Chairman Mao talked of ‘three magic weapons’ for seizing power: the united front, the armed struggle and construction of the Communist party itself. Now the priority for China’s government is to remain in power. To ensure that, President Xi Jinping’s party is developing a fourth ‘magic weapon’.
The social credit system is a part of this, but the ‘weapon’ also extends far beyond it. By combining big data, artificial intelligence, recognition technology and other police techniques, China’s government intends to create a comprehensive method of political and social control.
The bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai is the fastest in the world. It takes just over four hours to travel the 819-mile journey. From the train, it is impossible to ignore China’s economic success. There are cities the size of London that many westerners will never even have heard of. They are filled with glass towers and shopping centres, selling Cartier watches and Gucci bags.
As the train sets off from each station, an announcement plays in both Chinese and stilted English: ‘Dear passengers, people who travel without a ticket or behave disorderly, or smoke in public areas, will be punished according to regulations and the behaviour will be recorded in the individual credit information system.
There comes a point in a New York expat’s life when you suddenly realise that the liberal elites that run this town have feet of clay.
You have watched them joining anti-Trump marches, opening their beautiful homes for Democrat fundraising parties and noisily bidding ludicrous sums at charity auctions. Then the time comes for their children to apply to university and the whole elaborate façade comes crashing down.
A few months ago, an aggressive US pressure group called the Campaign for Accountability declared that it had a new target: the Wall Street behemoth BlackRock. Quickly, the American press picked up on this campaign against excessive corporate power. Soon we were reading about how BlackRock, like Goldman Sachs before it, ‘rules the world’.
Despite BlackRock’s supposed omni-potence, it is relatively unknown in Britain.
There was no reason for Edward Drummond to believe this January day was going to be different to any other Whitehall working day. Having completed his civil service chores and visited the bank, he set off back to Downing Street where, as the prime minister’s private secretary, he had an apartment. He was passing a Charing Cross coffee shop when, without any warning, he felt a searing blow to his back and, according to a witness, his jacket burst into flames.
At 8.45 p.m. I was back in the toilets again feeling pure terror. In front of me was a narrow window which I thought I might be able to squeeze out of if I dislocated both my shoulders. This seemed a more attractive proposition than the alternative: leaving the loo and stepping out on stage to deliver my maiden stand-up comedy performance.
In theory, a few months ago, it sounded like a great idea.
All roads lead to Rome, the saying goes. Well, all roads except for the Roman road of Watling Street, which at one end takes you to Dover (Dubris) and at the other Wroxeter (Viroconium) in Shropshire.
I was always only vaguely aware of this thoroughfare but the name began, in recent years, to nag on my weekly visits to Canterbury (Durovernum Cantiacorum). When approaching the city centre from the station, I would see a street sign bearing the name on the side of a branch of Boots.