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Month: October 2015

Why scrapping the one-child policy will do little to change China’s population

Written by Stuart Gietel-Basten.

China is scrapping its one-child policy and officially allowing all couples to have two children. While some may think this heralds an overnight switch, the reality is that it is far less dramatic. This is, in fact, merely the latest in an array of piecemeal national and local reforms implemented since 1984.

In fact the change is really a very pragmatic response to an unpopular policy that no longer made any sense. And much like the introduction of the policy in 1978, it will have little impact on the country’s population level.

The overwhelming narrative being presented now is that this is a step to help tackle population ageing and a declining workforce through increasing the birth rate – dealing with the “demographic time bomb”. According to Xinhua, the state news agency, “The change of policy is intended to balance population development and address the challenge of an ageing population.” The party line is that the policy played an essential part in controlling the country’s population and, hence, stimulating GDP growth per capita. It prevented “millions being born into poverty”, but is no longer needed.

Cameron’s Conservatives aren’t sticking to the centre – they’re moving rightwards

Written by Eunice Goes.

Until this week’s tax credits debacle, the Conservatives have performed exquisitely the role of the reasonable and pragmatic English party that swears by its faith in “whatever works”.

So far, under the leadership of David Cameron (though the chancellor, George Osborne, can claim the role of co-author), the Conservatives have done a remarkably good job of presenting themselves as the guardians of the hard-to-define political centre ground. The party’s greatest achievement has been to dress an ostensibly right-wing agenda in the soft clothes of a well-meaning, reasonable and pragmatic centrism stripped of ideological excesses.

Cameron has recently claimed that the Conservatives as “the party of equality” and few quibbled with him. Similarly, when the chancellor said the Conservatives were “now the party of work, the only true party of labour”, he was mostly commended for his audacity.

The self-defeating hard left of the 1980s is making a comeback. It won’t end well

Written by Stefano Bonino.

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party has not just moved the opposition dramatically to the left. It is also part of a slip back towards the hard-line leftism of the 1980s, an era of extremely heated social, racial and class conflict that centre-leftists long hoped had been consigned to the past.

Corbyn himself was, of course, a big feature of that era, and long embodied some of its more unappealing tendencies. Throughout his political career, Corbyn has often extended his hand to the “oppressed”, but often on a misguided basis. By sharing platforms with anti-semites – although there is no suggestion that he is one – and maintaining close relationships with groups opposed to British interests, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, the new Labour leader has often erred on the side of divisive radicalism rather than political astuteness.

US fears a Russian attack on undersea internet cables that could plunge world into chaos

Written by David Stupples.

It may sound far-fetched at first, but there’s a growing fear of the damage a newly aggressive Russia might inflict in a time of tension or conflict simply by damaging or cutting the undersea cables that carry almost all of the West’s internet traffic.

The New York Times reported that Russian submarines and spy ships were aggressively operating near the vital undersea cables. Could they be preparing for a new form of warfare?

The perfect global cyber attack could involve severing the fibre-optic cables at some of their hardest-to-access locations in order to halt the instant communications on which the West’s governments, military, economies and citizens have grown dependent. Effectively this would cripple world commerce and communications, destabilise government business and introduce uncertainty into military operations. A significant volume of military data is routed via this internet backbone.

Reclaiming South Asian Queer Voices: The Legacy of Section 377

Written by Ibtisam Ahmed.

In 1860, the Crown implemented Section 377 in the British Raj, outlawing sodomy and immoral sexual acts. The ruling imposed a set of foreign values on a region where gender and sexuality had been conceptualised very loosely in the past. Since then, the queer community has faced a constant struggle against being branded “undesirable”, made even more complicated by the supposed need to fulfil neoliberal Western markers of success in the modern age.

Christian Moral Utopia

One of the main driving forces of British imperialism was its ideology of being a civilising mission. Drawing on the rhetoric of early settlers, colonialists planned on using Britain’s territorial superiority to impose British values on the colonies. A notable and oft-remembered example is politician Thomas Babington Macaulay and the impact of his Minute on Education, which resulted in the ingraining of the English language in the South Asian curriculum, an impact that lasts to this day.

Can the EU keep the peace in Europe? Not a chance

Written by Chris Bickerton.

The European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 because of its “six decade-long contribution to peace and human rights in Europe”. In 2015, as the UK gears up towards its referendum on EU membership, we hear very often that the EU played a key role in building peace after World War II. For all its faults, the argument goes, the European Union is the best peace project Europe has.

There are three reasons why this is wrong. The first is that European integration contributed very little to the building of peace in post-war Europe. The second is that the EU’s record in keeping the peace on its external borders is poor. The third is that the Euro has aggravated conflicts between the members of the Eurozone: between north and south, creditor and debtor, exporter and importer.

Tax credits showdown: for once, public opinion may be with the House of Lords

Written by Louise Thompson.

After a week of anticipation and a tough three-hour debate, the House of Lords finally voted on the government’s controversial plans to cut tax credits for 3m households. Rumours abounded that a vote against the government would trigger a “constitutional crisis”, and Conservatives warned that the prime minister would simply pack the upper chamber with Conservative peers should the lords veto the plans.

In the end, the house defeated the government not once but twice, delaying the plans until the chancellor can find a way of compensating those affected by the cuts.

It’s not uncommon for governments to be defeated in the House of Lords, and this government is especially vulnerable there. Unlike the House of Commons, where David Cameron has a majority of MPs, the presence of more than 150 crossbench peers in the House of Lords means he has no working majority. He has already been defeated several times over the past few months.

Netanyahu’s narrative: how the Israeli PM is rewriting history to suit himself

Written by Yoav Galai.

What more can be said about Netanyahu’s flagrant Holocaust revisionism? Rainer Schultze summarised the incident nicely. By claiming the Palestinian mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, inspired Hitler to plan the Holocaust, Netanyahu was engaging in blatant historical revisionism for the sake of contemporary politics. It certainly is worth repeating Netanyahu’s claim:

Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said: ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here.’ ‘So what should I do with them?’ he asked. He said: ‘Burn them.’

Recently there has been renewed activity in the project of accrediting this alternative historical narrative. Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev dug out a reference-laden article by Joseph Spoerl on the website of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs which attempts to link Husseini with Nazi ideology. Similar accounts have been published in Hebrew by right-leaning Israeli think tanks Mida, which defines itself as “conservative-liberal” and the Kedem Forum, an organisation specialising in public diplomacy.

How Poland’s political landscape was redrawn overnight

Written by Fernando Casal Bértoa and Simona Guerra.

With the results of Poland’s parliamentary election finally in, the Law and Justice (PiS), the nationalist conservative Eurosceptic party of the notorious Kaczyński twins, has won with 37.6% of the vote. It was trailed by the incumbent market-liberal and socially conservative Civic Platform (PO), which managed only a very weak 24.1%.

There was some good news for Poland’s three smaller parties. Two of them are new: the populist Kukiz’15, led by former presidential candidate and rock-star Paweł Kukiz, which won 39 seats in the 460-member lower house; and Modern (.N), a pro-market and socially liberal party founded just five months before the vote by economist Ryszard Petru, which won 31 seats.

Then, with 5.13% of the vote, there’s the agrarian Polish People’s Party (PSL), currently the junior party in the losing PO-led coalition and the only party to have sat in every single Polish parliament since 1991. The German Minority is expected to have secured two seats.

Clinton parries Biden, Benghazi and Bernie Sanders to reclaim pole position

Written by Tom Packer.

After a summer spent dealing with stumbles, weak campaign messaging and surprisingly strong challenges from other candidates, Hillary Clinton suddenly seems to be back in gear.

Following a sterling debate performance that seems to have already improved her poll numbers, which were already high among Democrats, she displayed her remarkable grit at a gruelling all-day hearing before a committee set up to investigate the 2012 attack in which four Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya.

The saga over her supposed responsibility for the deaths, which occurred at the end of her tenure as secretary of state, has been unwinding for almost three years. But despite an 11-hour onslaught of sharp personal and political attacks, she skillfully worked to rise above the questions, helping her supporters continue to decry it as a partisan fishing expedition.