08 Apr

Some 65 World Traders and their guests gathered at the RAF Club on Piccadilly for the second business lunch under the Master’s overall theme for her year of “Trade and Geopolitics”. The speaker, Jonathan Fenby, a distinguished former journalist as editor of the Observer and the South China Morning Post and now Chairman, China, at the research service TS Lombard, took a wide-ranging approach to answering his question “Will China Own the 21st Century?” Part of the answer has to do with how the Chinese state and Communist Party have developed and work now, as evidenced in the growing personality cult around President Xi Jinping (eg the sudden popularity in China of “a bowl of soup and four buns”). China is certainly less shy at flexing its muscles abroad, from its base-building activities in the South China Sea to its much-vaunted Belt and Road Initiative. Yet, as the speaker noted, China has plenty of internal challenges too: from economic growth of “only” 6%, to its startling new social-credit system and its clampdown on dissent in places like Xinjiang. Lively questions followed from an informed and clearly engaged audience.

Jeremy Hargreaves