047_Global12_Arena_V7

Global issue 12

Arena Books Good governance before democracy where people write down their wishes “Chinese people are deeply insecure The End of the Chinese Dream: Why and tie them to its branches. With a small about themselves and their future,” writes Chinese People Fear the Future army of helpers, he devises four ques- Lemos, “just when the rest of the world has Gerard Lemos, Yale University Press, London, tions: Who are you? What event changed become star-struck by the apparent pros- 2012, 352pp, ISBN 9780300169249 your life? What is your biggest worry? pect of China’s imminent glory.” Lemos What do you wish for? is not prescriptive. Each reader can devise Gerard Lemos’s book on China begins The answers give us a fascinating in- their own road map, one that, for starters, on a London housing estate and ends sight into the people’s hopes and fears: could channel more of China’s billions into with thoughts about the Arab Spring. In about losing jobs, factories closing, land hospitals and less into skyscrapers. between, the author takes us to central seizures, growing old, corrupt govern- On the Aylesbury estate, the 10,000 res- China where he sets about assessing the ment and – most prevalent – about non- idents overturned the government’s own aspirations of the citizens living existent or unaffordable health development plans because they were in and around the megacity of care. given a vote. In China, there is no vote. Chongqing. The Chinese government Lemos reminds us that few predicted His fi ndings are made more should be grateful for Lemos’s a sudden end to the Soviet Union or the salient because Chongqing was work because it tells them what dumping of dictator after dictator in the recently the fi efdom of the fallen their corrupt local offi cials per- Arab world, and that more often than not politician Bo Xilai, who attempt- haps do not. Democracy ideo- substantive change comes not from experts ed to mesh the contradictions of logues should also take note of or existing political systems but from the consumer society within an au- the absence of cries for human hands of the citizens themselves. This is, thoritarian state by reviving op- rights and elections. therefore, an important contribution to an- eras from the Cultural Revolution The results of the Wish Tree swering one of the great 21st-century ques- and the teachings of Mao Zedong. encapsulate more than anything a cry for tions: How will China’s leaders deal with Fresh from his surveys on the fractious good and fair governance. They might be the universality of human hope? and run-down Aylesbury estate in south- off-message, but they go to the heart of east London, in China Lemos uses a ver- the most complex social and political ex- Humphrey Hawksley, BBC World Affairs sion of the ancient Chinese Wish Tree periment of modern times. Correspondent A diffi cult story that must be told ernment with respect, and President Ma- both. Harrison reveals, almost in passing, that Still Counting the Dead: Survivors of Sri hinda Rajapaksa is set to become the next much of the Sri Lankan army’s equipment – Lanka’s Hidden War two-year chairman of the Commonwealth. including armoured vehicles, aircraft compo- Frances Harrison, Portobello, London, 2012, Frances Harrison’s book is important and nents and semi-automatic pistols – was sup- 272pp, ISBN 9781846274695 timely. A former BBC correspondent in Sri plied by Britain. Lanka, she makes the full horror of the last The witnesses come from the minority The enormity of what happened in Sri months of the war almost unbearably real, by who have since been able to bribe and smug- Lanka in 2009 is still far from being gen- allowing a series of individual gle their way out of the country, erally known or appreciated around the survivors to tell their stories. utterly traumatised and still not world. A confl ict pitting Buddhists against Each of them describes liv- daring to give their real names. Hindus, with the latter as the underdogs, ing through an unimaginable Inside today’s ‘peaceful’ Sri doesn’t fi t into any of the main paradigms hell on earth, as tens – prob- Lanka, no one would dare tell that motivate and polarise activists, media ably hundreds – of thousands such stories to a journalist, even or indeed governments in the wider inter- of people were crowded into if promised anonymity. The national community – East vs West, North an ever-shrinking strip of land defeat of the Tigers might have vs South, Muslim vs Judeo-Christian, etc. controlled by the Tigers, with given an enlightened govern- Even many of those who almost routinely shells raining down on them at ment the chance to embark on rush to the defence of ethnic minorities are all times of day and night; men, a real process of national recon- reluctant to do so in this case for fear of women and children blown ciliation, which would have to being associated with the Tamil Tigers – to pieces at every moment; include an honest reckoning of one of the best-armed and most ruthless of makeshift hospitals repeatedly targeted, their crimes committed by both sides. Alas, there separatist groups in recent world history. doctors struggling to perform surgery, often is little sign of that. There is also the sense that this confl ict, without anaesthetic; the whole landscape however unpleasant, is at least now over, fi lled with dead bodies or body parts as well Edward Mortimer, former speechwriter and one should not risk reviving it by rak- as the excrement of the living; and eventual for Kofi Annan and Chair of the Sri Lanka ing over old grievances. So the outside surrender followed by lengthy detention, Campaign for Peace and Justice (www. world continues to treat Sri Lanka’s gov- abuse and, in many cases, torture, rape or srilankacampaign.org) globalfourth quarter 2012 www.global-briefing.org l47


Global issue 12
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