Living in turbulent times in the West

Updated: 2016-03-22 07:44

By Chris Peterson(China Daily)

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If, like me, you are an avid follower of international relationships, then things seem to have suddenly gotten a bit complicated, at least in the West.

China is focusing strongly on its 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), with an enthusiastic welcome from the head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris and plaudits from a number of analysts; however, all of a sudden Washington, London and the European Union are all in turmoil, for different reasons.

So here's my highly personal take on what's going on, and what may happen - it's called sticking your neck out.

Back in May last year, David Cameron's Conservative Party won a surprise victory over the opposition Labour Party, which has collapsed in complete disarray, and continues to be an ineffective opposition. A kind of national stability followed as Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne continued his austerity policy, bringing the country's finances back up to speed.

A key pillar of the government's strategy rapidly became clear - a strengthened relationship with a China that was growing ever-stronger on the world financial and diplomatic stages was, and continues to be, central to London's policy.

Back in Whitehall, things suddenly turned a bit nasty and a bit complicated. The Conservative Party has long been divided over the issue of EU membership. Cameron, as part of his manifesto ahead of last May's general election, pledged a referendum on continued UK membership, as a way of getting the so-called Eurosceptics on board. He probably wishes now he'd been a little less specific in his promise - the referendum is due in under 100 days and it's tearing the party apart.

Living in turbulent times in the West

In Europe itself, the three crises faced by the 28-strong group of nations don't get any better. There has been a slightly improbable deal with non-member Turkey, in which Turkey agreed to take back migrants from Syria, Iraq and other places in return for cash to deal with the logistics, and a promise that Syrians would be accepted from Turkey after appropriate screening. Plus negotiations for Turkey to join the EU would be accelerated.

I doubt it will work. And in the meantime the EU's open-borders policy in mainland Europe is under threat from the migrant issue and recent terror attacks in Paris. And by the way, the Greek debt crisis continues.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, a man described by some commentators as a misogynistic, racist blowhard looks set to win the US Republican presidential nomination. Blimey, as my fellow London cockneys would say.

So here's where I stick my neck out. I confidently forecast that eventually common sense will prevail in the UK, and the referendum will be won by those wanting to stay.

In the US, reason will prevail, and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton will win the presidential campaign for the Democrats, becoming the first woman in the White House.

As I said, the above is purely a personal prediction, based on 50 years of watching the parade.

Time will tell.

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