Xi Jinping

Gideon Rachman

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.

Gideon Rachman

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 Luisa Frey
♦ Foreign investors have the perception that it is getting harder to do business in China. By forcing multinationals to lower prices and improve their offerings, the Chinese government aims to raise the bar for domestic competitors and show citizens how their lives are improving under the new administration.
♦After travelling to China and meeting its leader, Xi Jinping, FT’s columnist Gideon Rachman comments on how the government is confident that China can keep growing more than seven per cent a year, proving the sceptics wrong.
The New York Times reports from Sochi, in Russia, which is preparing to host the Winter Olympics in February. For the narrow costal city, the $50 billion Games project has caused irritation as well as pride.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s deposed president Mohamed Morsi’s trial started in Cairo. Foreign Policy’s Bel Trew describes the controversial court session, which ended with the following words from Morsi: “This is not a court. This is a coup.”
In Syria, Islamist rebels use web postings with bloody portraits of dead fighters as a recruiting tool, reports the Washington Post.
A new digital news startup, Vocativ, is capable of eavesdropping social-media conversations all over the world and running an analysis on the results, writes Jeff Bercovici at Forbes. 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.

The Xi-Obama summit
Later this week, the presidents of the United States and China will hold a two-day summit, the first since Xi Jinping’s elevation to the top job in China. It comes as US-China tensions are fairly high on a number of issues, from cyber attacks to territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas. So what are both sides hoping to achieve? Gideon Rachman is joined by James Kynge, editor of FT China Confidential, and Geoff Dyer,who was a Beijing correspondent before his current assignment in Washington.

Ahead of the meeting between Barack Obama and Xi Jinping in California, now dubbed the “shirt-sleeves summit”, here is a sample of what’s being talked about in the press.

♦ Sunnylands, the 200-acre estate close to Palm Springs, has played host to quite a line up of leaders, including the likes of Nixon, Reagan, Thatcher and Kissinger. It seemed the ideal spot for the ‘getting-to-know-you’ summit, with both its long ties to Hollywood and its renowned collection of Chinese enamelled metalwork dating from the Ming dynasty.
History looms larger for those who lost, writes David Pilling, contrasting the two centuries of optimism since the American revolution with the period of imperial collapse that followed China’s rebellion. A sense of boiling injustice mixed with certainty about one’s position in the global hierarchy makes for a potent brew ahead of the meeting.
♦ The summit could define US-China relations for years to come, says the Washington Post. A principal goal of the meeting will be to build individual trust where strategic distrust exists between the two countries.
♦ But Xi is not ready for a touchy-feely meeting, says Foreign Policy. Surely the US is rewarding China when it should be censuring it?
♦ Washington Wire have done a jaunty précis of Lawrence Summers’ proposed agenda for the Summit, including tackling China’s trade surplus, China’s somewhat anti-competitive business practices and a rethink of the global financial system.
♦ Russell Leigh-Moses at the Wall Street Journal warns of the potential pitfalls looming in Sunnylands: “Xi needs to maintain his approachability for the US while being mindful of those in China who think that now is the moment to press Washington on a whole host of issues, especially where China’s military rise is concerned. Xi’s been more forceful than nuanced here in China; he will need to be precisely the opposite in California.” Read more

It is 60 years since the Korean peninsula was at the very centre of international affairs. After the Korean war, the focus moved on – to Vietnam, eastern Europe, the Middle East, even to Afghanistan. But Korea now has a good claim to be right back at the centre of global concerns. North Korea’s tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles earlier this year, as well as its increasingly warlike rhetoric, have made South Koreans and Americans think hard about the previously unthinkable – the possibility that a nuclear war might actually break out on the Korean peninsula. I spent some of last week at the Jeju forum in South Korea, where researchers, politicians and diplomats grappled with a number of terrifying questions: such as what would the impact be of a nuclear strike on Seoul, the South Korean capital; and could South Korea launch a successful pre-emptive strike on the North’s weapons? (Answers: appalling and no.)

 Read more

♦ In cities like Istanbul and Ankara, opposition to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government is strong. Elsewhere, however, the AKP retains a significant amount of support and people are very suspicious of the demonstrators and their motives.
♦ China’s government and Chinese activists were even more active than usual on the Tiananmen anniversary.
♦ Susan Glasser, Foreign Policy’s editor-in-chief, interviews Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister.
♦ When Xi Jinping meets Barack Obama on Friday, look out for Wang Huning, head of the Communist party’s central policy research office. The former university professor is one of the most influential figures in China today.
Venice is drowning in conflicting interests.
♦ Cristina Fernández has a crazy plan to save Argentina’s economy.

♦Want to know what it’s like to be in Taksim Square now? Take a look at Paul Mason’s montage. Read more

John Paul Rathbone

Xi Jinping visiting a coffee farm in Costa Rica (AFP/Getty)

Where the US leads, China follows close behind. Or is that vice versa? The question is especially pertinent in Latin America, where China’s president, Xi Jinping, is midway through a regional tour that culminates in Mexico before he meets Barack Obama in California. What makes Mr Xi’s trip noteworthy is that it follows a similar regional tour by Joe Biden, the US vice-president.

For fans of a multi-polar world, Mr Xi’s trip illustrates how fast the world is changing – and how China is prepared to pay to expand its sphere of influence too: in Trinidad & Tobago, Mr Xi stumped up $3bn in loans. Read more