What kind of empire is China building?

As Britain’s small fleet, headed by HMS Queen Elizabeth, cruises towards the South China Sea, there remains a question over the nature of China’s geopolitical ambitions. When Xi Jinping came to power in 2013 it was assumed that China would follow the relatively unthreatening path begun by Deng Xiaoping. But Xi was intent on following a different agenda. Xi’s brutal clampdown on corruption showed that there was a new sheriff in town. High profile politburo members were imprisoned. Such was the scale that Qincheng Prison began to run out of cells. Expensive wristwatches suddenly disappeared from the arms of modestly paid bureaucrats. The West applauded. Xi’s reform of China’s state

How to fight a good war

Serifos There’s no high life here, only family life, so I’ve been hitting the books about great Greeks of the past, and they sure make today’s bunch look puny. Philosophers, playwrights, statesmen, artists, poets, orators, sculptors; the ancients had them all. After 2,500 years, they’ve never been equalled. I was once walking around the Greek wing at the New York Met and I ran into Henry Kissinger, whom I knew slightly. He asked me what the population of ancient Athens was. ‘About 20 to 30,000 citizens,’ I answered. He shook his head in amazement. ‘And they produced all this,’ he said. When I first began learning about the Greeks —

The history of Thebes is as mysterious as its Sphinx

The Spartans were not the only Greeks to die at Thermopylae. On the fateful final morning of the battle, when Leonidas, knowing that the pass had been sold, ordered the vast majority of the contingents stationed at the Hot Gates to retreat and live to fight another day, two detachments stayed behind to join the 300 in their heroic last stand against Xerxes. Both these detachments came from Boeotia, the fertile plain which stretched directly south of Thermopylae and extended as far as the frontier with Athens. One of these two detachments came from Thespiae, a small but famously cussed city in central Boeotia: 700 hoplites who, alongside the Spartans,