China's next leader will again be an engineer

In Sweden and in the US politicians are rarely engineers whereas Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping, who is likely to take over after Mr Hu in 2012, both are. Engineers make things and calculate things but are not generally known to be social agents. Xi Jinping is not as young either as the current leaders seem to be in the US, Britain and Sweden. One would rather think that lawyers and political scientists, if anything, would make political careers now and then.

Mr Xi ended up on the country side during the Culture Revolution and had to do physical work. With this experience he is probably a person that is all set for at least part of the Western paradigm of developing technology and science. As a Communist Party member since 1979 he is probably steeped in one-party lore, however. There is nothing as refreshing as healthy opposition.

I'm trying to get a feeling for if China will have as a goal the next 15 years or so to catch up with the US economically or if they rather want to develop their country and get rid of all the poverty. After all, it is quite a feat to have gotten rid of so much poverty already as they have. Europe would have to have developed Africa for mobilizing an equal number of people. It would be nice if they incorporated themselves into the world economy by floating their currency as today's column in The Financial Times points out. They are not that poor any longer.

I think this is the problem with China right now. It is difficult to see what they are up to internationally. Will they try to export state capitalism or will they move towards democracy. I can't help thinking about what is required of a Western democratic state. General virtues like courage, law-abidingness, and loyalty. Social virtues like independence, open-mindedness. Economic virtues like work ethic, capacity to delay self-gratification and adaptability to economic and technological change. Political virtues like the capacity to discern and respect the rights of other's, willingness to demand only what can be paid for, ability to evaluate the performance of those in office and a willingness to engage in public discourse.

What they seem to lack most is the ability to question authority which is important for monitoring elected officials and perhaps to elect them in the first place. They might be low on the social virtues as well. The question then is how important this difference is? Will the difference just mean that the Chinese will not reach so high salaries, something that will make state capitalism competitive relative the West?

The Western society evolves thanks to individualism that all the time reaches into the unknown and casts old ways to the side. China has imported a lot of know how over the last decades but will they stagnate relative the West due to lack of individualism? Or has individualism had its day in the history of man and that nowadays "armies" move on each problem like building a computer inexpensively. I don't think so. Focus on the individual with due respect for his or hers collective will still win the day in search for the unknown. While I'm at it, I would also vouch for freedom of thought.


It hailed today. The winter is here.

Today I moved the lawn for the last time this year. There was frost in the grass and lots of fallen leaves. In the end of July I began my vacation by purchasing a pair of jogging shoes. I was going to take care of my body I vouched. I did actually. I'm taking walks. I got an iPod which made walking more fun. I realized I had listened too little to music lately. An other health issue, in my humble opinion. The iPod, by the way, is a true symbol of technological advancement. Designed in California.

As the rain now pours down my windows and darkness is falling, I ponder the change the subscription of some high standard papers have made. After analyzing what world view I got with freely available information I now settled for only procuring data on papers I subscribe to. There is much less on Iran, Afghanistan, and the Middle East and more on the economical conflicts globally and in Europe. The result is that I only spend half the time searching for data which frees up time for contemporary political philosophy. I follow the debate concerning the new battle between democratic capitalism and state capitalism. It is quite philosophical as well. My selection of papers seems to work because it gathers at least 90% of previous data in a more elaborate shape.

The unfortunate casualty of a Swedish soldier and the wounding of two additional ones caused quite a fuzz in Sweden. The opposition stirred and poked in a doubtful manner in order to argue their pre-election line on the future Swedish intention in Afghanistan. They want to bring home the troops earlier than the government. One of the two main dailies Dagens Nyheter joined the opposition yesterday. The death of a soldier should not change much and the large review by the US military of the situation in December is not here yet. The problem is that the center-right government does not have a majority of the seats in parliament and need to strike a deal with the opposition about Afghanistan. Sweden has a tradition of broad parliamentary solutions to foreign adventures. It looks good right now for the prospect of a deal.

However, I don't like when Sten Tolgfors, the minster of defence, says that Sweden is not at war in Afghanistan because it would mean that Swedes do something else there under the command of US leaders. I think I understand why though. The mission becomes an easier sell in Sweden when yo say the you fight for peace meaning that you are not at war.

People are apparently worried over the leap of fate that the British governing coalition launched just recently. Someone said the economics is an art, not a science, and that not much could be said about the success of the squeeze of Britain. I wish them good luck. Its a great country.

I have to chose whether to embrace the art economy or history for the future work I'm trying to do understanding international politics. It seems like it is easier for me to understand the writers in the Financial Times that are grounded in history, rather than economy. This is a good clue I gather. History is closer to psychology than economy in my opinion which might be the reason for this.

Angela Merkel made a stir recently when she recognized the problem of multiculturalism by saying that it had failed in Germany. Afghanistan is also global multiculturalism. Rosengård in Malmö is multiculturalism. Making states like Iran fit in is multiculturalism. Preventing them from becoming failed nations--failed multiculturalism. Will Kymlicka, a political philosopher specializing on multiculturalism, says that multiculturalism is the most active research field in political philosophy right now.

Why do we humans turn against foreigners? Even the Bible says we should be friendly with them. It might be more of a question for psychology than philosophy. James Watson, interviewed on BigThink.com says the 21st century is when psychology is becoming a science due to the sequencing of genomes for relationships between behavior and genetics to surface. He also says political correctness is holding the research back. Hopefully this will ease up because multiculturalism is a large problem both in Europe and the US and is linked to the problem West have with Islam. This is why the Afghanistan mission is so important. Some kind of deal has to be made there so that the global tensions between the West and Islam are eased so that a "Clash of Civilizations" can be avoided to escalate.


To give birth?

Lena Ek, a liberal MEP from Sweden, informs today on her blog about the directive about a compulsory job leave for giving birth of 6 weeks in the EU. As a liberal she is questioning the fact that parents cannot decide for themselves and that a mother that wants to return to work earlier than after six weeks is prevented to do this.

I agree that it ought to be up to parents to decide but on the other hand it is in my humble opinion probably quite nice for most women to get some time off with the child after such a physiologically and psychologically exhausting adventure as a pregnancy. I was under the impression that nursing a child is a built in beneficial procedure for the development of the child as well as the parent-child relationship.

Apparently, just like in the burka debate, it is a question of protecting women in countries lacking proper regulations for parents to get leave of absence after pregnancies. This makes it difficult for a person not acquainted with all the details from the 27 member countries to really have an opinion on the compulsory nature of the directive. Applying a utilitarian approach, it just might be the case that many more women would be protected than women that want to get back to work before six weeks would be unhappy.

In some families it is perhaps better economically or careerwise that the husband stays home but as I said I don't think this would be a majority decision. Actually, I don't understand why which parent is not an optional choice for the sake of gender equality? Most women would probably stay at home anyway but it would leave an option open for ambitious women. I guess, the Continent is a little more conservative.

Update: Apparently the EUObserver and EurActive think it is a 20 week maternity leave. It is an interesting problem though since it pits biology against gender equality.

Update October 23, 2010: In today's editorial of Göteborgs Posten one finds the solution to the problem of 6 weeks or 20 weeks. You have to be home in six weeks but it is possible to stay home in 20 weeks.

Multiculturalism in Europe?

Muddle through seems to be typically European on important issues such as whether or not the EU should be federal or member states should have the most say. The latest in this debate is apparently that the EU is seeking to secure its own revenue. Perhaps we will come to see the EU against the member states?

Another muddle through issue is that of multiculturalism vs pure racial delight. Germany is hotly debating how to select one or the other of continuing immigration of skilled labor for the obvious need thereof or if the conclusion of Merkel's comment of a failed multiculturalism attempt will mean end of immigration. Germany is now actually a net emigration country.

In Sweden people seem to debate what Merkel meant with her comment. It is true that Germany have given citizenships based on blood links and prevented Turks from gaining citizenship, sometimes all the way to the third generation. On the other hand, there are 3,000 mosques in Germany. With the Swedish experience where multiculturalism also have failed, if Merkel is right, because we are seeing an anti-foreigner active party entering the Riksdag. So what is Merkel saying when tightening integration probably will not work, since Sweden have tried that? On top of this it seems like the Swedes are more tolerant to foreigners.

Angela Merkel went to Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey for help in ordinating language training for her Turkish speaking prospective Germans. The same Erdogan had given a speech in Germany to 15,000 Turks, in Turkish, where he said that they should not integrate (help is on the way?). Erdogan had however now agreed to language training for Turkish immigrants. A change of hearts? Germany is against Turkish EU membership so this is a possible negotiation point.

In other words Germany is behind in the nation-building of a liberal multicultural state and we should perhaps focus on our own problem to reach the front. What is it that makes people start getting nervous when the foreigner count reaches 5-10%? It is not rational. There is no possible reason to fear that an ethnocultural minority will take over in Sweden, even if the foreigner count doubles. It is also apparently the case that most Western democracies experience that ethnocultural minorities actually benefit from keeping cultural attributes when they integrate rather than demanding total assimilation which is not reasonable to require for all immigrants.

In any case, critics of multiculturalism nowadays apparently claim that the stability of the democracy is threatened. What I have heard from the Sweden Democrats is that they also think there is an economic cost from immigration. In other words they are against foreign aid. People like Will Kymlicka believe that stability is actually enhanced because of minority rights given to ethnocultural minorities. Experience also shows that loyalty to the nation state is not affected negatively by minority rights of the type that does not infringe on standard liberal values.

The language question, raised by Merkel, is interesting from the point of view of the US which perhaps is the country that separates state from ethnicity the most by not having a constitutional national language requirement. Apparently it was arranged from the beginning that English speaking people always where in the majority in each region.

But most people learn the language and still group themselves ethnically based on dual language skills. People get help from other immigrants from the home country and this must mean that they are aided in their integration. Apparently this does not work as well in Europe. People differ in their attitudes. But let us hope that we will not have the same problem in Europe as we had in the 17th century between Protestants and Catholics with the current ethnocultural and religious problems.

All these problems are tightly linked to the position of the woman in the family and the work place. The only party that actively brings up the integrity of the old core family in Sweden now is the Christian Democrats which is in crisis due to being the smallest party in the polls with a falling trend in memberships and voters. I have gotten the feeling, and also from my own experience, that the traditional families are slowly braking up based on other organizational parameters in the current society. This development could have beneficial effects on the integration issue even if the civil society will necessarily take an other blow with unknown consequences from this historical phenomenon.


A Paradox in leadership qualities

A Pew survey called A Paradox in Public Attitudes demonstrates that if you ask one question who is the better leader men or women 21% say men and 6% say women and 69% say equal. However, if you dive into the data on details, women excel over men as politicians.


Enter 4th stage of multiculturalism?

According to Will Kymlicka in his book Contemporary Political Philosophy from 2002 the debate on multiculturalism has gone through three stages. As Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, points out we might have entered in 2010 a 4th stage.

The debate began in the 1970s and 1980s with an approach that divided the main liberal culture into individualism and collectivism, where the minority groups were identified as communitarian groups.

It turned out that this was an unhelpful way of characterizing the problem since most members of the typical ethnocultural minority does not have problems with liberal values and individual autonomy. In fact, Kymlika says that:

"...the overwhelming majority of debates about multiculturalism are not debates between a liberal majority and communitarian minorities, but debates among liberals about the meaning of liberalism."

Instead a "liberal culturalism" position was reached where minorities exist within the liberal state sharing most of their values and adding cultural attributes to this that don't interfer with liberalism. This was my own position before I read Kymlicka's book.

Now, the third stage is multiculturalism as a response to nation-building, ie promoting integration into what is called a societal culture. The ethnocultural minority was treated with 'benign neglect' originally but now was supposed to integrate into society via nation-building.

It seems like benign neglect of various cultural attributes and integration did not work and when Merkel says that multiculturalism has failed she might mean that benign neglect and wishful thinking about an automatic integration based on common sense did not work.

What Kymlicka avoids talking about at length is that some minority groups are conservative in their ways and impose illiberal ways on their members. Others prevent their children from studying and thus getting a proper chance of integrating. Another problem is the moral right of telling people to follow the Swedish Law in a more and more rule based society. Personally I think it would be very difficult with varying types of legal systems operating at the same time.

The major issue then is what might work since the present approach have failed? The common language clause seem for most people a self evident requirement but ethnocultural minorities are apparently living in such ways that they are not motivated. Therefore I have no idea what the 4th stage of multiculturalism might be.


Men's approach vs women's touch?

Hillary Clinton, the American Secretary of State, is using the paradigm of Anne-Marie Slaughter, her policy planner, as I have detailed before. Men create hierarchies whereas women network. Clinton's solution for the US foreign policy is to become the most networked country, ie the leader country.

Will Kymlicka, in his book Contemporary Political Philosophy, discusses the same phenomenon in his chapter on Feminism. I was under the understanding that it was politically correct in Sweden to claim that men and women are performing identically but this is not the case from the academic standpoint.

It is well established that women have superior verbal skills whereas there are relatively more very intelligent men than women to mention a few known biological differences. Men apparently also strive for finding universal principles, ie export democracy across the globe, whereas women tend to establish and maintain relationships on a case by case basis, as Clinton above.

The solution for solving problems concerning multiculturalism is, according to Kymlicka, to deal with problems like differences in religion, ethnicity etc on a case by case basis. The problem is too complicated for dealing with by political philosophy. It demands an experimental approach. In other words it is not enough to say learn the language, because it is necessary to dive down and start solving problems as they come.

I have not seen anything in the Swedish press about Kymlicka's approach. I wonder if it is because of the politically correctness on insisting that there are no differences between men and women? It is important in other respects. Take for example the quotation of board membership to 40% women. The result is going to be an altered function not the same function with 40% women on board.

"Multikulti" is dead?

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, spoke yesterday to the youth wing of the Christian Democratic Union Party according to The Times. Her message that then would foresee the future was that multiculturalism, as it had been led so far, had failed. I guess that people are slowly starting to admit this in Sweden as well in the wake of the recent electoral success of the Sweden Democratic Party who's main issue was integration and immigration.

The only concrete issue that Merkel spoke off, according to the article, was that immigrants must learn German. This is obviously a requirement also in Sweden. What seems to be happening then is that the balance of the integration/immigration debate is tightening and more requirements are going to be given to immigrants.

Will Kymlicka, a Canadian professor of philosophy, who wrote the book Contemporary Political Philosophy 2002, a book that was translated to eight languages among which Swedish was one, is an authority on multiculturalism. He defends a liberal stance on the issue and means that the general idea right now in AngloAmerica is that it is very difficult to hinder the development of multiculturalism but that one should strive for the appreciation of liberal values at the same time. Multiculturalism is also linked to the issue of Feminism and the balance within the family, a unit in which foreign cultural ideas is thriving. Should it be possible to interfere in family life?

In other words it is very difficult to force immigrants to leave a certain amount of cultural attributes behind. Attempting to brain wash newcomers is a very difficult prospect. It was found by the Chinese in the 1950s that trying to make communists out of Koreans only 11 out 4,500 survivors of a total of 7,000 people became communists. Furthermore, it is also known that among the brain washed the new phenotype is highly unstable as well. Even if communism might be a harder sell than the liberal equalism of European nations, the example illustrates the difficulties in changing cultural attributes. So what you in reality are ending up with is the common sense among immigrants to realize that their prosperity relies on the functioning of the state they arrived to.

The problem, however, seems to be more difficult than this since the tolerance of the home population to insignificant symbols like niqabs, minarets and the like seems to be low. One would think that if an immigrant learned the language, got a job, paid his tax and followed the laws this would be enough to satisfy the demands of immigration but unfortunately it might not. In Germany, however, according to the article above, people seem to question if the actual costs of immigration has paid off. Kymlicka argues that immigrants do not have a home to return to after all and that solutions to the "fact" of multiculturalism has to be found. If he is right, it is probably not helpful to say that it has failed. A healthy debate on what minimum requirements that are judged to be necessary for integration though in society is probably useful.


Higher University Tuition in the UK. What about Sweden?

Who benefits from University education? The student or society? The Financial Times and The Times writes today about a report from Lord Browne, a former executive at BP, that suggests that government can save £1.8bn on the reform which lifts the cap on tuition fees from the present £3,290 per year. The average tuition fee is estimated to rise to about £7,000 per year. The government is looking positively at the report but has not yet accepted it.

What would happen is that the future generation, ie the students, is going to pick up the tab for their education to a higher degree. The National Union of Students criticized the report for this. However, one columnist claims that this, like in the US, makes students more motivated and creates a better work ethic. This would be a critique against the Swedish system of free University tuition. It was also claimed that the students can demand more from the teachers if they pay themselves and would also be able to demand what courses that should be taught. Universities would also become more autonomous.

In order to not force graduates to move selectively into higher paying jobs, there is going to be repayment brackets of about £21,000. If the graduate earns less they don't have to start repaying and if there is something left on the loan after 30 years it will be donated.

An alternative funding mechanism for University studies that is being discussed is a so called graduate tax, ie a taxation of the graduate at work, tied to their earning potential. It is being promoted by for example the Liberal Democrat Vince Cable who is presently a business secretary. This mechanism would not have the quality increasing potential as the present proposal by Lord Browne. Some students would also pay back more that the cost of their education with this method.

The implementation of the reform would mean a free-market revolution in higher learning provision according to The Financial Times. Perhaps a similar change in Sweden would provide the vitamins needed for further improving University education. There would also be more competition between Universities that would lead to increased standards. Having paid for your education yourself to a higher degree must make students more serious about what they are doing and cause responsibility for their lives.


Nobel Peace Prize 2010

I was delighted as was all major editorials over the Nobel Peace Prize given to Liu Xiaobo. There was an article in The Economist the other day that talked about establishing universal values in China. They made it sound like there was some movement on the issue. The Charta 08 that Liu Xiaobo developed was commented on by me in a post about one and half year ago. I cited a phrase from the Charta 08:

"Where will China head in the 21st century? Continue a "modernization" under this kind of authoritarian rule? Or recognize universal values, assimilate into the mainstream civilization, and build a democratic political system? This is a major decision that cannot be avoided."

Why it is not 1935

Well, it seems like Ian Buruma is speculating in the possibility that we are facing a new 1935 situation where the aggression this time is towards the Muslims in his debate article in Dagens Nyheter called Därför hatar frihetens fiender liberalismen or This is why the enemies of freedom hate liberalism today. I must however admit that the non-timely exit of the Sweden Democrats from the sermon prior to the opening of the Swedish Riksdag the other day made me feel for the first time that the problem of alienation towards foreigners is going to really become a problem.

Helle Klein, former political editor at the social democratic paper Aftonbladet and priest, says in her blog that a preacher must take sides as he or she preaches. The general problem with this approach is that the priest then might only speak to half the congregation if she is not the battalion priest. Even if this might not have been the case above where bishop Eva Brunne, a social democrat, made the Sweden Democrats irritated enough to leave because she referred to a meeting the day before where violent left activists had been present. These people regularly harass the Sweden Democrats when they stage meetings on town.

Strangely enough Buruma does not bring up Thilo Sarrazin, the former German central bank board member and social democrat (SPD) that published a book recently that became more popular than the politically correct might have whished. In other words the anti-Muslim ideas are not only a right-wing problem. In fact the Sweden Democratic Party got votes from all parties and can perhaps more correctly be called a party of discontents than far right even if they have troublesome roots in neonazism.

Will the unpopularity of Muslims and the fear of Islam lead to fascistic methods to rid Sweden of such believers? I really hope not because as Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish Prime Minister, said in his speech to the Riksdag a few days ago they have contributed to the prosperity of our nation and I would add that they don't have a "home" to go back to in general. There are however methods today that makes the possibility of coerced returns a grim possibility. A risk that could be averted by more transparency into the matter.

Well, it is not 1935 because of the EU. Therefore continued collaboration between the member states is of essence. One question, however, that I wonder if it does not have to be formally addressed is what will happen when some states do much better than others in the EU? Territorial gains are not possible but will aid to other nations lead to something like influence? I guess this is why Germans now feel that they have paid enough. We are facing a development stage in the EU where people are not mature enough for federalization but no mechanisms exist for handling different tracks of development. This could lead to problems.


Member states versus the EU?

It is interesting to note that the only area where the EU has some clout is in economy where they have the Euro and it is in this area where people now start to talk about a "Currency War". Apparently all major players, and a few others, are trying to lower their currencies relative others and most of all people want China to raise theirs to perhaps 20% undervalued renminbi according to The Financial Times.

The meeting between China and the EU the last few days was not a success. Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, in principle asked the EU to stop bothering them about the renminbi. There would be problems in China in terms of stability if all the Chinese companies would be let to go bust if the renminbi was to be raised. These are important matters since the EU is China's largest trade partner. China prefers to deal bilaterally with individual countries though, which is something they can't do with the Euro.

As people that read this blog might have noticed, I'm very interested in what will happen with EU in the future. Will the member states dominate or will things become more "federal". Furthermore, in an article on the euobserver.com site today they discuss that small countries in general are angry with the larger EU countries because they play national games rather than union ones. In other words if Germany push for something this would be inherently wrong, which is of course not true in general.

Drift into oblivion! This is the fate of the EU if they don't federalize according to some people. Others say that they don't see any problems and that the member states will dominate. Would Wen Jiabao have visited if it wasn't for the Euro and how about the American analysis that the Euro would crash if there wasn't a federalization taking place? The editorial of Göteborgs Posten today calls for an entry into the Euro zone for Sweden. Will Sweden and Britain remain on the side of the Continent?

David Cameron, the steward of the ship Britannica, held his first major speech yesterday. The debate in Britain today is very interesting because they have what some would call an existential struggle going on where Cameron tried but failed, according to The Financial Times, to push for what he calls a "Big Society". Apparently he was not asking the Brits for help but rather made a "call to arms". A Debt War, I guess!

The idea of the Big Society is simple. Replace the state with efforts from the civic society but according to The Times it is not the same old small state talk but rather a new form of caring-for-each-other version of the civic society. That makes Cameron a little like a priest of society. His big moment so far is supposed to be as an architect of the coalition with the LibDems. Fredrik Reinfeldt has had bad luck with the financial crisis so far but now faces a more complicated governing situation where his leadership skills will be challenged in a new fashion. Having a better financial situation than his friend in Britain, he still faces the same existential problems in principle.


More than 40 percent of the former East Germans believe that differences outweigh the similarities

Dagens Nyheter has an editorial today for the 20 year celebration of the reunification of Germany. It is up-beat. The Financial Times ran an article the other day which was more to the point and perhaps more true to the actual picture. The communist ghost is not dead and there are nostalgic people left. In a generation or two the rift might be mended though.

Personally I'm pleased with the fact of a reunited Germany. A strong Germany is good for the EU and very important for northern Europe. I especially like the Germans that with the US think in terms of checking Russia. Yes, I'm old enough to remember the Soviet Union and that abominable socialism that cause former East Germany to have only 70% of the GDP of West Germany after 20 years and over a trillion Euros invested.

So what is a strong Germany going to do in Europe? There has not been much written lately since the debt crisis in the spring about the future of the EU, if you discount the talk about "economic governance". A few articles flashed by where there was a call for further political union as the means of saving the Euro so that seems to be the current trend.

If that trend holds up, it is waving in the wind, I don't think Turkey should enter the EU. Their democracy is different from that of northern Europe and would not fit in. They are probably fine on their own as a neighbor of the EU and Russia which they according to Carl Bildt are going to dwarf economically in not too distant future. If the EU stays as it is today, Turkey could probably join without problems. This is apparently the position of AngloAmerica and of the Swedish government although France and Germany are skeptical.

A development that I find interesting is the interest China shows in helping Greece out by even buying bonds if necessary. They apparently want to score some European points for their prosperous state capitalism being nice in the hour of need to the desolate Greeks which the German public was not. They are going to lease part of the port in Piraeus for €3.3bn. Are they giving back for all the talk about human rights and being nice to the poor? I don't think the Greeks mind though.

It was also nice to see that the Latvians chose a center-right governance that continues the reform policy and that the Russian inspired opposition did not complicate matters. They are complicated enough with the 18% drop in GDP that Latvia suffered as a result of the financial crisis. The Harmony Centre containing three parties The Harmony Party, The Socialist Party and The New Centre. It is led by the Mayor of Riga and consists mostly of the Russian speaking minority. According to The Financial Times the ruling coalition got 59% of the vote and The Harmony Centre got 25%. In other words, all things well in the Baltic Sea area.