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Chasing dragons: the Chinese army takes up art collecting

In 2003, during a long night of swilling fine French wines in Beijing, talk turned to China’s rising economic fortunes. Old China hands at the table reminisced about camel trains clattering through the capital’s dim 1970s streets. Then a mysterious American chipped in with an extraordinary tale. Back in 1983, he said, China’s coffers were

Brown has come full circle since 1988

Tom Bower, the Prime Minister’s biographer, says that Gordon’s reinvention as the socialist who can save capitalism is just the latest in a series of convenient masks he has donned Gordon Brown would probably prefer to forget his magic moment in the crowded House of Commons exactly 20 years ago, on 1 November 1988. In

A quantum of respect for the forgotten master

Double-dealing female agents. Secret ciphers. Car chases. Now that we have all ingested rather more than a quantum of publicity for Ian Fleming’s gaudy fictions, it might be time for the true inventor of the modern spy novel — and the original purveyor of the above-named elements — to take his bow. The name was

Kabul Notebook

The grandson of the King told my wife and me at dinner that we were ‘the only two tourists in Kabul’! In fact, we nearly did not arrive because on the eve of our flight, the aid-worker Gayle Williams was shot dead by the Taleban in broad daylight. The incident made world headlines and the

Probably the biggest financial crisis of all time

At this juncture, my best credit-crunch advice is to keep beside your armchair at all times an atlas of the world, a modern American dictionary and a bottle of whisky. If your constitution is strong, you might also want a copy of the Financial Times but do keep the television zapper handy, so you can

Sarko’s voodoo doll hissy fit tells you everything

The French President’s strop is more eloquent than any policy or speech, says Celia Walden. He is a pint-sized de Gaulle regularly made to look a fool by his wife The truth, invariably, is in the detail. Theresa May’s leopard-print shoes, Jon Snow’s refusal to wear a poppy, Prince Andrew’s bedful of teddy bears, Nick