By Gideon Rachman
For the first half of my life, international politics was defined by the cold war. The fall of the Berlin Wall ended that era and began another one: the age of globalisation. Now, 25 years later, it feels like we are once again witnessing the close of an era.
Saturday night at the protest camp © Amie Tsang
“If you have not shown up by midnight I will assume you are a no-show. Checkout is at noon. You are alone? For girls on their own, for safety, we recommend these tents here.” The receptionist gestures to a row of camouflaged tents nearby. “The only problem is it will be more noisy.” Read more
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.
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.
For all the more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger protestations, this coup d’état was about as retro as they come. Troops surrounded state broadcasting headquarters early on, and once the army commander had finished his televised announcement of the government’s demise, the plugs were pulled on the ruling party, silencing its TV stations.
But the choreography of this coup – ousting Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected and only Islamist president, after one year in power – was unusual.
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief of staff, mobilised extra divisions of no mean significance. As he replaced Mr Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood with a transitional government, he was flanked by the Sheikh of al-Azhar university, the leading Sunni Muslim authority, the Pope of Egypt’s sizeable Coptic Christian minority, Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel peace laureate and leader of Egypt’s liberals, and youthful activists who brought down the army-backed dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the high spring of the new Arab Awakening. Read more
For a man who suffered the indignity of having to stand down after one term as president of Russia to make way for the return of Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Medvedev appears comfortable in his own skin.
Meeting the Financial Times and representatives of six other European newspapers this week, Russia’s prime minister seemed relaxed, sometimes jocular – in spite of the pressures many political observers believe he is under. Compared with the somewhat tense and nervous figure the FT first interviewed just after his election as president in 2008, he seems comfortable with the trappings of power – even if they are now diminished from what they were.
Today, a conservative or hardline faction in the Kremlin, emboldened by Putin’s return to the presidency, is seen as jostling to replace the more liberal Medvedev with its own premier. Putin, too, is thought ready to jettison Medvedev as a scapegoat in the event of a crisis such as an economic slowdown – and Russia’s economy has got off to a weak start this year.
For now, the premier remains in the same Gorky-9 compound he occupied as president, in which Boris Yeltsin spent his second presidential term, just off the chic Rublyovskoye Shosse 15km beyond Moscow’s outer ring road. Read more