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Journal Cover The Economist - Leaders
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   ISSN (Online) 1358-274X
   Published by The Economist Group Homepage  [4 journals]
  • The West need not fear China’s war games with Russia
    • Abstract: RARELY in times of peace has a country acquired naval power at such a rate as China has in recent years. Three decades ago its warships were clapped out, capable of operating only close to shore. Now its shipyards are churning out state-of-the-art combat vessels at a furious pace. Some experts believe it could have as many warships as America within a few years. China’s navy is also developing global range: this week three of its ships have been staging war games in the Baltic Sea with the Russian navy, the first joint exercises by the two countries in those waters. The intended message to the West is clear. China and Russia, united in their resentment of American power, are thumbing their noses at NATO on its doorstep.China’s naval build-up worries American officials. Hardly a week goes by without some new development that troubles them. In April the country launched its first domestically built aircraft-carrier, and then in June its first 10,000-tonne destroyer—similar in size to...
      PubDate: Thu, 27 July 2017 14:47:29 GMT
  • Why China’s AI push is worrying
    • Abstract: IMAGINE the perfect environment for developing artificial intelligence (AI). The ingredients would include masses of processing power, lots of computer-science boffins, a torrent of capital—and abundant data with which to train machines to recognise and respond to patterns. That environment might sound like a fair description of America, the current leader in the field. But in some respects it is truer still of China.The country is rapidly building up its cloud-computing capacity. For sheer volume of research on AI, if not quality, Chinese academics surpass their American peers; AI-related patent submissions in China almost tripled between 2010 and 2014 compared with the previous five years. Chinese startups are attracting billions in venture capital. Above all, China has over 700m smartphone users, more than any other country. They are consuming digital services, using voice assistants, paying for stuff with a wave of their phones—and all the while generating vast quantities of...
      PubDate: Thu, 27 July 2017 14:47:29 GMT
  • Britain and America suffer from similar delusions on trade
    • Abstract: NO TWO countries are doing more to strain the fabric of modern trade than America and Britain. President Donald Trump wants to rewrite the terms of America’s trade relationships with everyone from Mexico to South Korea. After its vote to leave the European Union, Britain faces having to negotiate fresh trade deals with both the EU and countries beyond.The pair’s tone on trade is different: one wants to put “America First”, the other to create a “global Britain”. But both visions are predicated on the idea of striking swift, bilateral deals, and each has identified the other as the perfect partner. At a meeting of G20 leaders this month, Mr Trump spoke of a “powerful deal, great for both countries”, which would be done “very, very quickly”. On July 24th Liam Fox, Britain’s international trade secretary, met his American counterparts to start talks about a post-Brexit agreement. A day later the president tweeted his excitement: “Working on major Trade Deal with the United Kingdom. Could be...
      PubDate: Thu, 27 July 2017 14:47:29 GMT
  • In defence of the childless
    • Abstract: ONE by one, prejudices are tumbling in the West. People may harbour private suspicions that other people’s race, sex or sexuality makes them inferior—but to say so openly is utterly taboo. As most kinds of prejudiced talk become the preserve of anonymous social-media ranters, though, one old strain remains respectable. Just ask a childless person.They are not subject to special taxes, as they were in Soviet Russia; nor are they driven from their homes, as they still are in some poor countries. The childless nonetheless come in for a lot of criticism. “Not to have children is a selfish choice,” Pope Francis has intoned, perhaps forgetting what the Bible says about motes and eyes. Others point out that non-parents are failing to produce the future workers who will pay for their pensions. Childless politicians are charged with not having a proper stake in society. “He talks to us about the future, but he doesn’t have children!” complained Jean-Marie Le Pen, co-founder of the National Front...
      PubDate: Thu, 27 July 2017 14:47:29 GMT
  • How to deal with Venezuela
    • Abstract: VENEZUELA claims to have more oil than Saudi Arabia, yet its citizens are hungry. An astonishing 93% of them say they cannot afford the food they need, and three-quarters have lost weight in the past year. The regime that caused this preventable tragedy professes great love for the poor. Yet its officials have embezzled billions, making Venezuela the most corrupt country in Latin America, as well as the most ineptly governed. It is a textbook example of why democracy matters: people with bad governments should be able to throw the bums out. That is perhaps why President Nicolás Maduro is so eager to smother what little is left of democracy in Venezuela.On July 30th, barring a last-minute change of mind, Mr Maduro will hold a rigged election to rubber-stamp the creation of a hand-picked constituent assembly whose aim is to perpetuate his unpopular state-socialist regime (see...
      PubDate: Thu, 27 July 2017 08:33:14 GMT
  • Three steps to fix Obamacare
    • Abstract: ONLY a madman would build America’s health-care system from scratch. Its mix of private insurance, government-provided care and endless regulations is complicated, expensive and fails many vulnerable Americans. The Affordable Care Act, Barack Obama’s health-care law, is part of the mess. Yet those who passed it knew it was a grubby compromise. In America’s divided government, they reasoned, politicians must build on what already exists.Following the travails this week of their latest attempts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, Republicans must come to a similar realisation (see article). They are too divided to sweep away the status quo. Rand Paul, one of four senators who threatened to bring down the Senate bill, compared its continuation of parts of Obamacare to “German national socialism”. He wants to get...
      PubDate: Thu, 20 July 2017 14:44:55 GMT
  • Make monitors matter
    • Abstract: NO ONE batted an eyelid earlier this year when Turkmenistan’s strongman, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, was “re-elected” with nearly 98% of the vote. Why, one wonders, did he bother with an election at all? Yet in a growing number of fragile new democracies, especially in Africa, where similarly absurd results were once common, elections have become genuine. Since 1991 incumbent governments or leaders have been ousted at the ballot box at least 45 times, most recently in Nigeria, Ghana, the Gambia and Lesotho.Nerves still jangle at election time, especially when the outcome is likely to be close, patronage and corruption are pervasive, and rigging and violence have blighted previous ballots. A fraudulent election can tarnish a country’s reputation, threaten its stability, and deter investment and aid.Kenya, whose voters go to the polls on August 8th, is just such a case. Violence after an election in 2007 left at least 1,300 dead and 700,000 displaced. The country is...
      PubDate: Thu, 20 July 2017 14:44:55 GMT
  • China’s state enterprises are not retreating but advancing
    • Abstract: THE 40-year process of reforming China’s economy has seen occasional retreats. But the general trajectory has seemed plain enough: towards a greater role for market forces. Since the early 1980s, private business has grown far faster and been much more profitable than the state sector. Back then state companies were responsible for roughly four-fifths of output; now they account for less than a fifth.President Xi Jinping’s commitment in 2013 to give market forces “a decisive role” in allocating resources seemed to presage more of the same. Yet the retreat of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) has stalled, and in some respects gone into reverse. China still has more than 150,000 SOEs. Their share of industrial assets hovers stubbornly near 40%. They account for about half of bank credit, and when the economy slows the state presses them to spend more. Since 2015 investment by SOEs has outpaced that by private firms (see...
      PubDate: Thu, 20 July 2017 14:44:55 GMT
  • Together, technology and teachers can revamp schools
    • Abstract: IN 1953 B.F. Skinner visited his daughter’s maths class. The Harvard psychologist found every pupil learning the same topic in the same way at the same speed. A few days later he built his first “teaching machine”, which let children tackle questions at their own pace. By the mid-1960s similar gizmos were being flogged by door-to-door salesmen. Within a few years, though, enthusiasm for them had fizzled out.Since then education technology (edtech) has repeated the cycle of hype and flop, even as computers have reshaped almost every other part of life. One reason is the conservatism of teachers and their unions. But another is that the brain-stretching potential of edtech has remained unproven.Today, however, Skinner’s heirs are forcing the sceptics to think again (see article). Backed by billionaire...
      PubDate: Thu, 20 July 2017 09:33:26 GMT
  • Britain faces up to Brexit
    • Abstract: CRISIS? What crisis? So many have been triggered in Britain by the vote a year ago to leave the European Union that it is hard to keep track. Just last month Theresa May was reduced from unassailable iron lady to just-about-managing minority prime minister. Her cabinet is engaged in open warfare as rivals position themselves to replace her. The Labour Party, which has been taken over by a hard-left admirer of Hugo Chávez, is ahead in the polls. Meanwhile a neurotic pro-Brexit press shrieks that anyone who voices doubts about the country’s direction is an unpatriotic traitor. Britain is having a very public nervous breakdown.The chaos at the heart of government hardly bodes well for the exit negotiations with the EU, which turned to detailed matters this week and need to conclude in autumn 2018. But the day-to-day disorder masks a bigger problem. Despite the frantic political activity in Westminster—the briefing, back-stabbing and plotting—the country has made remarkably little...
      PubDate: Thu, 20 July 2017 09:33:26 GMT
  • Many Africans see Kagame’s Rwanda as a model. They are wrong
    • Abstract: WHEN Paul Kagame was 28, he helped topple the government of Uganda. At 36 he overthrew the government of Rwanda. At 39 he ousted the government of Congo (which was then called Zaire). It is hard to think of another leader who has won so many wars, against such repulsive enemies, on such a tight budget. Mr Kagame is perhaps the most successful general alive, and this is only part of his claim to renown. The boy whose first memories included watching his village burn, and who went to school in a refugee camp, grew up to stop a genocide. As a rebel, he said he had no political ambitions. He has now ruled Rwanda for 23 years, during which the country has been transformed from a blood-spattered wreck to an orderly society with robust economic growth, falling poverty and declining inequality. Many African leaders see him as a model to emulate. He is not.Granted, first impressions of President Kagame’s Rwanda are often excellent. The streets are clean and safe. The traffic cops are honest...
      PubDate: Thu, 13 July 2017 15:21:50 GMT
  • Better to target zero emissions than 100% renewable energy
    • Abstract: NOT that long ago, the world wondered whether clean energy could survive without lavish government support. Now the question is how far it can spread. The number of electric vehicles, which breached 1m in 2015, last year reached 2m; countries like France and firms like Volvo are looking ahead to the demise of the internal combustion engine. In electricity generation, too, momentum is with the greens. In June the Chinese province of Qinghai ran for seven consecutive days on renewable energy alone; in the first half of this year wind, solar and hydro generated a record 35% of Germany’s power....
      PubDate: Thu, 13 July 2017 15:21:50 GMT
  • Defamation laws are necessary. But they must be narrowly drawn
    • Abstract: A GROUP of Burmese migrants working on a farm in Thailand told the authorities that they were being forced to work endless hours and sleep in chicken sheds. Their complaint was dismissed. Now they face defamation charges brought by their employer. The proper purpose of defamation laws is to deter and punish malicious lies. Courts can order compensation for any material injury. However, in dozens of countries defamation is not just a civil offence, but a crime (see article). In such places, criticising a powerful politician or businessman, publicising wrongdoing or merely expressing an opinion can lead to bankruptcy or jail, regardless of whether the criticism actually hurts anyone.For repressive governments, criminal-defamation laws can provide a more palatable way to silence critics than locking them up. In several countries...
      PubDate: Thu, 13 July 2017 15:21:50 GMT
  • Will Donald junior’s conduct jolt Republicans'
    • Abstract: THE first rule of modern conspiracies is that you do not talk about them in e-mails. It always seemed unlikely that, if Donald Trump’s associates had conspired with the Kremlin, they would have been amateurish enough to leave a paper trail. At least, it seemed that way until July 11th, when the president’s son, Donald junior, released astonishing messages he sent and received in advance of a meeting, in 2016, with a Russian lawyer. In the convoluted saga of the Trumps and the Russians, this may be the most explosive revelation yet.It is no good arguing, in the younger Mr Trump’s defence, that he gave the e-mails up himself: he knew the New York Times was about to publish them, because it had asked him for his side of the story. It scarcely helps to note that the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, says she does not work for the Kremlin. Her use of such a meeting to assail American sanctions, a neuralgic subject for Vladimir Putin, suggests that she was not simply...
      PubDate: Thu, 13 July 2017 15:21:50 GMT
  • Liu Xiaobo’s death holds a message for China
    • Abstract: LIU XIAOBO, who died on July 13th, was hardly a household name in the West. Yet of those in China who have called for democracy, resisting the Communist Party’s ruthless efforts to prevent it from ever taking hold, Mr Liu’s name stands out. His dignified, calm and persistent calls for freedom for China’s people made Mr Liu one of the global giants of moral dissent, who belongs with Andrei Sakharov and Nelson Mandela—and like them was a prisoner of conscience and a winner of the Nobel peace prize.Mr Liu died in a hospital bed in north-eastern China from liver cancer (see article). The suffering endured by Mr Liu, his family and friends was compounded by his miserable circumstances. Mr Liu, an academic and author specialising in literature and philosophy, was eight years into an 11-year sentence for subversion (see our...
      PubDate: Thu, 13 July 2017 09:02:58 GMT
  • How to solve Britain’s housing crisis
    • Abstract: ON EVERY side, Britain’s politicians are grappling with problems of immense scale and nightmarish complexity. How to manage the departure from the European Union? How to help a crumbling health service cope with an ageing, weakening population? How to deal with persistent regional deprivation? Yet one national scourge that holds back the economy and poisons politics is readily solvable—politicians just need to be brave enough to act. That scourge is the cost of housing.Through the roofThe ratio of median house prices to earnings in England hit 7.7 in 2016, its highest recorded level. In the past four decades house prices have grown by more in Britain than in any other G7 country. Home ownership has been falling for more than a decade, after rising for most of the past century. In London housing is outlandishly dear: before the Brexit vote sent the pound tumbling, it was the priciest city in the world for renters.The cost of housing has knock-on...
      PubDate: Thu, 03 August 2017 14:49:50 G
  • Emmanuel Macron must keep his nerve
    • Abstract: THINK of it as a Macron micro test: the first industrial intervention by the man French voters put into the Elysée Palace, although he had never held elected office. It involves France’s biggest shipyard, at Saint-Nazaire, on the Atlantic. At the end of last month, rather than see the yard sold into Italian hands, the government of Emmanuel Macron pledged to nationalise it instead. A fervent supporter of the European Union and globalisation, Mr Macron is being accused of nationalism, protectionism and of trying to shore up his declining popularity. It is not that bad—yet. But Mr Macron should be wary of being sucked into an industrial policy that sets back his central aim of making France and the EU more competitive.Shipbuilding in Saint-Nazaire has a troubled past. François Hollande, Mr Macron’s predecessor, oversaw a sale of a two-thirds share of the yard from a South Korean firm to an Italian pairing of Fincantieri, a shipbuilder, and an Italian investor. Together, they would have had...
      PubDate: Thu, 03 August 2017 14:49:50 G
  • Republicans in Congress should be braver
    • Abstract: THE pact between Republicans in Congress and the president always looked more than a bit Faustian. Many Republican lawmakers decided to cheerlead for a president who won the nomination by running against their party, in the expectation that he would then help them pass the laws they wanted. They were misinformed. The collapse of health-care legislation has shown that, despite his boasts, the president is hardly a master-dealmaker who can help Republicans get bills through Congress. The defenestration of Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer and the short-lived Anthony Scaramucci shows that he also has a habit of rewarding even his most loyal defenders with public humiliation. This pact is indeed like Faust’s—but without the enjoyable moments of omnipotence before the reckoning falls due. It is past time for Republicans in Congress to strike a new one.Medicine, law and philosophyThere are signs that this is happening. After the failure of health-care reform,...
      PubDate: Thu, 03 August 2017 14:49:50 G
  • The prime minister’s sacking need not throw Pakistan into chaos
    • Abstract: OF THE 25 people who have held the job of prime minister of Pakistan, not one has served a full parliamentary term. Nawaz Sharif became the latest to find himself unemployed on July 28th, when the Supreme Court dismissed him for omitting some income from the declaration of assets he was obliged to submit as a parliamentary candidate (see article). This is the third time Mr Sharif has been ejected from the post: the president booted him out in 1993, the army in 1999.The court’s decision to oust Mr Sharif was questionable, to say the least. It ruled that his incomplete declaration fell short of the constitutional requirement for MPs to be “honest and upright”. But that is an impossibly woolly standard, which could be used to ban almost anyone. Moreover, Mr Sharif’s lapse—the failure to declare a directorship which carried a small...
      PubDate: Thu, 03 August 2017 14:49:50 G
  • How to avoid nuclear war with North Korea
    • Abstract: IT IS odd that North Korea causes so much trouble. It is not exactly a superpower. Its economy is only a fiftieth as big as that of its democratic capitalist cousin, South Korea. Americans spend twice its total GDP on their pets. Yet Kim Jong Un’s backward little dictatorship has grabbed the attention of the whole world, and even of America’s president, with its nuclear brinkmanship. On July 28th it tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit Los Angeles. Before long, it will be able to mount nuclear warheads on such missiles, as it already can on missiles aimed at South Korea and Japan. In charge of this terrifying arsenal is a man who was brought up as a demigod and cares nothing for human life—witness the innocents beaten to death with hammers in his gigantic gulag. Last week his foreign ministry vowed that if the regime’s “supreme dignity” is threatened, it will “pre-emptively annihilate” the countries that threaten it, with all means “including the nuclear ones”. Only...
      PubDate: Thu, 03 August 2017 08:18:24 G
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