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Xi Jinping comes to Europe

On 22 March, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Europe for an 11-day tour. From the Netherlands, to France, to Germany, and then to Brussels, it is a tour of many first times, for both Xi and his country: it is the first European tour since the president took office; the first time that a Chinese president visits the Netherlands since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1972; the first time that Xi will participate in the Nuclear Security Summit; and the first time for a Chinese president to visit the European Union headquarters in Brussels, where, from 31 March to 1 April, Xi is scheduled to meet with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, and European Parliament President Martin Schulz.

Nuclear security and deepening economic and trade relations between China and EU member states are high on the agenda.

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Will China dominate the 21st century?

From a stuttering Europe China's recent rise has been both staggering and slightly ominous, a real reworking of the world order in favour of a vigorous East at the expense of a tired West. But can we extrapolate recent trends and see China dominating the 21st century, or will those seemingly ever-upward growth lines start to encounter headwinds?

Jonathan Fenby, the noted expert on China and the author of "Will China dominate the 21st century?", was the guest at a recent meeting in ECFR's London office. He began the meeting by explaining exactly why - in his view - Beijing would not dominate, laying out a series of challenges that the Chinese leadership must face. I've turned Jonathan's introduction into a podcast that serves as a neat introduction to the current state of China:

The entire meeting on China was on the record, and you can listen to the complete audio from it

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George Soros Q&A part 1

I've just uploaded the first in a short series (two or three in total) of podcasts with George Soros answering questions from assorted journalists at ECFR's London office. Mr Soros was in the building for a press conference for his new book, "The tragedy of the European Union: disintegration or revival?", chaired by Mark Leonard.

The questions ranged widely on every subject from Mrs Merkel's approach to the euro to the Chinese economy. Here is this first podcast:

The issues covered in this chunk of the press conference concerned: Germany's solutions to the euro crisis; Scottish independence; the UK's winning strategy of non-euro EU membership; whether the markets or governments would bring stability to the system; central bank stimulus; and the dangers of anti-EU populism in debtor countries.

More soon!

“We have no substitute”: a European view of China’s economy

In January 2014, HSBC’s flash purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for China showed its first contraction in six months. PMI fell below the 50 percent threshold, and it has continued to decline, from 49.5 percent in January to 48.3 percent in February. If growth weakens, China could be heading towards a domestic debt crisis. Will the reforms announced in November after the Third Plenum of the 18th Chinese Communist Party Central Committee lead to a more sustainable model? In the short term, the reform programme does imply slower growth. This week’s session of the National People’s Congress (China’s parliament, which meets once a year in March) could provide some important indications on how to read the weaker PMI and what reforms to expect in the near future.

A recent informal meeting between representatives of major German firms and a group of China-watchers gave evidence of the

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Aftermath of North Korea’s “12/12”

Right after the execution on 12 December of Jang Song-thaek, uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, North Korean diplomats were spotted at Beijing airport following a recall from Pyongyang. Then, on Sunday, 26 January, Seoul's Yonhap news agency quoted “multiple sources” about executions of Jang’s relatives: a sister and her husband, a nephew and his two sons. North Korea’s ambassadors to Cuba and Malaysia were also reportedly executed.

Of course, “reports” like these – without identified sources – often appear in the Republic of Korea’s media on the weekends, and Seoul’s officials neither confirm nor deny them. While these reports do not rest on any factual basis, they fit into the overall picture of what has been happening in Pyongyang recently.

It has been two years since Kim Jong-un took over, and observers and international actors are still asking themselves where he is

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