It is easy to resign oneself to the idea that 'Chinese democracy' is an oxymoron. Yet the potential implications of democratisation in China are so huge that the possiblity of it happening is worth imagining. Lu Xiaobo allows us to do so, if only for a few hours.
Cancun will not achieve a global deal, but that should not mean that the EU gives up. By pursuing bilateral deals, particularly with China, and engaging with civil society, Europe can make progress on climate change even in the absence of worldwide agreement. Such innovative approaches might even strengthen the multilateral approach in the longer term.
The debate over Chinese economic convergence with the West
North Korea’s attack on Yeonpyong Island last week, and reaction to it from Seoul to Washington, highlighted the power shift that has taken place within Asia. Arguments that the shelling represented a “last gasp” by Kim Jong-il’s regime are wishful thinking, and events on the Korean peninsula can no longer been seen in isolation from the complex balance of power in the region.
The EU’s national rivalries comprise a standing invitation for any major world power to divide and rule. In an article for The Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash argues that even if things go well, what Europeans may achieve in concentrating power resources will only just compensate for the relative loss of power to the re-emerging old-new giants in the east.
Europe is playing for big stakes at the G20 in Seoul. The summit is not just about opening up to the major emerging economies, but about how the West – including Europe – deal with the challenges of staving off the economic crisis and reconfiguring international institutions.
The EU could be at the East Asia Summit that is beginning in Hanoi, and it could carry a compelling and coherent message that would be listened to be the Asian states, Russia and the US. But it isn’t. This must change.
Europe’s pathetic reaction to Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel peace prize showed an urge by EU leaders to not only render themselves internationally irrelevant, but also a determination to cover the EU itself in ridicule. Europe must decide whether it wants to play a role in the new world order, or bend like reeds in whichever direction the wind is blowing.
A trade deal with South Korea proves that Europe can get things done when it wants. So why is the EU’s policy with China such a puzzle? Perhaps it should learn from Germany, which is showing how to talk tough to Beijing while still achieving its aims.
China’s anger over the award of the Nobel peace prize to Liu Xiaobo leaves the EU with a hard question to answer: Should it stick to its human rights principles or should it look to compromise on its values in pursuit of the world’s most important rising power?