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Great moments in French diplomacy

Glenn Reynolds links to this article saying that the French government has put its support behind a law allowing the Chinese military to attack Taiwan as well as end the EU embargo of arms to China.

So let me get this straight. France, a democracy (sort of) decides to let a communist dictatorship – China – acquire the necessary means and legal clearance to attack a democratic neighbour that has posed no threat or problem whatsoever to France (apart from cheap electronics, maybe).

I guess that is what is known as nuanced foreign policy. Way to go, Jacques!

63 comments to Great moments in French diplomacy

  • Matt

    Actually its so the Taiwanese don’t find out any more secrets about the frigate selling scandal that has put exactly zero people behind bars here in France.

  • Sigivald

    Legal clearance? In this case taht only means China is giving itself permission to attack Taiwan.

    Which, hey, is really all that there is for any war anyway, given the inherent powerlessness and near if not total illegitimacy of any international body that could try to prohibit it.

    In other words, the legal clearance here is meaningless; no power outside of China is legally constraining them from attacking Taiwan at their leisure, at least not in any way worth the paper the constraint is written on.

    That France supports China’s internal system of rubberstamping support for such actions, well, it doesn’t reflect well on France, but it also doesn’t actually change anything.

  • toolkien

    Not that I agree wholeheartedly with the US’s foreign policy the last few years, it’s evident to me that any divergence between the US and (former?) European allies is hardly all the US’s fault.

  • mike

    The only thing that may prevent China attacking Taiwan is some serious realpolitik play by the US with the Japs. But even then it’d be a who-blinks-first match with no real guarantee of protection for the Taiwanese.

    The French motive in declaring their ‘support’ for China’s anti-secession moves may not be unrelated to their general desire to frustrate and piss-off ze Anglo-American axis. Fuckers.

    “Actually its so the Taiwanese don’t find out any more secrets about the frigate selling scandal that has put exactly zero people behind bars here in France.

    Even if the Taiwanese knew (surely they must?) what could they realistically do about it – except maybe tell the Americans? ISTM such instances of French foreign policy as this are less realpolitik, more wanton commyfrolik.

  • Jacob

    There is constancy and logic in France’s moves. A very simple logic: the logic of the whore. They give their support to the highest bidder – business deals for the French companies and bribes for French politicians. A longstanding French tradition.

  • Julian Morrison

    I doubt China actually intends to attack Taiwan. They just want to up the ante versus the pro-independence politicians. I read China’s policy as being more one of infinite patience with Taiwan so long as it continues to behave as a rogue province rather than seceding. What they don’t want is a Japanese/USA forward base strategically in much the same relation to their continent as Cuba is to the USA.

  • Mary Contrary

    Julian,

    Actually, China wants Taiwan to be “reunited” with the mainland very dearly, as a matter of national pride (or, if you prefer to name it such, “face”). At the same time, they are in no hurry; planning for the very long term is a part of China’s self image as much as it is part of the Vatican’s. For the time being, this looks the same as not caring whether Taiwan is “reunited”, as for the time being it causes them to act the same.

    Misunderstanding their motivation, however, only means we’ll be wrong-footed if the situation changes – or if they think it has.

  • Merry Hello

    I was in Guangzhou yesterday for a business meeting and the discussion turned to business opportunities in the wake of China taking back its rogue province. The general consensus (I abstained being the only foreigner) was that in the next five years China will makes its move. When heavy hitters in the business community (who also move in the big league in politics) start beating up business opportunities on the basis of the return of Taiwan, people should start listening. I am. I think the opportunities will be enormous and I’ve just put my money where my mouth is on this one.

  • Euan Gray

    I guess that is what is known as nuanced foreign policy

    It’s realpolitik. China is likely to be the next superpower and there isn’t a hell of a lot anyone can do about that. The French calculation is presumably that China will soon enough invade Taiwan, will supplant Japan as the regional economic power and replace the US as the military power, thus that it might be a good idea to be friends. FWIW, I think the French are probably right on this issue, although I could wish they were not.

    EG

  • Johnathan

    “It is realpolitik”.

    Euan, I was being sarcastic. Maybe the French are being realists. Selling out to the highest bidder is a long and dishonerable tradition of theirs. I suspect this has more to do with sucking up to the Chinese in the hope that they get a lot of export deals. The trouble is that China is in a volatile state right now – take the anti-Japan hysteria – so encouraging them to invade Taiwan looks to be very stupid.

    The French like to think of themselves as smart and wily, but I think their actions border on the crazy.

  • Euan Gray

    I was being sarcastic

    I know, but I assumed your underlying reasoning was that the French actions are to be deprecated since they support tyranny. My point is that although they may indeed support tyranny, that tyranny is going to be the next global power so we might as well position ourselves to talk to it rationally rather than lecturing impotently from the sidelines.

    encouraging them to invade Taiwan looks to be very stupid

    I don’t think they need encouragement, nor do I think the opposite would have the slightest effect. If China wishes to invade Taiwan, it is hard to see what anyone else can realistically do about it after the event. Equally, I don’t think China would invade unless Taiwan declares independence – but then, there is a strand in Taiwanese politics that pulls in that direction, so perhaps overall an invasion is more likely than not.

    EG

  • Jacob

    “….that tyranny is going to be the next global power so we might as well position ourselves to talk to it rationally rather than lecturing impotently from the sidelines.”

    That is exactly what the real-politikers were saying about the USSR in the 70ies …..

    Things change, frequently in unexpected ways. Tyrannies are especially unstable…. Our power to predict developemnets is very limited.

    Take for example this scenario – the mainland tyranny implodes somehow, and Taiwan reunifies with China under Taiwanese democratic leadership. How would the real-politikers of France fare then ?
    Was France’s “real-politik” of support for Saddam in Iraq wise ?

    It’s an open question whether the “real-politikers” are really clever, and see clearly into the future (Like EG thinks), or whether they act more on the opportunistic whore principle: get your cash now, wherever you can, and never mind moral principles or the future.

  • Euan Gray

    That is exactly what the real-politikers were saying about the USSR in the 70ies

    No, that’s not really the case. The 70s realpolitik was simply that the USSR existed and was undeniably a major strategic power, and therefore cognisance had to be taken of Soviet interests. This is not the same as saying the USSR was the wave of the future – although many in the west thought the Soviet way was the future, many others thought quite the opposite & felt that the USSR would in time fail for basic economic reasons. While it existed, however, it was necessary to deal with it. This is realpolitik.

    It’s an open question whether the “real-politikers” are really clever, and see clearly into the future (Like EG thinks), or whether they act more on the opportunistic whore principle

    Indeed, but it is nevertheless the case that America will not be the dominant global power forever, whatever some people may think. The probability now is that China will be the successor, at least in Asia. Asia is also becoming more important globally, so the dominant power in Asia will of necessity be a serious global power. A realistic calculation would be that China’s ascent is not likely to stop or slow significantly in the near future, since there are no economic or political-strategic reasons why it should, so it makes sense to cosy up to the guys with the cash. It’s a lot easier to talk to people if you’re trading with them, plus you make some money for yourself out of it.

    If the China scenario is incorrect, it is likely that India will be the major Asian power. Either way, the economic interests of the west increasingly lie in the east, and it is necessary to accept that (barring catastrophe) one of these two states is going to be the dominant regional player very soon. Right now, the smart money appears to be on China.

    EG

  • I’ve heard quite a bit from people who purport to know about This Sort Of Thing about how China’s progress is just another Great Leap Forward, with “10% economic growth” replacing “doubling of tractor production” as the blindly-followed goal. According to these people, the whole edifice will collapse in the next 20-30 years as the supply-side limitations seriously kick in.

    As a result, my money’s on India as New World Power.

    Re the original article: France trades empty rhetoric for massive aviation deal. France benefits. China arguably loses. Who cares?

  • Gaijin

    Taiwan belongs to China anyhow.

  • Gaijin

    Taiwan belongs to China anyhow.

  • Jacob

    Seems to me the US muddled policy toward China is about right: There are economic relations, there are diplomaitc relations, there is dialogue on all subjects, mixed with some moralizing about human rights (is it futile ? maybe, but still worth doing), there are stern warnings against raping Taiwan (after all Taiwan is in no way threatening or harming mainland China). There is also an (sophisticated) arms embargo.

    Why would France distance itself from this ? Why say: “it’s ok to surpress your citizens, and rape Taiwan, we don’t care (as long as you buy from us planes and weapons)” ?
    I somehow cannot admire the superior, “real-politik wisdom” of the French.

  • Gaijin

    (Unlike Tibet, which no western government seems very concerned about these days.)

  • Jacob

    Article about unrest in China from strategypage.

    The French support might be, after all, a good omen, a sign that the end of the regime is close.

  • Euan Gray

    Unlike Tibet, which no western government seems very concerned about these days

    Possibly because it was occupied 50 years ago, and was in any case a rather unpleasantly repressive theocratic dictatorship before China took it over.

    EG

  • Joel Català

    Sirs,

    See this article by Michael Ledeen; on China, but also on North Korea, Iran… two hopeful paragraphs:

    About China:

    “Luis Ramirez, the brilliant reporter of Voice of America, noted last fall that China was facing a most unexpected crisis: a shortage of qualified workers. And along with this manpower shortage, the brutal demographic consequences of the Communist-party’s strict rule of “one child per couple” are beginning to take hold: The population is aging, the number of people retiring is higher than those entering the workforce, and retirement pension funds are drying up. Moreover, corruption is pandemic […] But it is hard for a regime that claims sole authority to blame corruption on individual sinners.”

    And about the Irani and other terror regimes:

    “The popular contempt for the regime is so blatant that the mullahs’ usual pretense that all is well, has been openly discarded, and replaced with mounting repression. Like the North Koreans and Chinese, the Iranian leaders’ greatest fear is that their own people will bring down the regime, and the mullahs have taken desperate action against the spread of ideas within the country.”

    Joel Català

  • Taiwan belongs to China like the Sudetenland belonged to Greater Germany. During and after WWII, Mao Tse-Tung and Chiang Kai-Shiek fought for control of China, with Mao ultimately winning control of all but Formosa. It would be tragic to see the CCP gain control of the only part of China it was successfully excluded from. China’s history of imperialism and expansionism looks like the Third Reich’s in slow motion.

    And now France, which declared war on Germany after the invasion of Poland, tells China “go on ahead, just remember us when juicy contract time comes around”.

  • Gary Gunnels

    France is doing what is best for France; that’s my very Hamiltonian perspective.

    What I found interesting was this article appended at the end of the linked article: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,1564,1519548,00.html

    Britain decided that British weapons and parts that are not “deadly effective” can be exported. Today, Chinese warplanes lift off with Rolls Royce engines.

    France and Italy, long after 1989, also continued to deliver radar systems, rockets and airplanes to China. They had these contracts before China cracked down on the democracy movement, the argument goes. Italy and Spain have delivered helicopter technology which they didn’t equate with weapons systems, but which now is used in Chinese military helicopters. A German firm received contracts for 2,000 diesel engines to be used for Chinese submarines. Whether the contract was filled is unclear.

    In total, the EU states’ “exemptions” from the weapons embargo were worth about €413 million ($550 million) in 2003. The biggest exporter was France, followed by Britain and Italy. The German contribution is relatively small. The EU’s official journal calculated that, in 2002, licenses for weapons exports were worth merely €210 million. But before a year had passed, the amount EU countries were selling to China had almost doubled.

    In total, the EU states’ “exemptions” from the weapons embargo were worth about €413 million ($550 million) in 2003. The biggest exporter was France, followed by Britain and Italy. The German contribution is relatively small. The EU’s official journal calculated that, in 2002, licenses for weapons exports were worth merely €210 million. But before a year had passed, the amount EU countries were selling to China had almost doubled.

  • Gary Gunnels

    BTW, note that the U.S. continues to support the one-state policy.

  • Gary Gunnels

    And I know beating up on France is a pastime here, but really, the notion that the French have some sort of historical stain upon them is, well, silly and points a deep historical ignorance of the movements of nations.

    Heck, I thought you folks were all Hobbesian libertarians? :)

  • Stehpinkeln

    Merry hello, you will lose your ass. What most commentators is over looking is the military facts. The PRC has zero, nada, zip, zilch chance of invading the ROC. China doesn’t have the logistics capability to support 10,000 men across a 90 miles body of water, much less the 500,000 that it would take to hold the ROC’s down. I really doubt that 500,000 would be enough. The Chinese army is very low tech. The bulk of it is early cold war level (’60-’70’s kit). They have some more modern equipment (late 70’s early 80’s) but it is mostly used for parades. Now if you are a martial people with a long history of sucessful warfare and have a society that supports and cherishes it’s military, then it’s possible that your soldiers are good enough to offset a slight tech advantage held by the enemy.
    AFAIK No Chinese army has ever defeated a non-Chinese army on the field of battle. Russian , Japs, Indians, Vietnamese, Mongols everybody has used them as doormats over the ages.
    So now all of a sudden they are acting bad? The ROC has a very professional core of officers and non-coms. They train and practice for WAR and they have access to state of the art equipment. The PRC army is used to control the population. They are ok for machine gunning unarmed civilians, but I don’t think they would do much more then die when faced with a real military.
    If the PRC crosses the straits, they will get throughly smashed. Without the Army, the government won’t last out the week. The Party understands all this. They will huff and puff and bluff, but they will not try to invade the ROC. It would be like writing a suicide note on a 100$ bill.
    And the ‘one china’ policy means a democratic (post PRC) china reuniting with the ROC.

  • Stehpinkeln

    Merry hello, you will lose your ass. What most commentators is over looking is the military facts. The PRC has zero, nada, zip, zilch chance of invading the ROC. China doesn’t have the logistics capability to support 10,000 men across a 90 miles body of water, much less the 500,000 that it would take to hold the ROC’s down. I really doubt that 500,000 would be enough. The Chinese army is very low tech. The bulk of it is early cold war level (’60-’70’s kit). They have some more modern equipment (late 70’s early 80’s) but it is mostly used for parades. Now if you are a martial people with a long history of sucessful warfare and have a society that supports and cherishes it’s military, then it’s possible that your soldiers are good enough to offset a slight tech advantage held by the enemy.
    AFAIK No Chinese army has ever defeated a non-Chinese army on the field of battle. Russian , Japs, Indians, Vietnamese, Mongols everybody has used them as doormats over the ages.
    So now all of a sudden they are acting bad? The ROC has a very professional core of officers and non-coms. They train and practice for WAR and they have access to state of the art equipment. The PRC army is used to control the population. They are ok for machine gunning unarmed civilians, but I don’t think they would do much more then die when faced with a real military.
    If the PRC crosses the straits, they will get throughly smashed. Without the Army, the government won’t last out the week. The Party understands all this. They will huff and puff and bluff, but they will not try to invade the ROC. It would be like writing a suicide note on a 100$ bill.
    And the ‘one china’ policy means a democratic (post PRC) china reuniting with the ROC.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Uhm, the chinese twapped the US pretty badly, albeit at great loss, in the Korean War. And India is still smarting from their defeat in that border skirmish several decades ago.

    Vietnam could claim a tactical victory, but strategically it was only a pinprick to China. And the Japs never really beat either Kuomintang or the PLA completely, even if it has to be acknowledged that allied support was critical.

    Still, China can only fight a land based war where they might be able to bring their greater mass into play, an even more basic version of Soviet doctrine where armor was replaced with men. Any attack that relies on technology and logistical prowess, like an attack across the Straits, is impossible for the PLA.

    In war, momentum is critical, and momentum = velocity x mass. Most militaries still stuck in WW2 mentality operate by focusing on the mass part of the equation. The US and other modern forces, including the ROC, if I’m not mistaken, have emphasized the velocity part for their professional core. The fact that the ROC can call up hundreds of thousands of reservists for mass is no laughing matter either.

    TWG

  • Shawn

    Is “twapped” actually a word?

    On the “China is the next great power theory”, I dont buy it in the long run. While it has had its ups and downs the West has been the worlds primary great power since 1492 at least and the period before that was only a break after the era of Rome’s domination of the “known world”. Unless the fundamental cultural, political and economic factors change radically I dont see this being any different a hundred years from now.

    China has serious environmental problems. A lack of resources for one, especially water, and the rapid growth of the Gobi desert. That combined with the fact that the underlying foundations of its current economic growth are shaky to say the least.

    Bet on the West + India for this century at least.

  • Euan Gray

    Unless the fundamental cultural, political and economic factors change radically I dont see this being any different a hundred years from now

    But these things ARE changing, which is why the balance of power is shifting eastward.

    Culture:

    The west is enervated by political correctness, multiculturalism and post-modernist relativism. Asia doesn’t suffer from these problems to anything like the same extent. The west is increasingly turning inwards to deal with its own social issues, just as the east is facing outwards and engaging more with the wider world.

    Politics:

    Welfarism and mass democracy is hurting the west and limiting its ability to assert its position. The focus on welfare and domestic issues forces politicians to disengage somewhat with the outside world.

    Economics:

    The western population is ageing, which puts an increasing strain on the economy as fewer working people have to support ever more non-working people. Economic growth in western countries is significantly lower than in much of Asia, especially China. The markets in the east are growing faster than those in the west, and the high costs of western products (due in part to political and cultural factors) gives the advantage to eastern competitors.

    The west, of course, is still rich and powerful, and will be so for some time. However, these things are relative, and the east is becoming richer and more powerful in relation to the west. The EU and the US have about the same total GDP. The EU is militarily weak and getting weaker. The US is militarily powerful but weakening a little as the problems of strategic overstretch begin to appear. At the same time, China and India are becoming wealthier and militarily more powerful. The balance is shifting.

    EG

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Euan, I agree with all your points above. China is on the rise and of course there is another element: education. China is churning out millions of youngsters strong in maths, science etc, in contrast to the West. The implications of this can only be guessed at.

    My original reason for twitting the French – a pastime we “Hobbesian” libertarians (as Mr Gunnels rather snidely put it) indulge in from time to time – is their rampant hypocrisy. They bash the U.S. for its foreign policy unilateralism and make great play of the United Nations, etc, and yet they engage in foreign policy stunts like this. I must admit the French political establishment deserves all the horse manure one can throw at it.

  • DS

    Until China (and India, and anybody else for that matter) has REAL property rights, rule of law and democracy it will suffer the fate of every other nation in the history of the world without these basic foundations of prosperity. Unfortunately these things are rarely granted by incumbent governments.

    Of course these countries are growing rapidly, growth is simply the difference between where you were yesterday and where you are today. But growth doesn’t mean that the people of China aren’t desperately poor any more, for the most part they are.

  • Euan Gray

    Until China (and India, and anybody else for that matter) has REAL property rights, rule of law and democracy

    Democracy is unnecessary for prosperity. It is only one of many ways of governing, and although it is generally successful as long as the franchise is restricted, it is absolutely not the only way to do things. Democracy tends to work best in societies which already have a strong concept of the rule of law and well understood ownership of property (knowing for certain who owns stuff is arguably more important than what one can and cannot do with that property). A lack of democracy did not stop Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong becoming wealthy, after all.

    But growth doesn’t mean that the people of China aren’t desperately poor any more, for the most part they are

    These things are relative. The people, although still poor, are less poor than they were. The gap between average wealth in e.g. China compared to the west is huge, but it is smaller than it was before and it continues to shrink. It does not matter so much how rich or powerful one is (or one’s country is) in absolute terms, but rather how rich or powerful in relation to others. This gap is shrinking, and the balance is moving east. As long as the gap continues to shrink, the balance will continue to move east.

    Britain, for example, is much richer and more powerful in absolute terms than it was 100 years ago, and its people are also far wealthier. But in relative terms, Britain is poor and weak in comparison to 100 years ago.

    EG

  • Sylvain Galineau

    Saddam looks like he’s gone for good, so it would make sense to get another nasty client. Somehow, it seems you can’t be taken seriously as a big power – and France still believes it is one – if you don’t have a ‘special’ relationship with some disgusting foreign regime.

    More seriously and given Chirac’s mutipolar obsession, this would make sense. That a number of French politicians and assorted ‘intellectuals’ claim to find themselves more comfortable with China than the U.S. is, however, as revealing of their mental state and it is disturbing.

  • Verity

    DS – I’d like to know why you think India does not have REAL property rights, rule of law and democracy.

    India is the biggest democracy in the world with over 1bn people. Property rights are very real. Indian judges are incorruptible. Indian barristers are much to be desired, no matter which country of the world you’re living in, incidentally. Voting in India, insofar as the integrity of the system goes, is safer than in Tony Blair’s Britain. The ICS is one of the great achievements of the Empire. Indian railways run on time to the minute. The Indian military is huge, well disciplined and formidable. The Indian educational system produces outstanding results.

    What on earth are you talking about?

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Stehpinken – did you read the response I gave to your assertion that China was “unsullied by victory” in an earlier thread? Since you didn’t respond, I’ll assume you didn’t and reproduce it. Sorry if you’ve already read this. Even if you have, I’d like to read your reply:

    Chinese military theory and technology has, for most of the first and some of the second millenia, been the world’s best. To say that China is “unsullied by victory” is a gross simplification. It may not have accumulated the kind of victories that Western nations have chalked up over the years, but this is due to the traditional Chinese world view (ie China *is* the world) rather than poor military prowess. This world view is shaped by the fact that China was (and still is) a large, vulnerable country. It has long and, in most places, lightly defended borders. It is surrounded by powerful potential adversaries. Historically it simply hasn’t been able to afford to look far beyond its neighbours. In the present day these factors explain why China is hyper-sensitive about its sovereignty.

    So anyway, if China goes to (non-civil) war with anyone, it will always be a neighbour, or in a neighbouring country. Off the top of my head, China has militarily defeated India, Tibet, Vietnam and Mongolia in the last 100 or so years. It defeated Japan in coalition and pushed the UN (mainly US) force back from its borders down to the 38th parallel in the Korean war. Chinese troops also fought against the Americans in Vietnam.

    I personally can’t see China eclipsing the USA in my lifetime. There are so many future impediments for China, but most importantly, they have created a demographic timebomb. In 50 or so years’ time their population is predicted to dip under 1 billion, around the same time as the USA’s will top half a billion. In the long term, I believe India has a better shot at the title. Their economy is diversifying into profitable growth industries, they innovate (where the dollars are) rather than just build as cheaply as possible (low margin), they speak better English, their education system is more Western. They’re taught to think independently, as opposed to the Chinese method of rote learning. I’d say that’s why Indians are able to innovate more effectively.

    Verity – having just returned from India, I know from frequent personal experience that the trains do not always run on time, the booking procedure is a bureaucratic nightmare – much like the ICS which may have been a triumph 60 years ago, but it’s still pretty much the same today. Not so impressive. But on the whole, you’re right. India has a great deal to be proud of and a bright future if they can keep control of the cultural tensions within their society.

  • Verity

    Suffering – Well, I would agree that booking is a bureaucratic nightmare, but I was trying to look on the bright side. So, actually, is boarding the train. But once you’re on, I found it a very pleasurable way to travel. And you can order your meals ahead and they will be waiting to be brought to your seat at the next stop. And it’s wonderful Indian food.

    I also agree with you about the ICS. But it was a triumph that not only worked, but instilled a sense of order in the strangely peripatetic Indian brain.

    I will also add that in the north of India, you are surrounded with what are probably, in the aggregate, the best looking people on our planet. Not all of them, obviously, but so many of them – men and women alike are simply oustandingly attractive.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Verity – yes, I have found train travel to be a great way to travel. And I had forgotten the Indian train food. I was expecting the worst and was very pleasantly surprised. So cheap, too, even relative to Indian prices!

    What part of Northern India were you in? I went to Rajasthan, but all the beautiful people you talk about seem to have passed me by, more’s the pity. Though “Northern India” is a rather large and diverse geographic area…. (understatement of the year)

    I thought the Dravidians in Kerala were quite beautiful looking people. Lovely skin, slender supple physiques, high cheek bones etc.

  • Verity

    I agree, the Dravidians can be elegant and by and large, they’re hellishly bright.

    I used to travel to India on business, so I’ve been to several place. In Delhi, I swear, every 2nd or third person, especially under the age of around 35, is a knockout. They look like movie stars, but they’re shop assistants and office workers (and call centre workers). And, of course, the ones who get the “glamour” jobs behind the desk in international hotels … well, you could be starring in your own movie. You’ll have gathered, I’m captivated by India.

    I am one of the few people who loved Calcutta 15 or 20 years ago, although a lot of people said it ought to be nuked so they could start over, but I understand now it has a very able city council (sadly, socialist, but what to do?) and the city is improving all the time. It’s full of ebullient Bengalis. The restaurants have lines out the door at 11 o’clock at night and everybody’s busy talking, talking, talking. They have an opinion about absolutely everything. (I’m surprised more of them aren’t posting on Samizdata!) Lots of famous authors.

    India’s like a drug. You always want to go back for more. Never did care for Bombay – now Mumbai – though.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    When I was in Bombay, I was surprised at how few Indians call it Mumbai; seemed only PC tourists did so. And they all pronounce it incorrectly – “moom-bye” instead of “mum-bay”. Regular Indians are perfectly happy with Bombay. And well should they – it was a swamp and nothing more before the Brits arrived. The Brits named it, it was never Anglicised.

    Heh, talking talking talking. Reminds me of the Bengali Chatterji family in Vikram Seth’s beautiful novel, A Suitable Boy.

  • Verity

    Another thing about India is the high energy level. God, they drive things forward! The man who delivers 50 boxes of tiffin on his bike – by god, he gets there on time. They have the will to move forward and the energy. I think they will become top country one day.

    I’ve never read Vikram Seth, although I have a book by him called From Heaven Lake. I guess I should read it. (I was put off because I noticed it won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, and I always think book award winners are lefties) But as you’ve recommended him, I think I’ll read this book.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Verity – DROP EVERYTHING and go and buy A Suitable Boy. Seth is not discernably a lefty, unlike some other high profile Indian authors like that woman Roy. I am absolutely sure you won’t put the book down in disgust due to socialist drivel being spouted – my tolerance for such things is low and I gave it a clean bill of health. In fact, I think there’s a chance Seth might be on our side of the fence – there are two (of many) prominent characters in the book. Both are state Congress politicians. One is the Home Minister, the other is the Minister for Revenue. They are bitter political rivals. Initially, the reader sympathises with the Home Minister, who leads a very ascetic life since his wife died. He’s a hard worker, seemingly highly principled and committed to his family and the future of his country. Typical lefty hero. The Revenue Minister, OTOH, is a gruff, short tempered, apparently unfeeling man who lives in a sprawling mansion and has no time for his family = Right Wing Death Beast. After a short while it becomes evident that the Home Minister is in fact a ruthless, tyrannical dictator, whereas the Revenue Minister is principled to a fault and totally dedicated to serving the public in the true meaning of the phrase. Great stuff. If you love India then you will LOVE this book. I wish you had paid me to tell you because I would offer a 10000% money back guarantee!

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Oh, and there’s another character who’s a Socialist Party candidate. Very “true left” of the pontificatory variety he is, too. It doesn’t take long for him to start turning absolutely bonkers mad. Great!

  • Gary Gunnels

    Shawn,

    Is “twapped” actually a word?

    Yes. It doesn’t have to be in a dictionary to be a word. Lexicographers remind us of this fact all the time. That’s why dictionaries are always catching up with a language.

    In other words, if we agree a term has meaning, etc., its a word.

    While it has had its ups and downs the West has been the worlds primary great power since 1492 at least and the period before that was only a break after the era of Rome’s domination of the “known world”.

    Being a small portion of the real world of course. And Rome did not dominate the “known world” of course. Which is why they were never able to conquer the Germans or the Parthians. There were lots of areas of the world where Roman armies were massacred and were never able to conquer.

    Anyway, if we are to accept 1492 as a demarcation point (which is, well, silly – European powers didn’t come to dominate anything outside of the Americas until the 18th century after all) that is a thousand year, well, “break” after the collapse of the Western Empire (which we shall note was largely made up of, well, you know, Europe – wow Europeans dominating Europe!). And note that Rome did not come to dominate the “known world” (mostly Europe) until the 1st century B.C.E. As that is the case, well, we are a talking about a six hundred year period at best of Roman domination (which was never as dominant as the historically ignorant assume). Prior to that, no power – European or otherwise – dominated the entire “known world” (leaving aside the fact that the Romans didn’t either).

    So what are we left with? A Roman Empire that didn’t in fact dominate the known world. Six hundred years of dominance in an area much less in breadth and length than the known world. A mixed period after 1492 where Europeans came to dominate much of the planet, but only for a brief period of time from the 18th century until the 1950s (and only in some areas from the late 19th century to the 1950s).

    When you unpack the real historical record it becomes fairly clear that the sort of “Western dominance” you claim is, well, a myth.

    ___________________________________

    All this handwaving and doubting about China’s rise is just, well, silly. What it reminds me of is some British commentators in the 19th century discussing the “collapse” of the U.S. because its too big, etc.

  • Verity

    I see, Suffering. You’re a bit so-so about the book …

    OK. You’ve made a sale. First off, I’ll read the book I got two or three years ago and put to one side, From Heaven (sic) Lake – about his journey through Sinkiang and Tibet. If I love the writing, A Suitable Boy is next. Thank you!

    BTW, if you like travel books, there is an absolutely compelling book called A Fez of The Heart by Jeremy Seal in which he undertakes, in the best traditions of the British traveller, a trip through modern day Turkey to trace the beginnings of the fez. It is totally gripping, and terribly funny. (Picador.)

  • Alice

    Thanks to all of you (jacob, john b, sylvain, steh… and I understand why two of you prefer writing about clever Indians than about Jacques Chirac & cie). I’m relieved to see so many people have guessed that French politics is just nasty and stupid. Trust your first impression : it is short-sighted by greed and cowardice.
    On China and other subjects, do you read the blog of Gary BECKER and Richard Posner ?
    “Will China Become the Leading Nation of the 21st Century? Perhaps Not!”
    http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/archives/2005/04/will_china_beco.html

  • Verity

    Hmm, Alice, I apologise for the clever Indians, but I am not sure that French politics is stupid. I’d have to add the Clintonesque comment that it depends what your definition of ‘stupid’ is. They do, single-mindedly, go all out to further the interests – and influence upon the world – of France. They really do think it is their destiny to civilise the rest of us, meaning, teach us to be more French. In many instances, it is done with such innocence that the presumptuousness is rather sweet.

  • Jacob

    Some points about China and Taiwan:

    About China’s military capabilities: they fought extremely poor in WW2, in fact – they received a lot of weapons and money from the US, so they could fight the Japs, but refused to fight. They did nothing. Fighting isn’t their strong suit. I don’t think they are capable or willing to attack Taiwan in the near future.

    In the more distant future – I think the chances are the Communist regime goes under; unification is possible under a new regime, by peaceful means.

    Those Chinese businessmen looking forward to the opening of Taiwan prepared for some political agreement, not for a conquest.

    About France: I’ts obvious that an attack on Taiwan would be highly immoral and deplorable. So why are the French saying to China: “you can attack Taiwan, we don’t care” ? Seems that all the abuse we heap on the French is well deserved.

  • Shawn

    Gary,

    The Roman Empire dominated much of what was then the known world. While it did not conquer the Germans and the Parthians, it did keep them in check. And while they did lose some battles (so what?) there military supremacy was a reality from Carthage on. Given that this empire included North Africa, Palestine, Lebanon and Turkey, and stretched all the way to Wales, I think the achievements of Rome should be obvious.

    The Turks aside, no power seriously threatened the West from 4192 (at least) onwards. None seriously do so now.

    This is not about being biased against China. I just dont see, given the very serious problems they face, that they are going to replace the US and the West in general. Where is the evidence?

  • Shawn

    Also I should point out that my comment about “twapped” was tongue in cheek. That pain your feeling might be the corn cobb inserted in your rectum.

    “When you unpack the real historical record it becomes fairly clear that the sort of “Western dominance” you claim is, well, a myth.”‘

    Actually not really. You havent “unpacked” anything, just given a distorted and warped view of history.

    And my views on China are based on recent conversations with a friend who has spent much of the past ten years living and working there. What are yours based on?

  • Gaijin

    Paul: “It would be tragic to see the CCP gain control of the only part of China it was successfully excluded from.”

    Exactly. It’s part of China– not like the Sudetenland at all, silly boy. Whereas Tibet isn’t, even if it has been ‘occupied for fifty years’ (Euan Gray).

    FWIW my guess is that a Greater Hong Kong-type deal will be struck between China and Taiwan, leaving the latter as a capitalist showcase with some self-government and a strong commie fifth column on its tail. There won’t be a D-Day landing.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Um…if I’m not mistaken, China’s claim to Taiwan doesn’t stand up to much if using historical factors as justification. I’m under the impression that their occupation of the island was brief and not particularly strong. I should Google some dates, but really, I can’t e bothered. Sorry.

    Jacob – the Chinese Nationalists didn’t fight because they had assembled a sloppy state that couldn’t motivate and control the military. I wouldn’t be surprised if today’s Russian forces fell in a similar kind of heap if confronted with a dangerous enemy, despite possessing relatively good weapons technology. You’re labouring under a false sense of security if you think the Chinese don’t have “the right stuff” to fight a modern war – you make it sound as though it’s in their culture not to fight. Absolutely ridiculous! The demoralised army and nation of 60 years ago is quite a different beast today.

    Gary Gunnels – In my opinion it’s silly to be so irrationally bullish about China. Do a SWOT analysis on the place. And then remember what they said about Japan’s rise to hegemony in the 1970s and early 80s. Did it happen? The West needs to calm down re. China.

    Verity – just reading over my last few posts re. A Suitable Boy. I did get rather excited, didn’t I! Well, it is my second favourite book. I really hope you like the Vikram Seth novel you already own, if only so you’ll read ASB.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Oh, and I’ve put your book tip on my Amazon wishlist. I do like travel books.

  • Verity

    Suffering – (I’m tiptoeing in so Alice doesn’t catch me …), VS’s From Heaven Lake is a travel book about his two years in Tibet. You will love A Fez of The Heart. Compelling, eccentric and very witty. The writer’s a young fellow I hadn’t heard of before, and he’s very clever. Another really good read about the region is The Afghan Amulet by Sheila Paine. She’s an embroidery enthusiast – no! it’s OK! don’t run away! I couldn’t care less about embroidery, either! – and she was motivated to go to Afghanistan to search for this particular stitch she’d heard about.

    That is already eccentric enough – but she is an independent older woman and was forced to go slopping about the region in a chador. She’s got a very keen eye and you’ll get some real revelations about how the average Afghan’s mind works – and a stitch in your side from laughing.

    (Walks away, hands in pockets, whistling casually …)

  • Alice

    Verity, I’ve picked one funny post from you but the other posts are good and instructive for me too, unfortunately I don’t have the knowledge and the writing-skill to comment on them. You said, the French (you should say Jacques Chirac or other top civil servant) “they do, single-mindedly, go all out to further the interest of France”. Single-minded to me means “with one brain”, that is “half-wit”, “innocent” in a way (you said innocence), or stupid. Teaching foreigners is not the interest of France, least of all “being more French”. If “being French” makes sense, it should be taught to all the holders of French Passports more and more alien to France, for many reasons. This teaching attitude may be why, counterproductively, Quebec seems to prefer alleged francophone North-African immigrants rather than French ones.

    Bad-nose might better be a better argument than stupid. If you think that France has hosted or educated Pol Pot, Khomeini, Arafat, Bokasa, the “Emperor” of Centre-Afrique and has welcomed warmly Jarucelski (Poland), Ceausescu and found excuses to so many other losers like Sadam Hussein and their relatives till the end, you realise that, for a regime, being distinguished by France is FATAL (like dancing with Bernadette Chirac for the former Chinese president).

    “China will plateau” at best (cf the blog of Gary Becker) because French leaders are loser finders.

  • Verity

    Alice – I never said they were particularly ept! But they are very focussed (if you won’t accept the term single-minded) on promoting French interests. What is more, they are as self-centred as children and seem to genuinely believe that the rest of the EU should be promoting French interests as well. It puzzles them that the new countries do not wish to take their instructions from France – and this isn’t pretentiousness. It is genuine bafflement. You are right when you say they have a formidable record as loser-finders, though!

    Re Quebec – I read that English as the traditional second language is being taken over by Arabic. How stupid is that?

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Say it isn’t so. That’s just….pathetic. Soon Canadian signs will have to display three languages.

  • Verity writes, of the French:

    “What is more, they are as self-centred as children and seem to genuinely believe that the rest of the EU should be promoting French interests as well. It puzzles them that the new countries do not wish to take their instructions from France – and this isn’t pretentiousness. It is genuine bafflement. You are right when you say they have a formidable record as loser-finders, though!”

    Why, the nerve! Who do they think they are–Americans?

    I’d take the bashing of the eeeevil French attitude towards China here more seriously if people on this site were also calling for their Dear Leader and his British poodle to at least recognize Taiwan as an independent country.

  • Jacob

    Suffering:
    “The demoralised army and nation of 60 years ago is quite a different beast today.”

    Is it ? What makes you think so ? I’m not sure. It might be like it was in Russia: after the regime falls it turns out that the formidable looking army wasn’t so formidable after all.

  • Gary Gunnels

    Shawn,

    The point is that your historical analysis is, well, bunk.

    The Roman Empire dominated much of what was then the known world.

    Let’s compare this qualified statement with your original statement.

    While it has had its ups and downs the West has been the worlds primary great power since 1492 at least and the period before that was only a break after the era of Rome’s domination of the “known world”.

    Interesting about face on your part. :)

    While it did not conquer the Germans and the Parthians, it did keep them in check.

    Actually, it didn’t. That’s why it collapsed. :) Duh!

    And while they did lose some battles (so what?) there military supremacy was a reality from Carthage on.

    If their military supremecy was a “reality” from Carthage onward, why did they allow Gauls to invade and pillage the Italian peninsula in the 1st Century BCE? Why weren’t they able to conquer the Parthians, or hell, the Picts in northern Scotland for goodness sake, despite REPEATED and futile efforts? Because Roman military might was never powerful enough to overcome the formidable foes at the empire’s borders.

    Given that this empire included North Africa, Palestine, Lebanon and Turkey, and stretched all the way to Wales, I think the achievements of Rome should be obvious.

    Inapposite. No one is discounting the achievements of the Roman empire, are they? What I am doing is discounting your rather silly historical analysis. Do at least stay on topic.

    You claimed a sort of dominance which clearly never happened in reality. This is why you have no re-figured your argument to take on a less absolutist tone.

    As to the Turks, well they were the most dominant military force in Europe until the 17th century (shit they actually conquered and held onto territory – a feat uncommon at the time). So calling that an “exception” is a bit silly.

    The only one giving a distorted view of history is you. After, aren’t you the silly individual here claiming that the Romans conquered “known world?” Yet it is a fact they didn’t conquer the Parthians, the Germans, the Picts in northern Scotland or the Gaelic people of Ireland (and this is a short list of the world that was known of at the time that the Romans never conquered). Yet all these lands were known of at the time.

    BTW, if you can actually point out where my historical analysis is warped, I’d be happy to see it. But you can’t because the accusation is hogwash. :)

    Also I should point out that my comment about “twapped” was tongue in cheek. That pain your feeling might be the corn cobb inserted in your rectum.

    If it was “tongue in cheek” please indicate such by a signifier. Like this one. :)

    And my views on China are based on recent conversations with a friend who has spent much of the past ten years living and working there. What are yours based on?

    Many, many friends who have lived there. Let us note again that you miss the point. I wasn’t addressing your China comments, I was addressing your fallacious historical narrative.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Is it ? What makes you think so ?

    Well. A pretty convincing mix of empirical data, personal experience and anecdotal evidence.

    It might be like it was in Russia: after the regime falls

    Um…the Communists haven’t fallen. In fact, they’ve proven themselves to be remarkably adaptable in preserving power.

    The Chinese military might have the ability to take Taiwan in the next decade, once they modernise some of their weapons. There is a significant technology gap between the Taiwanese and the Chinese that would most probably give Taiwan the edge today, not to mention the natural advantage of the defender. Or intervention by the USA. However, the Chinese military is far from a house of cards.

  • Gary Gunnels

    I’m suffering…

    Putin is now lamenting the collapse of the U.S.S.R. So much for reading the fucker’s soul. :)

  • I'm suffering for my art

    If there is any confusion, when I said “The Communists” I meant “Chinese communists”.