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Archive for December, 2011

Two articles on China and religion

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Two short articles. One on China and Tibetan Buddhism, the other on China vs. the Vatican.

A bit of cross-party parliamentary civility?

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

A Briton in America notices something about comparative politics. Britain’s House of Commons reeks of conflict. The rival parties glare at one another from opposite benches. Debates are barbed and sometimes vicious—especially during the gladiatorial spectacle of prime minister’s questions. America’s Congress is different. Members of the House of Representatives sit shoulder-to-shoulder in the shape of a horseshoe. Debates, such as they are, are marked by an exaggerated decorum. The casual observer might easily conclude that America has the more consensual form of politics and Britain the more adversarial.

…Compared with the total war that is American politics, the British version is sport (amateur sport at that: the $1 billion that Mr Obama is said to be seeking for his re-election campaign would pay for an entire British general election 20 times over).

A Bit of Cross party Civility Please?

Islam and democracy: Uneasy companions

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Islamist spokesmen and leaders of the revived Islamist mainstream are bending over backwards to give reassurances that they will promote a peaceful, pluralistic and tolerant version of Islam. The rights of women and religious and ethnic minorities will be respected, they say, and the people’s democratic verdict will be accepted if they lose elections.

Whatever their doubts, most democrats in the Arab world reckon that Islamists who say they will abide peacefully by the rules of the game must be allowed—indeed encouraged—to participate in mainstream politics: far better than forcing them into a violent, conspiratorial underground. All the same, the well of mistrust on both sides runs deep.

Many liberals still think the Islamists, however mild they sound today, are bent on taking over in the long run, would abandon democracy once they got into power and would use every sort of chicanery and violence to achieve their goal.

Two articles on the relationship between Islam and democracy in light of the 2011 “Arab Spring”

Liberalism under attack in China

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

On May 23rd four people went to a police station in Beijing with a petition demanding justice. Victims of official wrongdoing often make such trips, and usually they are given short shrift. But this was no ordinary group of the downtrodden. The petition bore the names of nearly 10,000 people accusing a liberal intellectual of slandering Mao Zedong and attempting to overthrow the Communist Party itself. Emboldened by a chill political wind, diehard Maoists in China are rising to confront their critics.

The Maoists’ appeal for the arrest of Mao Yushi, a well-known economist (and no relation of the late chairman), is their most concerted public attempt in many years to put pressure on the government. A clutch of Maoist websites frequently vilify intellectuals such as Mr Mao. But campaigning openly for someone to be put on trial is unusual. It is a symptom of a recent escalation of ideological struggles between China’s West-leaning liberals and conservative hardliners.

Nigeria’s prospects: A man and a morass

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Can the new government of Goodluck Jonathan clean up corruption and set enterprise free in Africa’s most populous country?