China needs women to put it on path to progress
Your magazine recently ran several articles which reminded readers of the idiosyncrasies within China’s political system, including an analysis of the way in which General Secretary Xi Jinping has consolidated power by selecting loyalists to serve alongside him on the Standing Committee of the Communist Party (‘Loyalty First’, November 2022.) The piece by Duncan Bartlett quoted Professor Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute, who stated that ‘none of them have shown expertise on how to handle the economy or the financial sector’.
Professor Tsang may also have noticed another striking point about China’s current leadership. No women were appointed to the Politburo for the first time in more than two decades. Yet there were several women who could have taken on such a responsibility. Shen Yiqin, the head of Guizhou province, would have been eminently suitable. Also, why was Sun Chunlan blocked from joining the powerful Politburo Standing Committee? Was she seen as less loyal to Xi Jinping than his ‘yes men’?
As other nations in Asia have discovered, the empowerment of women goes in lockstep with economic progress. I fear that as China moves backwards in terms of gender equality, it will face unwelcome economic as well as social consequences.
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In celebrating Sunak, Indians should examine their own attitudes to diversity
Congratulations to Britain’s new prime minister Rishi Sunak. In November, your magazine noted that he became the first British Asian and the first practising Hindu to be appointed prime minister of the United Kingdom, following his unopposed election as Conservative Party leader. (‘Sunak’s Ascent’, November 2022).
Britain’s new prime minister hails from a Punjabi Khatri family from Gujranwala (now in Pakistan). In India, the celebrations were tempered by concern about worrying trends within our own country. As one member of parliament from the opposition Congress party asked on Twitter, ‘As Indians, we celebrate the ascent of Rishi Sunak but let’s honestly ask if it could happen here.’ The BJP believes India should be governed by Hindus and primarily for Hindus. It is treating Christianity and Islam as alien religions that should be controlled, even though their adherents have lived in our country for centuries. There is also a risk that followers of other minority faiths may lose their unique identities.
Is it not time to fully celebrate the diversity within our own country?
Give Japan a permanent seat at the UN’s top table
Your correspondent Amit Agnihotri mentioned the debate about reform of the United Nations in his article about the Ukraine war (‘No world order?’,November, 2022). He pointed out that over the past decade, as Asia has assumed a more central position on the global stage, countries in the region have begun demanding a reformed UN, particularly an expanded UN Security Council, to reflect the realities of the contemporary world.
An obvious candidate for such an expanded council is Japan. Since World War Two, the Japanese Self Defence Force has never fired a bullet in anger. In fact, Japan will assume a seat on the UN Security Council in 2023 but it will not be permanent, so Japan will not have the power to veto decisions reached by the permanent members, including Russia and China.
Successive Japanese prime ministers, including the current leader Fumio Kishida, have made compelling cases for nuclear disarmament. Japan is acutely aware of the implications of war and is respected on the international stage.
Of course, one can expect pushback against such a plan from China. But a stronger Asian presence at the UN would be welcomed by most other countries in the region.
Kolkata, West Bengal, India