China’s response to calls from the West to join an oil embargo penalising Iran for its nuclear programme so far has been to choose the middle course typical of its non-interfering foreign policy of the last 30 years – denouncing sanctions on one hand yet working to protect its national interests on many fronts.
Chinese fengshui masters have been busy advising edgy followers how to optimise their luck in the auspicious but volatile Year of the Dragon, which according to the lunar calendar begins on Jan.23. In the West though, Chinese superstitions about the precarious nature of Dragon years don’t hold court, and 2012 will arguably mark the largest by far Chinese New Year celebrations in many world capitals and major cities.
President Hu Jintao of China made headlines in the early days of the new year saying China and the West were engaged in an escalating culture war, and calling on Chinese people to strengthen cultural production to defend themselves against the assault.
For much of last year world politicians and market watchers dreamed of China coming to the rescue of a stumbling global economy while Beijing mandarins sat on the fence fretting about high inflation and social instability inside their country. As China prepares to greet the Year of the Dragon later this month, many predict more gloom and doom, and some are expecting that the battle to stave off recession will be fought closer to home.
Chinese essayist Zhou Zuoren once wrote that China should be experienced on a small wooden boat slowly gliding on its rivers, taking in its views. But arriving in Shanghai on the country's most advanced high-speed railway leaves little doubt that slow boats are no longer the way to romanticise China of today.
Who speaks for the Chinese people? With the advent of the blogosphere in China, the Communist party is no longer the uncontested spokesperson for the Chinese nation. A myriad of voices are vying for space and attention, but most of those, according to one of the country's most famous bloggers Wang Xiaofeng, are just "letting off steam" and indulging a penchant for rant long suppressed in traditional media by the party's ruthless censors.
Europe has its Greece moment and China has its Wenzhou crisis. When European leaders were calling on China to step in and provide a lifeline to the eurozone by investing in its bailout programme, voices inside China were saying Beijing should save Wenzhou and forget about Europe.
As China's financial centre and a pinnacle of domestic wealth, Shanghai could have been in the forefront of a home-grown movement against income disparity of the like sweeping New York's Wall Street and London's City.
If Chinese detractors of liberal democracy and unbridled market development ever needed more fodder for their attacks on the West, then last week's Greek farce provided plenty. But behind the headlines announcing "the collapse of Europe" there is little sense of ideological triumph. Instead Beijing is busy drawing up contingency pans for the break up of the eurozone and absorbing the lessons of welfare state excesses.
The European Union’s economic alliance may be embattled and on the verge of collapse but in some parts of the world its integration model is still a beacon. Experts from both sides of the Taiwan Strait – one of the world’s potentially most explosive areas - are studying the conflict resolution experience of the European Union in the hope of taking the precarious relationship between China and Taiwan forward.
When the old Astor Hotel reopened to great fanfare from the local city fathers here in 2010, it marked more the return of the "Grande Dame of Tianjin" to the city’s growing collection of luxury hotels. It was a travel back to the future. It manifested the city leaders’ eagerness to embrace and rebrand the colonial heritage as a way of boosting Tianjin’s modern identity.
The IMF’s new Chinese deputy chief Zhu Min is known by many in the financial capitals in the West for warning as early as 2007 about the dangers of the U.S. sub-prime mortgage market and its dire consequences for the global economy.
Growing concerns about the slow death of the dollar rather than a saviour’s goodwill are underpinning China’s widely publicised purchases of European government debt, according to experts. But as the Eurozone debt crisis spreads from Greece and Portugal to countries like Italy and threatens the very survival of the euro, China’s finance mandarins and keepers of the country’s 3 trillion dollars foreign reserves are looking yet again at gold as the anchor of stability.
Prime property in the Georgian architectural gem town of Bath? Check. Luxury brand shopping on London’s Bond Street? Check. A seat on the fine art auctions? Check. The wish list of Chinese visitors to the UK is endless, and their aspirations and wealth are reshaping the property, retail and art treasures market here in ways unforeseen a few years ago.
For a populist premier like China’s Wen Jiabao, the irony of landing in a European capital celebrating the art of one of the Chinese communist party’s most outspoken critics who had been imprisoned by Beijing for months was never lost.
The Chinese Communist Party likes claiming credit for the success of the country’s model of steady rule and economic prosperity. But as it prepares to celebrate its 90th birthday on Jul. 1, the party has seen the attractive China brand lose appeal with once enthusiastic followers abroad and being outright rejected by violent protests at home.
The novelty of the super-fast ride on China’s bullet train never seems to wear off. On board of the inter-city train connecting the capital with the port city of Tianjin 117 km east you can buy an arm-long model of China’s prestige train and more than two years since its launch there are still many enthusiastic takers.
Jasmine blossoms’ fall from grace in the Chinese flower industry is not the only blow Chinese businesses have suffered as a result of the North African and Middle Eastern democratic uprisings this spring. China is evaluating the impact of the Jasmine revolution on its overseas investment and outward business expansion strategy.
The sex scandal in the top couloirs of the IMF and the power struggle to find a successor to Dominique Strauss-Kahn has fascinated the Chinese. Rife speculations about political intrigues and shadowy deals behind the scenes have spilled into cyberspace and the usually restrained media.
The glamour of the UK royal wedding is slowly disappearing from China's photo spreads, but it seems to have opened the door to a debate on the allure of old Britain's soft power and what makes an aspiring China lacking of it.
The United States' most vilified terrorist foe has been dead only a week but China is already haunted by the phantom of the next big U.S. enemy. Almost simultaneously with the spread of the news of Osama Bin Laden's death in a covert U.S. operation in Pakistan, Chinese analysts had begun the guessing game of where Washington will focus its attention next.