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tv   Dateline London  BBC News  March 5, 2018 3:30am-4:01am GMT

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the balance of power — following the italian general election. no political grouping is thought to have won an outright majority — but five star — which was established less than ten years ago — has emerged as the single biggest party. the united states has issued its strongest condemnation yet of the syrian government assault on the rebel—held enclave of eastern ghouta. president bashar al assad said the offensive would continue — and dismissed assessments of the humanitarian situation in the enclave as ridiculous lies. the annual session of china's parliament — the national people's congress — has opened in the capital — beijing. the parliament is set to endorse the constitutional amendments that will remove the two—term limit for the presidency. this will allow president xi jinping to stay in power indefinitely. now on bbc news, it's dateline london. hello and a very warm
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welcome to dateline london. i'm carrie gracie. this week we discuss the brexit talks, look at the upcoming elections in italy and weigh the political implications in china of the possibility of indefinite rule for president xi jinping. my guests this week are the chinese writer diane wei liang, ned temko of the christian science monitor, annalisa piras, italian film—maker and broadcaster, and the american podcaster michael goldfarb. welcome to you all. let's go for brexit first. ned, you are watching it closely. who's up and who's down on the brexit escalator? i suppose it was a good week for theresa may, and you couldn't say that much in recent months,
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but she made a big speech on friday and gave us a little more clarity about what she wants from brexit, which is to say, get out of the single market, customs union, and give this bespoke agreement which will guarantee pretty much unchanged access, she hopes, in areas of the european economy and in regulatory agencies that are important to britain. so that was good. much more importantly, she finally in publicjettisoned this kind of flippant but obviously charming and entertaining line of people like borisjohnson that britain can have its cake and eat it. so she said nobody‘s going to get everything they want. absolutely, and she said britain will have to accept eu rulings, and it will have to pay if it wants to be part of the regulatory agencies. the problem is that from here on out, she's not negotiating only with her own party,
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and now it gets tough, because there are 27 other countries. and annalisa, what do you make of the argument coming from some europeans but this is just uk membership of the eu but without the badge? absolutely. it looks very much like that. the view from brussels was less positive than what ned hasjust described, because yes, she has made a shift, and it is slightly clearer, but she was told she cannot have her cake and eat it, and she was told that she cannot cherry pick. and what she came out with was a smaller cake with a lot of cherries in it. so it's not going to work. it feels like there is some kind of constant repetition, a tedious insistence on something
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that is not going to happen, that is not on the table. not a small cake, not a big cake, not the cherries, and i think in brussels everybody is getting really, really tired. and yet, michael, it was welcomed widely across the party. she seems to have done what in her own party seemed if not impossible then improbable — to kind of get everyone behind her with the speech she made on friday. that's the point, isn't it? here we are, we are approaching the one—year deadline until the date we are supposed to leave the european union, and she is still having to placate that wing of her party that used to be called euro—sceptic and now is called brexiteer. 25 years ago this was going on. john major had to do this all the time. he had to eventually stand outside downing street and say to the cabinet, back me or sack me, and to think that 25 years later,
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and in some cases it is the same people, they are still holding not just their own prime minister, government, to ransom, they are holding the country to ransom. meanwhile over in brussels they are waiting to see what they are going to do. one of the things she reiterated several times in the speech, and this is becoming a mantra for the brexiteers, take back control of our money and our borders. we are not in the euro. we have control of our money. we are not in schengen, we have control of our borders. and in fact by putting the kind of unspoken border that still exists between northern ireland and the republic of ireland back in play as a political issue, they have created a level of chaos. and one last thing, about 25 years ago. when you do a negotiation in brussels, everybody knows nobody knows a thing, because the negotiators are professional.
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they keep their mouths shut. we shouldn't be talking about in public what we want and what they want, because the real negotiations happen under cover of darkness, and journalists spend hours trying to figure out exactly what the sticking points are. there was quite a bit of detail in that speech, to be fair. it did get into the nitty—gritty more than previously. but i want to ask diane, this is so different from the politics of china, what we have been discussing. from your position, what you make of the week we have just seen in terms of theresa may's speech, in terms of the draft legal document that we saw in the eu earlier in the week? to me, it isn't much of an escalator going up and down, it is a conveyor belt going round and round. and theresa may always says, i have made it clear. it has never been clear. and it is 20 months later, she still has the sound bites. to me, theresa may is a typical middle manager who has no vision,
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who doesn't know where this thing is going and worse yet, she is very much boxed in by her party. i agree with michael, she is still doing internal politics within the tory party. this is the point where the country needs leadership. she hasn't provided that leadership for the past 20 months. she is not providing it now. ok, let's move on. i know many of our viewers will have opinions on this. if you want to give us your opinions on brexit, do tweet us, send an e—mail. diane was talking about a country that she sees as having a middle managerfor a leader, so let's move to the country that she is most interested in, which is of course china. the chinese communist party has proposed 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. the national congress opens on monday, so this dramatic change could be imminent. in china and around the world, the question is being asked — does 64—year—old xi jinping intend to be president for life? diane, i'm going to go straight back to you. you see, this is what we see as for the chinese, a strong man, strong leadership, however, is this really what we call leadership, orjusta power grab? xijinping certainly has the ambition to be the ruler of china for a lifelong time. this for someone who had grown up under mao's communism is a clear step back in history. why is it a step backwards? a lot of outsiders will say, it is that type of totalitarian autocratic thing going on in china for decades, don't they have a one—party state anyway, what's the difference?
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the difference is, if you look at how china developed in the past 30 years, the reason china could prosper was because deng xiaoping put in reforms after chairman mao's death, the first was to move into a free market economy, and the second was to put in institutions to end the single person rule until death, which very much collapse the economy and one of the most populous countries of the world. so we have a collective leadership since the late 1970s. we have fixed term successions, every ten years the leadership gets thrown out and a new one comes in. since 1988. and yet xiaoping, who you mentioned, who was the supreme leader who came behind chairman mao, he only ever led the association in the last few years of his life,
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yet he was paramount leader. why does xi jinping need the title of president any longer? can't he have his years in the spotlight and then move behind the curtain? xijinping has had lots of years in the sun, but this is a man who grew up in the isolated compound. he is the son of one of the great ten marshals in china who founded chinese communism. so he grew up with this entitlement that he belongs to that elite, and he sees duty, perhaps his destiny, to rule china and to rule china with absolute power. yet his supporters would say that's not fair, that this is a man with a vision, it's a vision for a huge country, a superpower on the rise, and it will take time and central control to put that vision in place, and that's why he needs
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to stay on in power longer than his allotted ten years. the problem with personalised leadership is that then you are discounting all the institutions which china doesn't have very many to begin with, and then you create this leadership that would be more risky in terms of policy—making. what was to say, xi jinping could decide to push the red button one day. and it creates, in the long—term, instability, a vacuum, because there is no—one who would be in succession. let's open this out now to everyone. ned, china is no longer the inward looking isolated country it was at the death of mao. it is a huge superpower with influence in every corner of the globe. what are the risks here, are there any for the rest of us? i think there is a risk for the world, and i don't want to overstate this notion
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of china taking over the world, but there are initiatives, there is obviously a huge expansion, not onlyjust politically, but in terms of trade, economics, infrastructure, by china in the wider world. i think the danger is more general, that there is a kind of dawning of an age of new authoritarianism. you have people like erdogan in turkey, you have xi without term limits, you have putin in moscow doing his soviet shtick before the election, we have bigger missiles than you do. and there was always a balance of kind of this ballast of western european democracy and particularly the united states, an imperfect country that sometimes did imperfect things, but when it was present in the international arena, and when it was led in such a way that the world looked to it for leadership, there was always a kind of curb
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on overly imbalanced trends like this. so you see an american vacuum? i see an america in retreat and an american absence too often from international affairs. let's put it to the other part—time american around the table. michael? you know, i think it's fascinating to listen to diane talk about this, because it reminded me of a man i know in china who was born in a mud hut village in 1956, '57, we learn famine, tens of millions died, he was ready for university at the time of the cultural revolution and didn't get to university until he was in his 30s. now he is a professor of philosophy, he makes a terrific living, his standard of living is every bit the equal of mine. and i do wonder if enough millions of people also tell that story if they would have a different view about the chinese leadership.
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we in the west, from the moment the soviet union collapsed, decided that we were all going to be in republican democracies, we were all going to vote and so on, but if you look at it historically, neither china nor russia has a long tradition of electoral democratic politics. it's not surprising that 25 years after this all began, and with two or three global economic crises, the strong men decide to be strong. the question i was asking is, do you see risks? of course there is a risk. china is relevant to all of us in very deep ways, and looking back at its imperial or communist history, succession in china is a dangerous time, so xijinping is 64, his health is good, but what happens if something happens to him? this is the problem, and martyn wolf in the financial times had
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an excellent essay about that very point this week. two things happen — one is that rivers of corruption flow to the leader. we see it a little bit in washington, where people who know trump personally get deals, get out of steeljust before he slaps a tariff on it. that is a danger, and then there is the succession question. when he's 80, is he going to swim across the river to prove he is still hale and hearty? he just might. then you create a succession problem. the wisdom of the ten—year thing from deng xioaping has been, i have got ten years, and then i can continue to have political power behind the scenes. this is inviting a potential problem, but it is also a potential problem that may not come, he is 64 and looks very vigorous, but it may not come for quite some time. annalisa, what about the question that ned raised in a way, what about the question for europe?
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liberal democracy, it is who we believe in europe that we are and the uk, and yet this shift as ned describes it to authoritarians? it is extremely worrying of course for the rest of the world, because china has given over and over again evidence that it is supporting a kind of expansionistic territorial policy. it is increasing its military spending massively, so it is very bad news for the rest of the world. for europe it is a wake—up call. we are seeing a return to authoritarianism. and an end to the europe that was formed at the end of the second world war to replace the ease off force with the rule of law. we are seeing like the europe was formed at the end of the second world war.
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it now has a very historic role to play because the european union is based on international rules and it is based on the fact that everybody plays by the rules. in the world that looks like it is breaking bad, there is a strong need for europeans to wake up and smell the coffee and say, we need to respect a form of shared rules around the world. let's move back now to european politics. to italy, and another strongman in the spotlight, because italians go to the polls this weekend. some observers expect a return to centre stage for 81—year—old billionaire and four—times prime minister, silvio berlusconi. let's put that straight back to annalisa. do you expect his bloc to win? all the polls point to that, i'm afraid. they point to nobody really having an outright majority, but a coalition led by silvio berlusconi is set to get the highest number of votes.
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it is a very heterogenous coalition. which is kind of, on the face of it, amazing that you have someone who is currently not allowed to serve in politics because of his history, all the so—called bunga bunga parties, and you ask, how can we have this, in a modern state with the european responsibility we were talking about, it seems a bit dissonant to be re—electing an 81—year—old with this history? dissonant, yes, but not entirely. if you think about it, berlusconi is the original populist, you think about the similarities between him and trump, so it is coming back, nationalism is coming back, xenophobia is coming back. his brand of populism is very attractive, and he is also the devil you know. if you have been that long
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in politics, 30 years, you move from being a newcomer to being a statesman. a national treasure! national treasure, but having said that, it would probably be a disaster, because the coalition that he has put together is the same that failed miserably when he was last time in power, so you have got the extreme right, the fascists that in these times are even more extreme than they used to be. they have been emboldened by the anti—migrant feeling which in italy is very, very strong. and very strong, i suppose, because a lot of migrants are coming over the sea from africa and their first stop is italy. more than 630,000 people from africa have come to italy in the last few years and it has a massive impact on the political landscape, so berlusconi is leading this coalition of the northern league that is xenophobic and racist, they want to deport everybody overnight, and the fascists
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which are very extreme as well. and they do not really get along. so if he ever manages to form a government, it is going to be very tricky. michael, you follow italy. what is your take on all of this? for the last few years, we have heard of two things. one is the five star movement, which will probably get the most votes. for people less familiar with that? that was started by beppe grillo, who is a comedian, and he has stepped back now because it is a serious party and he is not a serious person. i believe the five star party runs rome? they have rome, and they have turin, but they have not been very successful. it is one thing to be the insurgent party and get a lot of votes. when you have the power, and you're not successful, what does that do to your vote?
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the current government has been successful in terms of pulling italy out from the deep, deep economic crisis that it was in in 2011 when the europe crisis hit it almost as hard as it hit greece. and now that the economy is growing reasonably well... not that well. no, but in comparison to where it was five or six years ago, and unemployment is down. this is traditionally the route to electoral success. and the fact that he is not being successful says to me that yet again there is another centre left party that doesn't have a charismatic leader, that isn't able to pull together the necessary coalition of voters to win elections, and i think that is true in the us where the democrats somehow couldn't beat donald trump, and even here where jeremy corbyn
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is polling well, but it isn't clear that he has pulled together enough extra voters. so what is coming? it is notjust leadership. annalisa is right to point out the importance of immigration, asylum. those are issues that are not only coming to the fore in europe, they are easily weaponised by populist, nationalist nativists. you raise the point of the eu's challenge in kind of coming together in the landscape we see in the wider world. one of the interesting things is that in addition to not liking immigrants, asylum seekers, etc, these parties tend to not much like the european union either. and you wonder whether there will be a kind of drifting apart... it is a paradoxical situation. you need more europe, but the crisis of the european society, you can use europe as a scapegoat for a lot of problems. but the thing about italy is that contrary to most populist parties
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in the rest of europe, the italian populist parties, they are not euro—sceptic. they are almost all in agreement that if italy is to get out of its economic weaknesses, the last thing they need is to get out of the european union. diane, you were at the start kind of criticising theresa may for being a middle manager rather than a strong leader. when you look at this italian electoral story and the possible comeback of silvio berlusconi and the discussion about the lack of strong leadership in the centre left, what is your take on that? italy to me is not one conveyor belts, there are ten conveyor belts, and the italian government is always changing, there are always elections, always new governments, and there are political issues such as immigration. italy has a serious problem with fundamental economic issues, and italy has not been growing
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in real terms for the past ten years. and as the eighth largest economy in the world, italians are not seeing the benefit of economic recovery. and i think that is a major issue for italy. whoever wins the election. they need to start governing. they need to start reforming the country. it has a lot of institutional issues embedded with the economy. and do you see a contrast then with china? very economically successful in the past 30 years without any elections. you are describing a world with too many elections to handle, which is economically unsuccessful. is that a contrast that you would recognise? this is something that the chinese government very much utilises in their rhetoric. look at the rest of the world, we used to look to america, the west, europe, for inspiration, but look
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at the endless elections, a lot of politics, and we need stability. we need a strong leader. we need to focus on economic... we are running out of time, butjust a quick word from everybody on what we come to the end of this programme, which is almost a look at the political model. who wants to go first? annalisa? certainly as an italian and looking at the italian model, there are serious doubts about how representative democracy has been serving the interests of the italian citizens. and there is more and more reflection and debate about what has happened in china. as in, people admiring the chinese model? people asking themselves, the long—term planning, this kind of determination in pushing something regardless of the ins and outs of the political instability, is this something that we need to look at? it is a heresy because we believe in democracy. indeed. michael, a quick word?
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it is about national purpose. in the 25 years after the second world war, america had unparalleled growth. they made up for the great depression and the dislocation of the second world war. i grew up in that period, and ever since then it has been a slow decline. china has even longer to make up for. it has people as i was describing earlier to diane who have national purpose, and i don't think they think too much about the politics of the situation, but eventually they will reach full capacity, too, and they will have time to reflect on politics. ned? i am not in favour of abolishing term limits for trump! be careful what you wish for. those of us who have worked in countries as foreign correspondents... you have been in the soviet union before. was it churchill who said that democracy is the worst form of government except every other form. and on that very important and thoughtful point, we will have to leave it.
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thank you all so very much for coming in. that's all we have time for. do join us next week, same time same place. but for now, thank you for watching and goodbye. hello again. thankfully, conditions are slowly going to improve across all portions of the british isles in the coming week. things turning a little milder. it will be an unsettled week of weather. there will be some further snow, mostly but not exclusively on the hills of northern britain. it will be an unsettled week thanks
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to that area of low pressure but around it, we've already seen the first signs of relatively mild air trying to get into the southern counties of england and wales. as that mild air moves up over the snowfields to the north, mist and fog will be a problem over the first part of monday. showers if not longer spells of rain for southern england and wales. then we will bring moisture in from the north sea to turn to snow across the high ground of scotland. with that low pressure, it will be an unsettled week, but at least the weather for many parts of the british isles is going to be a good deal kinder. welcome to bbc news, broadcasting to viewers in north america and around the globe. my name is nkem ifejika. our top stories: no outright winner in italy's general election — but the anti—establishment five star movement says it holds the balance of power. as syrian government forces advance into eastern ghouta, president assad insists the offensive will go on.
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heading north — a delegation from south korea is leaving for pyongyang — hoping to ease tensions on the peninsula. and — lights — cameras — action — the oscars are under way — sam rockwell and alisonjanney among the winners. —— allison janney
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