Provence, in the south of France, does not get any worse. During a week's break at my rented retreat recently, I thought once again of how God smiled on the French and the Romans were quick to get the message.
This is not knowledge confined to this side of the Atlantic either. American tourism in Provence was rising fast until first, Sept. 11 and second, French opposition to the war in Iraq -- which has looked more and more well-founded as the months have gone by -- took its toll. But neither has prevented arch US hawk on Iraq Richard Perle from enjoying the comforts of his villa last summer in ... well, in Provence, as a matter of fact.
But there is always a cloud on the horizon, and in Provence it is the strong showing of the far-right and anti-immigration National Front. It was therefore some consolation to find that opinion polls in advance of the coming regional elections did not show much change in the proportion of National Front supporters from last year -- indeed a slight decrease. And the running story last week in La Provence was that Jean-Marie Le Pen, the grand (if that is the word) old man of the French National Front was being disqualified from registration as a candidate in the forthcoming regional elections because he did not personally own property there, his base in Nice being the property of his Party.
Any sense of hope one felt about this however was soon dented on return to London, where the tabloid press was in a state of hysteria about the putative threat of mass immigration from eastern Europe, and calling upon the Blair government for tough measures. There is no underestimating the depths to which the right-wing tabloid press in the UK will sink in order to increase circulation by stirring up racial hatred. They are especially good at suggesting that there is a world out there waiting to invade Britain and take advantage of its welfare state.
Unfortunately, on this occasion they have been joined by David Goodhart, the widely-respected editor of the prestigious, liberal intellectual monthly Prospect. The last thing Goodhart wishes to do is to stir up racial hatred, but in claiming that there is a conflict in modern democracies between the "solidarity" a nation needs and the "diversity" of multiculturalism, he has given ammunition to the prejudices of the tabloids at a sensitive time.
Personally, I think he has raised a false dichotomy, and I am not much impressed by woolly statements such as "the progressive centre needs to ... develop a new language in which to address the anxieties, one that transcends the thin and the abstract language of universal rights on the one hand, and the defensive, nativist language of group identity on the other." Watch this space ...
Goodhart and others seem to be concerned about the prospect of a big inflow of east European workers after the enlargement of the EU in May. The amazing thing about this is that although enlargement has been in the cards for years, and long been a goal of successive British Conservative and Labour governments, it seems to have taken the British press by surprise. All the surveys suggest that forecasts of large inflows of migrant labor have been much exaggerated. Moreover it has, in any case, been UK government policy for several years to encourage "economic migrants" to fill job vacancies in the UK health service, the British building trades and catering and other services. This all makes perfect economic sense.
There is something absurd and inconsistent about the recently prevailing economic philosophy which states that free movement of capital is fine, but free movement of labor is not. People tend to migrate either out of desperation or a sense of adventure (in which latter case the migration is often temporary). A decent society should welcome economic migrants and asylum seekers. Indeed, many societies which consider themselves decent are comprised to a remarkable extent of the descendants of economic migrants and asylum seekers.
It is quite the irony when former British prime minister Boris Johnson — a buffoon who for far too long was taken seriously — is branded a buffoon for saying something deadly serious. Following Johnson’s withering criticism of China at a business forum in Singapore on Wednesday last week, the event’s organizer, Michael Bloomberg, apologized to attendees, saying that Johnson was “trying to be amusing rather than informative and serious.” However, Johnson’s characterization of China as a “coercive autocracy” that had showed “a candid disregard for the rule of international law” was spot-on. His comments evoked the wisdom of the Austrian-British philosopher
Although internal Chinese politics are largely defined by meticulously concocted mysteries, it is an open secret that the battle for who will ascend to the highest echelons of Zhongnanhai is decided at the Beidaihe resort. It is where factions within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) engage in horse-trading over leadership selection and delegate appointments long before the party’s national congress. What unfolded at last month’s 20th National Congress was predetermined at the Beidaihe gathering in August. In this context, the CCP, and particularly Chinese President and CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping (習近平), used the event to project power and party unity.
There has been a surge of global interest in Taiwan’s security in recent years. Amidst the noise, it can be easy to lose sight of broader trends that are shaping the environment within which Taiwan operates. Taking a broader view can bring into focus what tasks are most important for Taiwan to protect its democratic way of life. At the global level, several trends are unfolding in parallel. First, great power competition is intensifying. Russia is employing violence to seek to redraw boundaries. China is advancing its ambitions by operating below the threshold of conflict. China-Russia relations are unnaturally close by
The Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau and the New Taipei City Prosecutors’ Office recently uncovered misconduct by Kaohsiung news outlet China VTV Co (中華微視公司). The company is being investigated for allegedly having financial connections with China without the approval of the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Investment Commission. China VTV also allegedly conducted an information campaign by creating videos in line with Chinese propaganda and posting them on social media, aiming to foment social division and mistrust in the government, prosecutors said. This is nothing short of exhilarating, as it means that the government is finally using legal means to stop pro-China “accomplices”