European Council on Foreign Relations

The lady in the white uniform…

Who is this woman, and why is she close to the levers of power in China? 

The clue is not the uniform - she may be a major general in the People's Liberation Army, but the real reason why Peng Liyuan is close to power is that she is the (very famous) wife of the man expected to be named as the successor to President Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping.

The key date in the diary is the 8th November, when the once-a-decade leadership change will be announced. The new leadership will face significant challenges, at a time when China is redefining its role on economic, political and diplomatic issues.

Luckily, our colleague on the China programme, Thomas König, has written a handy guide to the changes and the institutions and characters involved. We'll be sending the guide out to journalists who have signed up for press releases, and we'll also publish it as a commentary piece on our

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The US election and American decline

Last night I went to a talk by American foreign policy analyst Walter Russell Mead, who made a compelling case that the twenty-first century will be another “American century”. He argued there were five reasons why the United States was well positioned for the century to come. First, there was now the real prospect of energy independence and of low energy prices that will boost the US economy. Second, as a Pacific power with good neighbours, the US has an advantageous geopolitical location. Third, the US is in a good demographic position relative to other developed countries. Fourth, America is uniquely adaptable and as a result “gets to the future faster than other countries”. Fifth, other powers that some see usurping the US, such as China, have huge problems of their own.
Mead’s optimism about the American future was particularly striking because it came the day after the

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European pacifism and war in the Pacific

The following essay is an extract from Mr. Gowan’s contribution to The Great Pacific War: Looking Back After 10 Years, to be published in October 2023 (available on the new Mega-Advanced Kindle 9000 only).

Readers may wonder why they should pay any attention to Europe’s role in the 2013 Pacific War. Standard histories of the conflict make little or no reference to the EU. The official Chinese account of the fighting is seven volumes in length, but includes no mention of Europe at all. The index of the equivalent American publication includes a single glancing reference to “Europe’s strategic irrelevance”.

I hope to fill this gap with this short account of Europe’s reactions to the thirteen-day war that broke out when Chinese and Japanese vessels exchanged fire - with the loss of two patrol boats each - in 2013.  It is of course natural to pay most attention to decision-making in

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An assassination in Lebanon

I have just returned from Lebanon, a country once again shaking as the threat of violent spillover emanating from Syria grows stronger. On Friday, Wissam al-Hassan, head of intelligence in the country's Internal Security Forces (ISF), was killed by a car bomb in Beirut. The killing of al-Hassan, a powerful and close ally of the anti-Assad March 14 alliance who was seen as being personally responsible for the recent arrest of Michel Samaha, a former minister charged with plotting attacks in Lebanon on Assad's behalf, has thrust the country into a new period of crisis.

With Lebanon deeply polarised between the March 14 alliance and the Hezbollah-dominated pro-Assad March 8 alliance that now controls the government the attack has stirred up tensions tearing at the country's seams. As we documented in a recent report these divisions have become ever more entrenched over recent months,

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ECFR this week: 19th October

At this week’s European Council EU leaders agreed to establish a single eurozone banking supervisor which is considered to be a key element for the development of a banking union. In the run-up to the EU summit ECFR staff members from Paris, Berlin, Rome, Warsaw, Madrid and London published another “view from the capitals” previewing the summit from across Europe.

But there is a real danger that the proposed banking union and a deeper integration of the eurozone could lead to an exit of the UK. ‘Europe at the crossroads’ is a new ECFR project that aims at analysing the impact of the euro crisis on the UK. Click here for a collection of recent publications and podcasts that examine the EU debate in the UK.

This week’s EU summit was also a reminder that a compromise between Germany and France is still central for the European project. However, when it comes to the big questions

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