People against corruption
Neville de Silva’s ongoing narrative in your magazine about Sri Lanka’s troubles under successive ‘leaders’ (a term I use loosely) is as informative as it is eloquent, though it makes sobering reading. The dire problems facing Sri Lanka – almost all a result of economic mismanagement and corruption – cry out for a new, competent and honest administration to even begin solving them. Any incoming government would need to rapidly secure international loans or some other form of support to stabilise the economy and resume the importation of commodities such as food and fuel. And, maybe even more crucially, it would have to take a draconian line against corruption.
As for the likelihood of this happening, I despair. For, as Mr de Silva notes, corruption runs deep in Sri Lanka’s ruling class, shown (in his September article, ‘A War of Words’) by his citing of the current president’s uncle supporting and even promoting police who were involved in violent, unprofessional conduct.
It may be that only the ordinary people of Sri Lanka, in reporting instances of nepotism and conflict of interest to organisations such as Transparency International, can make a dent in this endemic disease.
The Editorial in your September issue (‘China’s uphill task’) illustrates the lessons of history that China and other nations might learn regarding America’s determination to ‘protect its values anywhere in the world, however remote that place might be’.
Yet, despite their very different values and political systems, and the rivalry that could easily tip over into aggression, in this geopolitical landscape (much changed since the days of US-Soviet rivalry), China and the United States also have a high degree of economic interdependence that might oblige them to think more about – as the Editorial’s final argument posits –the notion of sharing rather than fighting over power and influence.
The write-up on The Democracy Forum’s seminaraboutthe expansion of Chinese nuclear capabilityin the September edition led me to watch the recorded event, ‘Drivers of China’s Nuclear Build-Up’. The calibre of all the panelists was very impressive, as were their well-informed insights into this complex, worrisome issue.
Nuclear weapons as a source of China’s global status was a key point highlighted during the discussion, and this flagged up the importance of status to China generally – a cultural as well as a political aspect of the Chinese psyche which the West should perhaps try harder to understand and incorporate into its dealings with China.
But especially percipient and enlightening, I felt, wasJohn Erath’s comment that the most important level of competition between China and the West is intellectual, in the fields of exchanging ideas and information, which in turn, he suggested, will create an environment more conducive to (nuclear) arms control.
This seminar was just what is needed in our increasingly polarized societies with their too often one-sided mindsets: ahealthy, balanced discussion in which differences of opinion are aired without leading to a shutting down of debate.
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