03/03/2018 Dateline London


03/03/2018

Foreign correspondents currently posted to London look at events in the UK through outsiders' eyes, and at how the issues of the week are being tackled around the world.


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Transcript


LineFromTo

Hello and a very warm

welcome to Dateline London.

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I'm Carrie Gracie.

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This week we discuss the Brexit

talks, look at the upcoming

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elections in Italy and weigh

the political implications

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in China of the possibility

of indefinite rule for

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President Xi Jinping.

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My guests this week are the Chinese

writer Diane Wei Liang, Ned Temko

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of The Christian Science Monitor,

Annalisa Piras, Italian film-maker

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and broadcaster and the American

podcaster Michael Goldfarb.

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Welcome to you all.

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Let's go for Brexit first. Ned, you

are watching it closely.

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Who's up and who's down

on the Brexit escalator?

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I suppose, Theresa May, and you

could say that much in recent

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months, but she made a big speech on

Friday and gave us a little more

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clarity about what she wants from

Brexit, which is to say, get out of

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the single market, customs union,

and gave this spoken agreement which

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will guarantee pretty much unchanged

access, she hopes, in areas of the

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European economy and in regulatory

agencies that are important to

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Britain. So that was good. Much more

importantly, she finally in public

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jettisoned this kind of flippant but

obviously charming and entertaining

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line of people like Boris Johnson

that Britain can have its cake and

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eat it.

So she said nobody's going

to get everything they want fuzzy

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absolutely, and she said the Briton

will have to accept EU rulings, and

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it will have to pay if it wants to

be part of the regulatory agencies.

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The problem is that from here on

out, she's not negotiating only with

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her own party, and now it gets

tough, because there are 27 other

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countries.

And Annalisa, what do you

make of the argument coming from

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some Europeans but this is just UK

membership of the EU but without the

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badge?

Absolutely. It looks very

much like that. The view from

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Brussels was less positive than what

Ned has just described, because yes,

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she has made a shift, and it is

slightly clearer, but she cannot

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have her cake and eat it, and she

was told that she cannot cherry

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pick. And what she came out with was

a smaller cake with a lot of

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cherries in it. So it's not going to

work. It feels like there is some

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kind of constant repetition, a

tedious insistence on something that

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is not going to happen, that is not

on the table. Not a small cake, not

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a big cake, not the cherries, and I

think in Brussels everybody is

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getting really, really tired.

And

yet, Michael, it was welcomed widely

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across the party. She seems to have

done what in her own party seemed if

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not impossible then improbable to

kind of get everyone behind her with

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the speech she made on Friday.

That's the point, isn't it? Here we

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are, we are approaching the one-year

deadline until the date we are

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supposed to leave the European

Union, and she is still having to

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placate that wing of her party that

used to be called Euro-sceptic and

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now is called Brexiteer. 25 years

ago this was going on. John Major

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had to do this all the time. He had

eventually stand outside Downing

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Street and say to the Cabinet, back

me or sack me, and to think that 25

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years later, and in some cases it is

the same people, they are still

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holding not just their own Prime

Minister, government, to ransom,

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they are holding the country to

ransom. Meanwhile over in Brussels

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they are waiting to see what they

are going to do. One of the things

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she reiterated several times in the

speech, and this is becoming a

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mantra for the Brexiteers, take back

control of our money and our

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borders. We are not in Europe. We

have control of our money. We are

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not in Schengen, we have control of

our borders. And in fact putting the

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kind of unspoken border that still

existing between Northern Ireland

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and the Republic of Ireland back in

play as a political issue, they have

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created a level of chaos. And one

last thing about 25 years ago. When

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you do a negotiation in Brussels,

everybody knows nobody knows a

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thing, because the negotiators are

professional. They keep their mouths

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shut. We shouldn't be talking about

in public what we want and what they

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want, because the real negotiations

happen under cover of darkness, and

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journalists spend hours trying to

figure out exactly what...

There was

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quite a bit of detail in that speech

to be fair. It did get into the

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nitty-gritty more than previously.

But I want to ask Diane, this is so

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different from the politics of China

that we have been discussing. From

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your position, what you make of the

week we have just seen in terms of

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Theresa May's speech, in terms of

the draft legal document that we saw

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in the EU earlier in the week?

To

me, it isn't much of an escalator

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going up and down, it is a conveyor

belt going round and round. And

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Theresa May always says, I have made

it clear. It has never been clear.

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And it is 20 months later, she still

has the sound bites. To me, Theresa

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May is a typical middle manager who

has no vision, who doesn't know

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where this thing is going and worse

yet, she is very much boxed in by

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her party. I agree with Michael, she

is still doing internal politics

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within the Tory party. This is the

point where the country needs

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leadership. She hasn't provided that

leadership for the past 20 months.

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She is not providing it now.

OK,

let's move on. I know many of our

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viewers will have opinions on this.

If you want to give us your opinions

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on Brexit, Du Toit us, send an

e-mail. Diane was talking about a

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country that she sees as having a

middle manager for a leader, so

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let's move to the country that she

is most interested in, which is of

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course China.

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The Chinese communist

party has proposed

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that the current two-term limit

for the presidency should be lifted.

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In this one-party state,

what the communist party says goes.

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The national congress opens

on Monday, so this dramatic

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change could be imminent.

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In China and around the world,

the question is being asked -

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does 64-year-old Xi Jinping intend

to be president for life?

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Diane, I'm going to go straight back

to you.

You see, this is what we see

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as for the Chinese, a strongman,

strong leadership, however, is this

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really what we call leadership, or

just a power grab? Xi Jinping

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certainly has the ambition to be the

ruler of China for a life long time.

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This for someone who had grown up

under Mao's commenters is a clear

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step back in history.

Why is it a

step backwards? A lot of outsiders

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will say, it is that type of

totalitarian autocratic thing going

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on in China for decades, don't they

have a 1-party state anyway, what's

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the difference?

The differences, if

you look at how China developed in

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the past 30 years, the reason China

could prosper was because Max three

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put in reforms after Chairman Mao's

death, the first was to move into a

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single economy, and the second was

to put an end to the single person

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rule until death, which very much

collapse the economy and one of the

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most populous countries of the

world.

So we have a collective

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leadership since the late 1970s. We

have fixed term successions, every

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ten years the leadership gets thrown

out and a new one comes in. And yet

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Xioaping who you mentioned who was

the supreme league who came behind

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Chairman Mao, he only ever led the

Bridge Association in the last few

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years of his life, yet he was

paramount leader. Why does Xi

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Jinping need the title of president

any longer? Can't he have his years

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in the spotlight and then move

behind the curtain?

Xi Jinping has

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had lots of years in the sun, but

this is a man who grew up in the

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isolated compound. He is the son of

one of the great ten marshals in

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China who founded Chinese commenters

-- Communism. So he grew up with

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this entitlement that he belongs to

that elite, and he sees duty,

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perhaps his destiny, to rule China

and to rule China with absolute

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power.

Yet his supporters would say

that's not fair, that this is a man

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with a vision, it's a vision for a

huge country, a superpower on the

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rise, and it will take time and

central control to put that vision

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in place, and that's why he needs to

stay on in power longer than his

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allotted ten years.

The problem with

personalised leadership is that then

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you are discounting all the

institutions which China doesn't

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have very many to begin with, and

then you create this leadership that

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would be more risky in terms of

policy-making. What was to say, Xi

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Jinping could decide to push the red

button one day. And it creates, in

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the long-term, instability, a

vacuum, because there is no one who

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would be in succession.

Let's open

this act now to ever be us. Ned,

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China is no longer the inward

looking isolated country it was at

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the death of Mao. It is a huge

superpower with influence in every

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corner of the globe. What are the

risks here, are there any for the

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rest of us?

I think there is a risk

for the world, and I don't want to

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overstate this notion of China

taking over the world, but there are

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initiatives, there is obviously a

huge expansion, not only just

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politically, but in terms of trade,

economics, infrastructure, by China

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in the wider world. I think the

danger is more general, that there

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is a kind of dawning of an age of

new authoritarianism. You had people

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like Erdogan in Turkey, you have

term limits, you have Putin in

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Moscow doing his Soviet shtick

before the election, we have bigger

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missiles than you do. And there was

always a balance of kind of this

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ballast of Western European

democracy and particularly the

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United States, an imperfect country

that sometimes did imperfect things,

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but when it was present in the

international arena, and when it was

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led in such a way that the world

looked to it the leadership, there

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was always a kind of curb an overly

imbalanced trends like this.

So you

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see an American vacuum?

I see an

America in retreat and an American

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absence to often from international

affairs.

Let's put it to the other

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part-time American around the table.

Michael?

You know, I think it's

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fascinating to listen to Diane talk

about this, because it reminded me

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of a man I know in China who was

born in a mud hut village in 1956,

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57, we learn famine, tens of

millions died, he was ready for

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university at the time of the

cultural Revolution and didn't get

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to university until he was in his

30s. Now he is a professor of

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philosophy, he makes a terrific

living, his standard of living is

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every bit the equal of mine. And I

do wonder if enough millions of

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people also tell that story if they

would have a different view about

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the Chinese leadership. We in the

West from the moment the Soviet

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Union collapsed decided that we were

all going to be in republican

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democracies, we were all going to

vote and so on, but if you look at

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it historically, neither China nor

Russia has a long tradition of

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electoral democratic politics. It's

not surprising that 25 years after

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this all began, and with two or

three global economic crises, the

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strongmen decide to be strong.

The

question I was asking is, do you see

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risks?

Of course there is a risk.

China is irrelevant to all of us in

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very deep Weisner, and looking back

at its imperial or communist

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history, succession in China is a

dangerous time, so Xi Jinping is 64,

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his health is good, but what happens

if something happens to him?

This is

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the problem, and Martyn Woolford in

the Financial Times had an excellent

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essay about that very point this

week. Two points, one is that rivers

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of corruption flow to the leader. We

see it a little bit in Washington,

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where people who know Trump

personally get deals, get out of

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steel just before he slaps a tariff

on it. That is a danger, and then

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there is the succession question.

When he is 80, is he going to swim

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across the river to prove he is

still hale and hearty? Then you

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create a succession problem. The

wisdom of the 10-year thing from

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Deng Xioaping has been, I have got

ten years, and then I can continue

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to have political power behind the

scenes. This is inviting a potential

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problem, but it is also a potential

problem that may not come, he is 64

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and looks very vigorous, but it may

not come for quite some time.

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Annalisa, what about the question

that Ned raised in a way, what about

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the question for Europe? Liberal

democracy, it is who we believe in

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Europe that we are and the UK, and

yet this shift as Ned describes it

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to authoritarians?

It is extremely

worrying of course for the rest of

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the world, because China has given

over and over again evidence that it

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is supporting a kind of expansionist

Dyk territorial policy. It is

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increasing its military spending

massively, so it is very bad news

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for the rest of the world. We are

seeing like the Europe was formed at

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the end of the Second World War. It

now has a very historic role to play

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because the European Union is based

on international rules and it is

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based on the fact that everybody

plays by the rules. In the world

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that looks like it is breaking bad,

there is a strong need for Europeans

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to wake up and smell the coffee and

say, we need to respect a form of

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shared rules around the world.

Let's

move back now to European politics.

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To Italy, and another strongman

in the spotlight, because Italians

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go to the polls this weekend.

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Some observers expect a return

to centre stage for 81-year-old

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billionaire and four-times

Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

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Let's put that straight back to

Annalisa. Do you expect is blocked

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to win?

All the polls point to that,

I'm afraid. They point to nobody

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really having an outright majority,

but a coalition led by Silvio

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Berlusconi is set to get the highest

number of votes.

Which is kind of on

0:17:130:17:20

the face of it amazing, end that you

have someone who is currently not

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allowed to serve in politics because

of his history, all the so-called

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bunga bunga parties, and you ask,

how can we have this, it seems a bit

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dissident to be re-electing and

81-year-old with this history?

0:17:420:17:47

Dissonant, yes, but not entirely. If

you think about it, Berlusconi is

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the original populist, you think

about the similarities between him

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and Trump, so it is coming back,

nationalism is coming back,

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xenophobia is coming back. His brand

of populism is very attractive, and

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he is also the devil you know. If

you have been in that long in

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politics, 30 years, you move from

being a newcomer to being a

0:18:130:18:18

statesman.

A national treasure!

National treasure, but having said

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that, it would probably be a

disaster, because the coalition that

0:18:230:18:29

he has put together is the same but

failed miserably when he was last

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time in power, so you have got the

extreme right, the fascist that in

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these times are even more extreme

than they used to be. They have been

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emboldened by the anti-migrant

feeling which in Italy is very, very

0:18:420:18:47

strong.

And very strong I suppose

because a lot of migrants are coming

0:18:470:18:51

over the sea from Africa and their

first stop is Italy.

More than

0:18:510:18:56

630,000 people from Africa have come

to Italy in the last few years and

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it has a massive impact on the

political landscape, so Berlusconi

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is leading this coalition of the

Northern league that is xenophobic

0:19:070:19:12

and racist, they want to deport ever

be overnight, and the fascists which

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are very extreme as well. And they

do not really get along. So if he

0:19:160:19:23

ever manages to form a government,

it is going to be very tricky.

0:19:230:19:27

Michael, you follow Italy. What is

your take on all of this?

For the

0:19:270:19:31

last two years, we have heard two

things. One is the 5-star movement

0:19:310:19:35

which will probably get the most

votes.

For people less familiar with

0:19:350:19:38

that?

That was started by Beppe

Grillo, who is a comedian, and he

0:19:380:19:49

has stepped back now because it is a

serious party and he is not a

0:19:490:19:53

serious person. The 5-star party

runs Rome?

They have Rome, and they

0:19:530:20:02

have to Turin, but they have not

been very successful.

When you have

0:20:020:20:14

the power, and you're not

successful, what does that do to

0:20:140:20:17

your vote? The current government

has been successful in terms of

0:20:170:20:19

pulling Italy out from the deep,

deep economic crisis but it was in

0:20:190:20:25

in 2011 when the Europe crisis hit

it almost as hard as it hit Greece.

0:20:250:20:31

And now that the economy is growing

reasonably well...

Not that well.

0:20:310:20:38

No, but in comparison to where it

was five or six years ago, and

0:20:380:20:42

unemployment is down. This is

traditionally the route to electoral

0:20:420:20:45

success. And the fact that he is not

being successful says to me that yet

0:20:450:20:55

again there is another centre left

party that doesn't have a

0:20:550:20:59

charismatic leader, that isn't able

to pull together the necessary

0:20:590:21:03

coalition of voters to win

elections, and I think that is true

0:21:030:21:06

in the US where the Democrats

somehow couldn't beat Donald Trump,

0:21:060:21:09

and even here where Jeremy Corbyn is

polling well, but it is clear that

0:21:090:21:15

he has pulled together enough votes.

So what is coming?

It is not just

0:21:150:21:20

leadership. Annalisa is right to

point out the importance of

0:21:200:21:24

immigration, asylum. Those are

issues that are not only coming to

0:21:240:21:29

the fore in Europe, they are easily

weaponised by populist, nationalist

0:21:290:21:33

nativists. You raise the point of

the EU's challenge in kind of coming

0:21:330:21:40

together in the landscape we see in

the wider world. One of the

0:21:400:21:44

interesting things is that in

addition to not liking immigrants,

0:21:440:21:48

asylum seekers, etc, these parties

tend to not much like the European

0:21:480:21:54

Union either. And you wonder whether

there will be a kind of drifting

0:21:540:21:59

apart...

That is a consideration,

but you need more Europe, but the

0:21:590:22:04

crisis of the European society, you

can use Europe as a scapegoat for a

0:22:040:22:11

lot of problems. But the thing about

Italy is that contrary to most

0:22:110:22:18

popular parties in the rest of

Europe, the Italian populist

0:22:180:22:22

parties, they are not Euro-sceptic.

They are almost all in agreement

0:22:220:22:27

that if Italy is to get out of its

economic weaknesses, the last thing

0:22:270:22:30

they need is to get out of the

European Union.

Diane, you were at

0:22:300:22:35

the start kind of criticising

Theresa May for being a middle

0:22:350:22:38

manager rather than a strong leader.

When you look at this Italian

0:22:380:22:41

electoral story and the possible

comeback of Silvio Berlusconi and

0:22:410:22:45

the discussion about the lack of

strong leadership in the centre

0:22:450:22:48

left, what is your take on that?

Italy to me is not one conveyor

0:22:480:22:56

belts, there are ten conveyor belts,

and the Italian government is always

0:22:560:23:00

changing, there are always

elections, always new governments,

0:23:000:23:05

and there are political issues such

as immigration. Italy has a serious

0:23:050:23:11

problem with fundamental economic

issues, and Italy has not been

0:23:110:23:16

growing in real terms for the past

ten years. And as the eighth largest

0:23:160:23:21

economy in the world, Italians are

not seeing the benefit of economic

0:23:210:23:26

recovery. And I think that is a

major issue for Italy. Whoever wins

0:23:260:23:31

the election. They need to start

governing. They need to start

0:23:310:23:38

reforming the country. It has a lot

of institutional issues embedded

0:23:380:23:41

with the economy.

And do you see a

contrast them with China? Very

0:23:410:23:45

economically successful in the past

30 years without any elections. You

0:23:450:23:49

are describing a world with too many

elections to handle, which is

0:23:490:23:53

economically unsuccessful. Is that

contrast that you would recognise?

0:23:530:23:58

This is something that the Chinese

government very much utilises in

0:23:580:24:01

their rhetoric. Look at the rest of

the world, we used a look to

0:24:010:24:09

America, the West, Europe, for

inspiration, but a lot of elections,

0:24:090:24:14

a lot of politics, and we need

stability. We need a strong leader.

0:24:140:24:18

We need to focus on economic...

We

are running out of time, but just a

0:24:180:24:23

quick word from the body on what we

come to the end of this programme,

0:24:230:24:26

which is almost a look at the

political model. Who wants to go

0:24:260:24:30

first. Annalisa?

Certainly as an

Italian and looking at the Italian

0:24:300:24:35

model, there are serious doubts

about how representative democracy

0:24:350:24:41

has been serving the interests of

the Italian citizens. And there is

0:24:410:24:46

more and more a reflection and

debate about what has happened in

0:24:460:24:49

China.

As in, people admiring the

Chinese model?

People asking

0:24:490:24:55

themselves, the long-term planning,

this kind of determination in

0:24:550:25:01

pushing something regardless of the

ins and outs of the political

0:25:010:25:04

instability, is this something that

we need to look at? It is a heresy

0:25:040:25:10

because we believe in democracy.

Indeed. Michael, a quick word?

It is

0:25:100:25:14

about national purpose. In the 25

years after the Second World War,

0:25:140:25:19

America had unparalleled growth.

They made up for the great

0:25:190:25:21

depression and the dislocation of

the Second World War. I grew up in

0:25:210:25:24

that period, and ever since then it

has been a slow decline. China has

0:25:240:25:29

even longer to make up for. It has

people as I was describing earlier

0:25:290:25:33

to Diane who have national purpose,

and I don't think they think too

0:25:330:25:36

much about the politics of the

situation, but eventually they will

0:25:360:25:41

reach full capacity, too, and they

will have time to reflect on

0:25:410:25:44

politics.

Ned?

I am not in favour of

abolishing terms Fred Trump! Be

0:25:440:25:50

careful what you wish for. Those of

us who have worked in countries as

0:25:500:25:57

foreign correspondents.

You have

been in the Soviet Union before...

0:25:570:26:02

Was it Churchill who said that

democracy is the worst form of

0:26:020:26:07

government except every other form.

And on that very important and

0:26:070:26:09

thoughtful point, we will have to

leave it. Thank you all so very much

0:26:090:26:14

for coming in.

0:26:140:26:16

That's all we have time for.

0:26:160:26:17

Do join us next week,

same time same place.

0:26:170:26:19

But for now, thank you for

watching and goodbye.

0:26:190:26:22

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