The End of Cambodia’s Ersatz Democracy

February 8, 2018

The End of Cambodia’s Ersatz Democracy

by Author: Editorial Board, East Asia 

In 2017, the world’s attention turned to Cambodia for all the wrong reasons.

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Phnom Penh City

When Cambodians went to the polls to elect municipal councils in July, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) saw a substantial boost in its support, particularly in the rural areas long considered a stronghold of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). The local results were seen to put the CNRP in a competitive position in the national election scheduled for July 2018.


Rather than prompting the government to become more responsive to the concerns of disaffected voters, the 2017 polls became the trigger for a brazen crackdown on the opposition, the press and civil society. The CNRP has been dissolved in a controversial court ruling, and its leader Kem Sokha has been jailed on trumped-up charges of treason. Media outlets such as the respected Cambodia Daily newspaper and independent radio stations have been shut down. The government is intimidating the largest and most vocal NGOs.

As Astrid Norén-Nilsson writes in this week’s lead article (which is part of an EAF special feature series on 2017 in review and the year ahead), the ongoing crackdown marks no less than ‘the endpoint of Cambodia’s era of electoral democracy — an era in which the opposition may have faced uphill struggles but was nonetheless dependably allowed to contest elections’.

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Certainly, Hun Sen’s Cambodia was no poster child for democracy and good governance before 2017. As political scientist Lee Morgenbesser has argued, after Hun Sen’s rise to power in the 1993 election overseen by the United Nations, the country became a textbook case of ‘competitive authoritarianism’. This is a system in which parties and civil society are allowed enough freedom to maintain the appearance of competitive politics, but where political institutions are so rigged that the opposition has no real path to power. In this view, the mistake of the CNRP was to get too popular, to the extent that a national election victory seemed a possibility — a scenario that Hun Sen could not countenance.

The degeneration of a pretend democracy into outright autocracy also marks the failure of decades of investment in Cambodian democracy and good governance by Western governments and international organisations. It is perhaps a small sense of responsibility for the current predicament that gives urgency to questions about what the world can or should do in response to Hun Sen’s crackdown. At present, targeted sanctions seem ‘the only realistic possibility of a somewhat modified course of government action, though [they are] a highly uncertain one’, writes Norén-Nilsson.


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A peaceful and attractive county side in a rapidly developing and stable economy

The note of caution she sounds is appropriate. Cambodia is no economic pariah; rather, millions of Cambodians are beneficiaries of trade with the West. As Heidi Dahles highlights in her review of the Cambodian economy, trade unions representing garment workers have spoken out against Western economic sanctions. Western governments should take such warnings seriously. Any program of sanctions that harms Cambodian export industries would only play into the hands of Hun Sen and his narrative that the West is out to undermine Cambodia. Heavy-handed sanctions not only fail to guarantee changes in the behaviour of the target regime, but can lead to isolation and economic hardship that serves nobody’s interests (the experience of Myanmar under the old military junta is a cautionary tale).

However Western governments respond, there are ultimately larger forces at work aiding the entrenchment of authoritarianism both in Cambodia and elsewhere in the region. Hun Sen’s crackdown takes place in a world where authoritarian leaders are less dependent on the West for their aid and investment needs — and thus have fewer incentives to cultivate support among Western politicians by promising reforms and democracy. As Norén-Nilsson writes, ‘China’s full political and economic support enables Cambodia’s shift to autocracy, which occurs in the context of President Trump’s voluntary handing over of American regional and global leadership to China’.

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Hun Sen and his CPP can expect to win the July 2018 election decisively in a contest compromised by the effective exclusion of the largest opposition party. By closing off avenues for peaceful opposition, Hun Sen has thrown up hazards for Cambodia’s future. As we have learned from the fall of autocrats from Indonesia to Egypt in recent decades, when struck by crises dictatorships can prove surprisingly brittle — and efforts to unseat them typically lead to large-scale violence.

The West will make noises about the illegitimacy of the Prime Minister’s victory, and will likely continue to apply and even extend sanctions. But Hun Sen is here to stay, and the dictates of realpolitik mean that the Western powers will soon revert to pragmatic cooperation with Hun Sen’s regime when necessary.

The EAF Editorial Board is comprised of Peter Drysdale, Shiro Armstrong, Ben Ascione, Amy King, Liam Gammon, Jillian Mowbray-Tsutsumi and Ben Hillman, and is located in the Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.

This article is part of an EAF special feature series on 2017 in review and the year ahead.

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Commentary: Global takeaways from Trump’s Davos Speech

January 27, 2018

Commentary: Global takeaways from Trump’s Davos Speech

 by John Lloyd

“When people are forgotten the world becomes fractured,” President Donald Trump observed to the Davos forum in his breathlessly-awaited speech Friday. That he himself was the fracturer-in-chief must have entered the minds of more than a few in the crowded hall.

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President Donald J. Trump–The American First Salesman

Many expected the speech to be a clash of civilizations: that of America First, the pursuit of national advantage, the raising of the barriers both to trade and to immigration – and that of cooperation, a lowering of borders and barriers, a privileging of free trade and – at least until recently – free movement of labor. Along with that, there was a zany, unpredictable often deeply unpleasant governing style, based heavily on tweets, and a hatred of news media – which in a post-speech Q-and-A he could not refrain from branding as “nasty, vicious…and fake.” (He got a few hisses and boos for that.)

But the speech was crafted for a kind of virtual togetherness, a merging of “America first” with everybody else as partners. America was certainly first, and Trump said he had put it there: the stock market had added $7 trillion, 2.4 million new jobs had been created and U.S. unemployment was at a new low “since my election.” This was good for everyone. And for many of the attendees there, they are part of the everyone. The top part, in the past, present and future.

Not surprising. The world economy is growing. The giants are growing especially rapidly, with India, at over 7 percent in 2017, growing faster than China, at 6.9 percent. Trump can tweet with delight: the International Monetary Fund, not a friend, says that his tax cuts approved by Congress last month will likely cause businesses to invest more, create more jobs. Most boats are raised by this tide – even perhaps, a little, poor old Britain, suffering side effects of Brexit before it’s got to the exit, growing by only 1.8 per cent in 2017 but forecast by a government treasury minister to do better than the 1.6 percent this year that several forecasts claim.

Trump did not hint at the widespread skepticism that this can last. William White, head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s review board, said that “all the market indicators right now look very similar to what we saw before the Lehman crisis, but the lesson has somehow been forgotten.” Even if that can be disregarded, many of those in Davos this past week spoke as much about reforms and shifts in attitudes and troubles ahead as of growth.

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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi defends Globalisation

Christine Lagarde, the IMF’s Managing Director, though happy about improvement, warned of a social disaster even while economies grow, saying that, in Europe, “working-age people, especially the young, are falling behind. Without action, a generation may never be able to recover.” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a somber speech, arguing that “it feels like the opposite of globalization is happening…(it) cannot be considered less dangerous than climate change or terrorism.”

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IMF’s Managing Director, Christine Lagarde

Still more chillingly, Freedom House, the U.S.-based institute which surveys the progress of democracy, civil society, freedom of speech and the media round the world has produced a report headlined “Democracy in Crisis” – a grim reportage showing that democracy’s “basic tenets – including guarantees of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law – came under attack around the world.”

The new element in this from last time Freedom House looked is Trump and his radically anti-globalization, anti -free trade, anti-immigrant  rhetoric. The U.S. president’s actions have been milder – or thwarted – than his words, but even as he told Davos delegates that “America First does not mean America alone,” he stressed that he was taking steps to secure an immigration system “stuck in the past.”

Trump’s approach has fazed foreign political and business leaders and called into question some of the fundamentals of the Western world’s post-war assumptions – not least, that the United States was on the globalizers’ side.

Image result for WEF puts on a show for TrumpThe WEF puts on a show to butter up the egoistical President Donald J. Trump

The top people, bankers, industrialists, politicians, celebrities – the U.S. President is an unusual exception – are avatars of globalization. But the politicians among them mix with and solicit votes from ordinary people, who live their lives locally rather than globally and who are – in David Goodhart’s analysis – “somewhere” people as against the “anywhere” globalizers. The politicians know that in order to retain globalization and the benefits which flow from it, the “somewhere” people must share more in the fruits of globalization than they presently do. Unless that happens, the angry challenge to mainstream politics, to free markets and to capitalism itself will continue, grow and may become ungovernable.

Trump has made it clear in the past he despises the Davos crowd: his erstwhile friend and chief counselor, Steve Bannon, now out of the White House and presumably no longer on the President’s speed dial, has said that “I’d rather be governed by the first hundred people at a Trump rally than by the Party of Davos,” continuing, in the same interview, to note that blue-collar workers like his father and grandfather, were “more decent, and have the community’s well-being more than these guys.”

There was none of that disdain for the white-collar executives in Trump’s carefully-crafted Davos speech. Instead, the U.S. president touted his tax changes and the message the “there’s never been a better time to do business in America.”

However, globalization is a political as much as an economic movement, and in the end requires political support. The globalizers need at least the passive assent from those like the left-behinds, the somewheres, the people who have not done well out of the past decade since the financial crash and who will do much worse should the forecasts by experts like White and Lagarde prove well-founded. Every democratic leader must now be consumed with fear of a revolt, seeking policies which address that discontent and calms it, while trying to avoid even more debt on the nation’s balance sheet.

That’s a difficult trick – and one that democratic leaders must turn to now that the febrile anticipation of Trump’s speech is over and they descend from the snowy peaks of the Swiss Alps.

John Lloyd co-founded the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, where he is senior research fellow. Lloyd has written several books, including “What the Media Are Doing to Our Politics” and “Journalism in an Age of Terror”. He is also a contributing editor at the Financial Times and the founder of FT Magazine.

The views expressed in this article are not those of Reuters News.

Wealth Concentration Continues to Increase

January 23, 2018

Wealth Concentration Continues to Increase

SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, January 23, 2018 (IPS) – As the ‘masters of the universe’ gather for their annual retreat at Davos, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has just published its Inclusive Development Index (IDI) for the second time.

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After moderating from the 1920s until the 1970s, inequality has grown with a vengeance from the 1980s as neoliberal ascendance unleashing regressive reforms on various fronts.

Sensing the growing outrage at earlier neo-liberal reforms and their consequences, as well as the financial sector bail-outs and fiscal austerity after the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, politicians and business leaders have expressed concerns about inequality’s resurgence.

The record is more nuanced. While national level inequalities have grown in most economies over the last four decades, international income disparities between North and South have actually narrowed, largely due to growth accelerations in much of the latter.

But while income inequality trends have been mixed, wealth concentration has picked up steam, recently enabled by the low cost of credit, thanks to ‘unconventional monetary policies’ in the North.

According to the World Inequality Report 2018, the top 1% in the world had twice as much income growth as the bottom half since 1980. Meanwhile, income growth has been sluggish or even flat for those with incomes between the bottom half and the top 1%. Oxfam’s new Reward Work, Not Wealth report reveals that the world’s wealthiest 1% got 82% of the wealth generated in 2017, while the bottom 50% saw no increase at all!

The world’s 500 richest, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, became US$1 trillion richer during 2017, “more than four times” the gain in 2016, as their wealth increased by 23%, taking their combined fortunes to US$5.3 trillion. According to the UBS/PwC Billionaires Report 2017, there are now 1,542 US dollar billionaires in the world, after 145 more joined their ranks in 2016.

Worsening wealth inequality

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Meanwhile, the latest Credit Suisse Report found that the world’s richest 1% increased their share of total wealth from 42.5% at the height of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis to 50.1% in 2017, or US$140 trillion.

It shows that the bottom half together owned less than 1% of global wealth, while the richest 10% owned 88% of all wealth, and the top 1% alone accounted for half of all assets. Thus, global household debt rose by nearly 5% in 2017 despite total wealth increasing by US$16.7 trillion, or 6.4%.

The Report attributes this to uneven asset price inflation with financial asset prices growing much faster than non-financial asset values. Recent unconventional monetary policies of the world’s major central banks contributed to such asset price inflation.

The European Central Bank has acknowledged that quantitative easing (QE) has fuelled asset price inflation. Kevin Warsh, a former US Federal Reserve Board member, has argued that QE has only worked through the ‘asset price channel’, enriching those who own financial assets, not the 96% who mainly rely on income from labour.

An IMF study found that ‘fiscal consolidation’, typically involving austerity, has significantly worsened inequality, depressed labour income shares and increased long-term unemployment.

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MOZAMBIQUE, Beira, Grande Hotel, opened 1955 during portuguese colonial time, today some thousand homeless people living here.

Another IMF research report shows that capital account liberalization — typically recommended to attract foreign capital inflows without due attention to the consequences of sudden outflows — has generally significantly and persistently increased national-level inequalities.

The World Inequality Report 2018 also observed that rising income inequality has largely been driven by unequal wealth ownership. Privatization in most countries since the 1980s has resulted in negative ‘public wealth’ — public assets minus public debt — in rich countries, even as national wealth has grown substantially. Over recent decades, countries have become richer as governments have become poorer, constraining governments’ ability to address inequality by increasing public provisioning of essential services.

An earlier IMF study also noted that the neoliberal reforms — promoting privatization, cutting government spending, and strictly limiting fiscal deficits and government debt — have also increased economic inequality.

On average, net private wealth in most rich countries rose from 200–350% of national income in 1970 to 400-700% recently as marginal tax rates for the rich and super-rich have fallen. The Oxfam report identifies tax evasion, corporate capture of public policy, erosion of workers’ rights and cost cutting as major contributors to widening inequalities.

The IMF’s recent Fiscal Monitor acknowledges that regressive tax reforms have caused tax incidence to be far less progressive, if not regressive, while failure to tax the rich more has increased inequality. Besides new tax evasion opportunities and much lower marginal income tax rates, capital gains are hardly taxed, encouraging top executives to pay themselves with stock options.


It is quite remarkable how increasing wealth concentration has been described and presented to the public. For example, the Allianz Global Wealth Report 2016 has described the trends as ‘inclusive inequality’, claiming a growing global middle class even as inequality has been rising.

Similarly, the Credit Suisse Report argues that wealth distribution is shifting as the world becomes wealthier, thus lowering barriers to wealth acquisition. Increasing wealth and income inequality are thus merely reflecting faster asset accumulation, including the pace at which new millionaires are being created.

Josef Stadler, UBS head of global ultra-high net worth and lead author of the UBS/PwC Billionaires Report 2017, decries “the perception that billionaires make money for themselves at the expense of the wider population” as incorrect, attributing billionaires’ fortunes to the strong performance of their companies and investments.

Besides their philanthropic contributions and patronage of the arts, culture and sports, 98% of billionaires’ wealth are said by him to contribute to society as the world’s super-rich employed 27.7 million people. Rather than making money from their employees’ efforts, billionaires apparently make private welfare payments to them out of the goodness of their hearts!



The Top Politics Commentaries of 2017

January 2, 2018

The Top Politics Commentaries of 2017

With all that has happened in the past year, one could be forgiven for thinking that it has been more than 12 months since January 1, 2017. To help make sense of it all – from Donald Trump’s tumultuous presidency to China’s increasingly vocal bid for global leadership – we have compiled a list of some of our top politics commentaries from 2017.

Looking back, 2017 may well be remembered as a year of great historical consequence. Yes, 2016 was the year when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. But 2017 was when the rest of the story began to unfold, and discrete events started to ramify in ways that will affect global politics for years or even decades to come. To help capture all that has happened over the past 12 months, we have selected some of Project Syndicate’s most-read columns on politics in 2017.

Not surprisingly, many of the year’s commentaries focused on the all-too-real reality show playing out in the US. At home and abroad, Trump continued throughout the year to violate political and social norms and undermine democratic institutions, confirming Balzac’s observation that one who needs to prove one’s power to oneself must abuse it to succeed.

Still, our list also makes clear that Trump and those sustaining his presidency are just one part of a much larger story, of which 2017 was but one chapter. The US is no longer the hard center of the international order. The world is quickly changing, and people everywhere are renegotiating traditional sources of identity, systems of governance, economic arrangements, and conceptions of well-being. Those debates will continue for years to come, and we at Project Syndicate look forward to contributing to them with the same caliber of informed analysis that you will find in the compilation below.

China’s Debt-Trap Diplomacy

Brahma Chellaney of the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research described how China is using its massive Belt and Road Initiative of foreign infrastructure investment to ensnare strategically important countries across Eurasia in “debt traps” that will leave them increasingly vulnerable to Chinese influence.

The Middle East’s Next War

Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer warned that news of US-led coalition forces reclaiming the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State this summer did not mean that peace was finally coming to the Middle East. On the contrary, he argued, the region is barreling toward a violent hegemonic power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Brexit in Reverse

Hungarian-American financier/philanthropist George Soros, reflecting on the decline of real (inflation-adjusted) income in the United Kingdom throughout the year, reminded Britons that they could still turn back from the Brexit cliff edge.

Inconvenient Truths About Migration

Robert Skidelsky of Warwick University examined the growing opposition to migration across advanced economies, which he views as a reflection of deeper political and psychological dynamics, rather than economic anxieties, as is commonly believed.

The Three Trumps

Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University predicted early in the year that Trump’s three separate identities – Russian lackey, plutocrat, and populist demagogue – would eventually converge. The result, he suggested, would be a president who placates his supporters with tweets to distract from his administration’s regressive economic policies and reported ties to Russia.

The White House Crack-Up

Elizabeth Drew, a veteran chronicler of US politics, described the prevailing mood in the White House throughout the year as a mix of chaos, pettiness, and paranoia, owing to the constant flow of news reports documenting the Trump administration’s dysfunction – which seems to trickle down from the very top.

Donald Trump’s Historic Mistake

Laurence Tubiana of the European Climate Foundation, echoing the view of every other government in the world, decried Trump’s decision in June to withdraw the US from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, portraying it as a tragic and unprecedented abdication of global leadership.

The Kindleberger Trap

Joseph Nye of Harvard University introduced a new – and already indispensable – concept to the Sinological lexicon. Whereas China could fall into the “Thucydides trap” if it appears too strong and provokes a challenge from the US, Nye’s “Kindleberger trap” describes a China that invites a different set of problems by acting too weak.

Why India Should Scrap Parliamentary Democracy

Shashi Tharoor of the Indian National Congress party, lamenting that overly frequent state-assembly elections have come to be seen as referenda on the national government, called on India to do away with the parliamentary system it inherited from the British, and adopt a presidential system instead.

Spain’s Crisis Is Europes Opportunity

Yanis Varoufakis of the University of Athens saw the Catalonian secession bid in October as a wake-up call for the European Union to grant more autonomy to regional and local governments, lest the unhappy choice between more EU-level bureaucracy or more “competing nationalisms” consume the bloc from within.

World Order 2.0

Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations concluded that in a globalized world, the centuries-old Westphalian model of sovereignty is no longer sufficient. The international order should still protect the rights of states, but also hold states responsible for the economic, political, environmental, and humanitarian obligations they bear as members of the international community.

Nationalists and Globalists

Anne-Marie Slaughter, who heads the New America think tank, offered a corrective to the simplistic dichotomies of populists and elites, or nationalists and internationalists, and proposed a new kind of humanistic politics that recognizes people’s yearning for rootedness and genuine connection in a diverse, globalized world.


Racing the Machine

December  30, 2017

Racing the Machine

by Robert Skidelsky


Economists have always believed that previous waves of job destruction led to an equilibrium between supply and demand in the labor market at a higher level of both employment and earnings. But if robots can actually replace, not just displace, humans, it is hard to see an equilibrium point until the human race itself becomes redundant.

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LONDON – Dispelling anxiety about robots has become a major preoccupation of business apologetics. The commonsense – and far from foolish – view is that the more jobs are automated, the fewer there will be for humans to perform. The headline example is the driverless car. If cars can drive themselves, what will happen to chauffeurs, taxi drivers, and so on?

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Economic theory tells us that our worries are groundless. Attaching machines to workers increases their output for each hour they work. They then have an enviable choice: work less for the same wage as before, or work the same number of hours for more pay. And as the cost of existing goods falls, consumers will have more money to spend on more of the same goods or different ones. Either way, there is no reason to expect a net loss of human jobs – or anything but continual improvements in living standards.

History suggests as much. For the last 200 years or so, productivity has been steadily rising, especially in the West. The people who live in the West have chosen both more leisure and higher income. Hours of work in rich countries have halved since 1870, while real per capita income has risen by a factor of five.

How many existing human jobs are actually “at risk” to robots? According to an invaluable report by the McKinsey Global Institute, about 50% of time spent on human work activities in the global economy could theoretically be automated today, though current trends suggest a maximum of 30% by 2030, depending mainly on the speed of adoption of new technology. The report’s midpoint predictions are: Germany, 24%; Japan, 26%; the United States, 23%; China, 16%; India, 9%; and Mexico, 13%. By 2030, MGI estimates, 400-800 million individuals will need to find new occupations, some of which don’t yet exist.

This rate of job displacement is not far out of line with previous periods. One reason why automation is so frightening today is that the future was more unknowable in the past: we lacked the data for alarmist forecasts. The more profound reason is that current automation prospects herald a future in which machines can plausibly replace humans in many spheres of work where it was thought that only we could do the job.

Economists have always believed that previous waves of job destruction led to an equilibrium between supply and demand in the labor market at a higher level of both employment and earnings. But if robots can actually replace, not just displace, humans, it is hard to see an equilibrium point until the human race itself becomes redundant.

The MGI report rejects such a gloomy conclusion. In the long run, the economy can adjust to provide satisfying work for everyone who wants it. “For society as a whole, machines can take on work that is routine, dangerous, or dirty, and may allow us to use our intrinsically human talents more fully and enjoy more leisure.”

This is about as good as it gets in business economics. Yet there are some serious gaps in the argument.

The first concerns the length and scope of the transition from the human to the automated economy. Here, the past may be a less reliable guide than we think, because the slower pace of technological change meant that job replacement kept up with job displacement. Today, displacement – and thus disruption – will be much faster, because technology is being invented and diffused much faster. “In advanced economies, all scenarios,” McKinsey writes, “result in full employment by 2030, but transition may include periods of higher unemployment and [downward] wage adjustments,” depending on the speed of adaptation.

This poses a dilemma for policymakers. The faster the new technology is introduced, the more jobs it eats up, but the quicker its promised benefits are realized. The MGI report rejects attempts to limit the scope and pace of automation, which would “curtail the contributions that these technologies make to business dynamism and economic growth.”

Given this priority, the main policy response follows automatically: massive investment, on a “Marshall Plan scale,” in education and workforce training to ensure that humans are taught the critical skills to enable them to cope with the transition.

The report also recognizes the need to ensure that “wages are linked to rising productivity, so that prosperity is shared with all.” But it ignores the fact that recent productivity gains have overwhelmingly benefited a small minority. Consequently, it pays scant attention to how the choice between work and leisure promised by economists can be made effective for all.

Finally, there is the assumption running through the report that automation is not just desirable, but irreversible. Once we have learned to do something more efficiently (at lower cost), there is no possibility of going back to doing it less efficiently. The only question left is how humans can best adapt to the demands of a higher standard of efficiency.

Philosophically, this is confused, because it conflates doing something more efficiently with doing it better. It mixes up a technical argument with a moral one. Of the world promised us by the apostles of technology, it is both possible and necessary to ask: Is it good?

Is a world in which we are condemned to race with machines to produce ever-larger quantities of consumption goods a world worth having? And if we cannot hope to control this world, what is the value of being human? These questions may be outside McKinsey remit, but they should not be off limits to public discussion.

Robert Skidelsky, Professor Emeritus of Political Economy at Warwick University and a fellow of the British Academy in history and economics, is a member of the British House of Lords. The author of a three-volume biography of John Maynard Keynes, he began his political career in the Labour party, became the Conservative Party’s spokesman for Treasury affairs in the House of Lords, and was eventually forced out of the Conservative Party for his opposition to NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999.


Beijing unveils eight economic aims for 2018

December 22, 2017

Beijing unveils eight economic aims for 2018

The economic focus for China next year is high quality development, continued economic reformation and an emphasis on growth that is stable and sustainable

China has announced its eight economic aims for 2018 after leaders finished the annual three-day Central Economic Work Conference on Wednesday (December 20, 2017).

The conference, convened by the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the State Council, traditionally sets China’s economic agenda for the coming year. This year, the delegates first act was to rubber stamp the program set at the 19th Party Congress while also agreeing to follow the principles of “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”.

Third, the scientific development of the rural economy will be encouraged. China will improve the quality of produce in the agricultural sector and, by deepening the reform in grain reserve system, will help stabilize produce prices.

Fourth, the government will promote regional development and the increased cooperation among different cities. Government will try to provide equal public services and infrastructures so people across different geographies will enjoy roughly the same living standard. The Jingjinji Metropolitan Region of Beijing, Tianjin and Hubei will continue to be developed as the capital region of China. Other key projects include the green development along the Yangtze River Delta, the Belt and Road developments and the Greater Bay Area Initiative in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau area.

Fifth, China will work to further open its economy to attract foreign investments. The country will steadily open markets to foreign firms and will protect their investments and intellectual properties. China will follow standard international conventions when it comes to the restriction of inward foreign capital and will launch more free-trade-zone test sites.

Sixth, China will work to improve living standards and the country’s social security system. More emphasis will be placed on improving primary and secondary school education, early-age education and child care services. The country will also improve the pension fund system and encourage private funds to work in the elderly-care and healthcare sectors.

Seventh, the country will establish a rental housing market. It will establish new rules to better protect both property renters and leasers and will work to ensure healthy development in the property sector.

Eighth, China will increase its pace in ecological development and enhance environmental protection. It will launch large-scale green campaigns and encourage public and private funds to invest in the environmental protection sector by promoting the notion that “only truly green areas can become prosperous”.

The conference called for all government departments to stay united with Xi Jinping as a core leader and implement the country’s economic development plan for 2018.

Read: Annual economic meeting embraces Xi Jinping Thought