’s weakness, but there are signs that it is regrouping and recruiting new members, becoming “an extended hand of al-Qaeda” in the words of Somalia’s president.
♦ US trade policies are driving the global obesity epidemic, even as its own citizens get healthier.
♦ The Dutch real estate market is getting a new lease of life.
♦ A Egyptian general ousted under Mohamed Morsi has been rehabilitated by his protégé Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and put in charge of the general intelligence service.
♦ South Korea is aggressively targeting US technology for its own use in a variety of Korean weapons programmes, according to Foreign Policy.
♦ Modern Korea, with its electrical power lines, is encroaching on older villages and farmland. Villagers have protested through self-immolation, demonstrations in Seoul and even a two-year sleep-in.
♦ The Afghan government attempted to form an alliance with Islamist militants in the hope of taking revenge on the Pakistani military. Read more
♦ Zhou Yongkang, a former security chief and member of the Chinese Communist party’s Standing Committee of the politburo, looks set to pay the price for defending Bo Xilai as China cracks down on corruption.
♦ Although Ireland has been lauded for its austerity programme and is about to leave the EU and IMF bailout, concerns persist that its recovery will run out of steam.
♦ Michael Goldfarb at the New York Times thinks the London property market “is no longer about people making a long-term investment in owning their shelter, but a place for the world’s richest people to park their money at an annualised rate of return of around 10 percent.”
♦ Take a look at these photos: the Mark Twain branch of Detroit public library is another casualty of the city’s bankruptcy.
♦ Yassin Al Haj Saleh, who was jailed for 16 years under the Assad regime and whose family was jailed by Islamist rebels, says a poignant goodbye to Syria. Read more
By Sally Davies
♦ Qatar looks set to strike a more conciliatory tone in the Middle East, after ruffling feathers with its support of Islamists in Egypt and the rebels in Syria, writes Simeon Kerr in the FT.
♦ Across the gulf, Iran is suffering under anti-nuclear sanctions. James Blitz looks at the prospects for a deal ahead of U.S. secretary of state John Kerry’s much-hyped meeting with the Iranian foreign minister, while Geoff Dyer says Obama has come full circle on Middle East diplomacy.
♦ The Obama doctrine: the president is absorbing some tough lessons from the international conflicts he’s observed – and intervened in – over the last five years, writes David Sanger in the New York Times.
♦ Amway is funding a Harvard scholarship to schmooze bigwigs in the Chinese Communist Party. It seems to be working: the household-goods chain has more than quadrupled its sales in China since the program began.
♦ Christine Lagarde examines how women’s under-participation in the workforce hobbles economic growth, on the back of an IMF report.
♦ The haunted house that gave even China’s Red Guards the spooks. Read more
♦ China’s political elite at the Central Party School are beginning to consider the unthinkable: the collapse of Chinese communism.
♦ Since Kenya sent troops into Somalia to fight al-Qaeda-linked jihadists in 2011, the risk of reprisal has been growing.
♦ Janet Yellen, the frontrunner to replace Ben Bernanke, is “motivated by genuine fascination with the questions she deals in” and seems to be unusually well-adjusted.
♦ Secret recordings have revealed Hosni Mubarak’s belief in far-fetched conspiracy theories and his worry that Washington was trying to oust him as president.
♦ The veteran foreign correspondent who lent credibility to a claim that Syrian rebels had admitted responsibility for the August chemical attack has denied writing the article.
♦ Vienna has adopted “gender mainstreaming” in its urban planning, to take account of how women move about within the city. Read more
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
News that the US government monitors vast amounts of private communications data has divided opinion at home and caused outrage in Europe. But what lengths do other countries go to in order to keep tabs on their citizens?
It has been a requirement since 2009 for communication service providers to hold information about their customers’ use of communications for at least a year. (CSPs are a broad group that can include telephone companies, Skype and search engines).
The spy base at RAF Menwith Hill in north Yorkshire, England (Getty)
The government proposed further legislation that would require CSPs to collect additional information generated by third-party CSPs based outside the UK in order to access services like Gmail. The communications data bill was rejected by the Liberal Democrats, who were concerned that it would infringe civil liberties.
However, a recent terror attack in Woolwich, London, in which an army fusilier was killed in an apparent attack by Islamist extremists, prompted calls for the coalition government to resurrect its proposals. Read more
The FT’s world news desk brings you their picks of the day… Read more
The Olympics are on our doorstep, but we’re still picking up interesting articles from around the world:
The wealth of China’s “princelings” is growing, leading to fears that the political elite are profiting while the mass of ordinary Chinese are left behind. Increasingly, doing business in China depends on gaining the approval of a small number of hugely influential figures. FT reporters have run an investigation into the business activities of these people. This fact-packed graphic featured in today’s paper reveals the details of those top politicians and their family members, their business interests and the fortunes they have amassed. You can also access our online interactive version here.
Bo Xilai with his wife Gu Kailai
Not so long ago, Bo Xilai was one of China’s “princelings”, a charismatic, high-flying politician who was apparently destined for its top leadership. From his power base in Chongqing he became known for smashing organised crime, increasing foreign investment and running “revolutionary” campaigns involving singing contests and the revival of Maoist symbols.
But when in February a mafia-busting former police chief called Wang Lijun walked into the US consulate in the western city of Chengdu, he set in train a series of events that brought scandal and infighting out of the secret confines of Chinese party politics and into the public eye. The result was Mr Bo’s spectacular fall from grace and the arrest of his wife Gu Kailai – herself the daughter of a top general – on suspicion of murdering the British citizen Neil Heywood. Read more
China’s definition of what constitutes its “core interest” appears to be spreading. Such interests used to be confined to a few areas, about which the Communist party would brook absolutely no dissenting view. These included its national security, national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Tibet, where there is a strong separatist element, quite obviously forms part of China’s definition of territorial integrity. So does the island of Taiwan, ceded to Japan in 1895, and now a self-governed democracy. Beijing has made clear that, if Taiwan were ever to declare formal independence, it would invade. More recently, the term has been applied to Xinjiang, the huge area of western China that has been the scene of clashes between local Muslims and Han Chinese. Read more