By Fareed Zakaria
There was a blockbuster article in the New York Times recently that details the extent of the private wealth amassed by the family of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. The story is already creating huge waves in China, and although Chinese authorities have reportedly blocked the paper’s site, the story is still being discussed in a million different, quiet ways.
“A review of corporate and regulatory records indicates that the prime minister’s relative – some of whom, including his wife, have a knack for aggressive deal making – have controlled assets worth $2.7 billion,” The New York Times reported. “In many cases, the names of the relatives have been hidden behind layers of partnerships and investment vehicles involving friends, work colleagues and business partners.”
What this highlights for me is not that China is especially corrupt, although corruption there is (as elsewhere) a genuine problem. Instead, this report underscores the answer to a question many of us have been wondering over the years: is China somehow largely immune to the kind of corruption that afflicts developing countries?
Watch Fareed Zakaria’s interview with author Salman Rushdie on GPS, Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET
Global Public Square speaks with Salman Rushdie, author of “The Satanic Verses” and the new book “Joseph Anton: A Memoir,” about freedom of expression in India.
What did you make of the decision by the Jaipur Literature Festival earlier this year, following protests and threats of violence, to pull out from screening a live video link with you?
Two things. I think one is that this was clearly being manipulated because there were elections coming up and somebody thought that they would get more Muslim votes if they came out against me. It’s very strange, because I’d been to the Jaipur festival four years earlier and there was no trouble, so it was a manufactured problem for electoral gain. It was rather gratifying that the Congress Party that had done this actually saw its share of the Muslim vote go down, so it showed that it was ineffective. But basically, it was engineered in such a way that I was unable to go to the festival, which was annoying. Especially as I went to a conference in Delhi four weeks later – and Delhi is the capital, whereas Jaipur is a provincial city – and there was not a whisper of a problem. Some of the less scrupulous bits of the Indian media went to the same people who made the trouble at Jaipur and said “look he’s over there – why aren’t you making a fuss?” But because there wasn’t an election going on, there was nothing. It wasn’t a real problem. I’ve been going to India at least once a year for years and it’s usually fine.
Were you disappointed at the failure of politicians in India to stand up for freedom of speech over this?
Yes. And truthfully I don’t think the organizers of the festival handled it as well as they could have done. But everything colluded to create that problem and I would hope that as I was able to demonstrate by going to another seminar, it’s not really a recurring problem, it was a one-off blip.
By Ashley Fantz, CNN
Watch Fareed Zakaria’s full interview with author Salman Rushdie on GPS, Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET
Manufactured outrage such as that seen in recent protests in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere is “much more prevalent and much more widespread” than it was when The Satanic Verses was published, the book’s author, Salman Rushdie, has told Fareed Zakaria.
Rushdie sparked controversy, and enraged Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in 1989 with his novel The Satanic Verses, a book widely praised by critics but condemned as blasphemous by Khomeini.
Back then, a fatwa was issued, and on Monday, Imam Hojatoleslam Hassan Sanei raised his little-known organization's original bounty on Rushdie by half a million dollars, to $3.3 million, according to Iran's Mehr news agency. Sanei’s organization, the 15th of Khordad Foundation, made news when it first offered its bounty, but it had in recent years largely faded from public view.
By Madhav Nalapat, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Madhav Nalapat holds the UNESCO Peace Chair at Manipal University in India. This is the latest in a series looking at how the world sees the U.S. election, and what the Obama presidency has meant for ties with other countries. The views expressed are the author's own.
Condoleezza Rice’s appointment as U.S. secretary of state in 2005 saw India become a priority for the George W. Bush administration. Indeed, in July that year, President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a nuclear deal that would free India of some of the technology and other restrictions first imposed on it after the 1974 Pokhran test.
While the center of gravity of the Clinton administration’s diplomacy towards India remained that country’s relationship with Pakistan, Bush expanded the dialogue to place emphasis on cooperation in space, military training, education and other sectors that had been neglected since the 1960s, when the U.S.-India partnership that helped bring about the Green Revolution in India dissolved because of Indira Gandhi’s alleged post-Allende obsession that the CIA was planning a similar fate for her. During the final couple of years of the Bush II presidency, it became easier for Indian scientists to visit the United States and for talks to commence on future hi-tech cooperation.
By Milan Vaishnav, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Milan Vaishnav is an associate in the South Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The views expressed are his own.
An estimated more than 600 million Indians spent their Tuesday without electricity as the country experienced a second day of record power outages, further deepening the crisis that began on Monday when 300 million were left powerless. The “Great Power Outage”—described as the biggest blackout in history—had an immediate impact on the lives of Indians across more than twenty states.
India’s rail system, one of the largest in the world, ground to a halt. Mine workers were trapped underground when the outages struck. Government offices across northern and eastern India were shuttered. And the fallout from the blackout could have been even worse except for the fact that millions of Indians, long frustrated by the country’s endemic power cuts, have invested in their own diesel-operated generators to keep the lights on when the grid fails.
By Fareed Zakaria
Are things looking gloomy for India? The country’s annual economic growth rate slipped to 5.3 percent in the first quarter of this year, the slowest in a decade, and a poll out last week shows analysts slashing their growth forecasts for this year.
Yet India remains an incredibly promising economy.
First, India overall is still very poor, and so there’s a lot of room to move up. Its per capita GDP is still only about a third that of China’s, and it still has huge advantages in terms of low cost of labor; it has a long way to go before it even becomes a middle income country.
Editor's note: Ravi Agrawal is the Senior Producer of "Fareed Zakaria GPS." You can follow him on Twitter @RaviAgrawalCNN.
By Ravi Agrawal, CNN
What's happened to India? Seemingly every day, new reports emerge of its slide. Growth has dropped to 5.3% – half the rate it was in 2010, and the lowest in nearly a decade. The rupee has hit a record low against the dollar, depreciating more than 25% in one year. Inflation is rampant; the deficit is growing; reforms have stalled.
Worse is to come, if you believe the ratings agencies. Standard & Poor's and Fitch have both given India their lowest investment grade and are on a negative watch.
What happened to "Incredible India," the capital "I" of the BRIC countries? FULL POST
In an interview Tuesday with CNN, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton applauded India's efforts to reduce its imports of Iranian oil but urged it to cut them further to keep pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program.
"India has reduced its dependence on Iranian oil. I know their refineries have stopped asking for orders to purchase Iranian oil. So they certainly have taken steps," Clinton said. "India shares exactly our goal; their goal is our goal, and that is to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons nation."
What role does India play in global diplomacy, specifically with Iran? Here's a re-post from a March look at India's "friendly diplomacy" to offer some perspective:
India is America's friend, Israel's friend and Iran's friend. FULL POST
When U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decided to make Kolkata her first port of call on her visit to India this week, it took more than few people by surprise. Even in India, it wasn’t the most obvious choice for the in-demand diplomat to spend a day of her tight schedule in country’s eastern metropolis.
But in recent months, Kolkata, the capital of the state of West Bengal, led by its mercurial chief minister, has become a key battlefield on which the fight over foreign investment in India is playing out, and a high-profile visit may go a long way in advancing the U.S. position.
Editor's Note: Shashi Tharoor, a former Indian Minister of State for External Affairs and UN Under-Secretary General, is a member of India’s parliament and the author of a dozen books, including India: From Midnight to the Millennium and Nehru: the Invention of India. For more from Tharoor, visit Project Syndicate's great new website, or check it out on Facebook and Twitter.
By Shashi Tharoor, Project Syndicate
India and Pakistan are enjoying one of the better periods in their turbulent relationship. Recent months have witnessed no terrorist incidents, no escalating rhetoric, and no diplomatic flashpoints. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari just made a successful, if brief, personal visit to India (mainly to visit a famous shrine, but with a lunch with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh thrown in). Sixteen years after India granted Pakistan most-favored-nation (MFN) trading status, Pakistan is on the verge of reciprocating. The peace process is resuming, and the two sides are talking to each other cordially at all levels. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Brahma Chellaney is Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research and is the author of Asian Juggernaut and the forthcoming Water: Asia’s New Battlefield. For more from Chellaney, visit Project Syndicate's website, or check it out on Facebook and Twitter.
By Brahma Chellaney, Project Syndicate
As it prepares to hold its latest annual summit in New Delhi on March 28-29, the BRICS grouping – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – remains a concept in search of a common identity and institutionalized cooperation. That is hardly surprising, given that these countries have very different political systems, economies, and national goals, and are located in very different parts of the world. Yet the five emerging economies pride themselves on forming the first important non-Western global initiative.
The lack of common ground among the BRICS has prompted cynics to call the grouping an acronym with no substance. To its protagonists, however, it is a product of today’s ongoing global power shifts, and has the potential to evolve into a major instrument in shaping the architecture of global governance – the midwife of a new international order.
After all, the BRICS economies are likely to be the most important source of future global growth. They represent more than a quarter of the Earth’s landmass, over 41% of its population, almost 25% of world GDP, and nearly half of all foreign-exchange and gold reserves. The BRICS, in fact, might also be dubbed the R-5, after its members’ currencies – the real, ruble, rupee, renminbi, and rand. FULL POST