Longitude #15

April, 2012


Transatlantic relations in the age of austerity
by Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata

The emergence of new economic powerhouses has shifted the world’s political center of gravity. This could open opportunities for a deepening of the traditional US-European bond.


The price of harmony
by Stefano Cingolani

China’s phenomenal growth over the last decade is finally slowing down. Analysts are now assessing to what degree the transition to a new phase of development can be guided in the manner that growth has been.

Spring cleaning for the CCP

Periodic purges have come to be expected from monolithic regimes. And China has seen a fair share of purges since the Communists took power in 1949. True to tradition, on March 15 the Chinese Communist Party dismissed Bo Xilai, the populist Chongqing Committee Secretary who was a front runner to enter the nine-member Politburo in this fall’s transition of power. Ostensibly Bo’s firing reflects the conflict between conservatives and reformers. The day before the announcement of Bo’s sacking, Prime Minister Wen Jibao, in a uncharacteristically critical public speech at the close of Fifth Session of the 11th National People’s Congress, warned of a “return to the Cultural Revolution,” which Bo represented with his fiery anti-corruption rhetoric and campaign against organized crime. As a pretext, Bo’s rivals pointed to the recent scandal in which Chongqing police chief Wan Lijun, a Bo loyalist, sought asylum at the city’s US consulate, only to be turned over to the Chinese government. While the official censure of Bo may appear to be a victory for “progressive” reformist elements in the CCP, the methods of achieving such progress are so patently a vestige of Cultural Revolutionary tactics that it begs the question of how viable any attempt at reform will be.

How the yuan stacks up
by Domenico Lombardi

As China’s economy comes to dominate global trade, its currency is on the way to becoming an international reserve. Yet many factors still stand in the way. What will it take for China to attract investors to the yuan?

­The middle-income trap
Kashgar moves on
by Alessandra Cappelletti

Once a major trading center along the Silk Road, China’s westernmost city has been designated a special economic zone. But not all the ramifications are positive for this gateway to Central Asia.

Urban oases
by Alessandra Cappelletti

The once scattered settlements in China’s western deserts have seen rapid urbanization, with clear demographic socio-economic repercussions.

China’s inter-provincial migration

Peasants load up their belongings and set off on an arduous journey through unfamiliar countryside to settle in a smoggy city where they will toil in squalid factories from dawn till dusk. This is not only a description of the birth of the Industrial Revolution; it is the back story to China’s phenomenal rise to the status of manufacturing powerhouse. Migrant workers are the foundation of China’s economic miracle. There are now almost 160 million rural Chinese working away from home, about 12% of the population. While the coastal regions of Guangdong and Shanghai continue to be the principal magnet for migrant workers from the interior, China is entering a new phase of its development. Factories are now being built in the interior and many workers are returning home. Others opt to stay close to home. This shift in migration patterns, though only in its beginnings, may reflect a rebalancing of China’s economy. Domestic demand – one of the factors that China hopes will mitigate a slowdown in growth – is increasing, so firms do not need to be near a port. As a result the disparity between the rich coast and the poor interior is narrowing. The hope for many migrant workers is that the gap keeps closing. Even the government recognizes that by investing in interior regions, it can help create a virtuous circle that will lead to more internal demand and benefit a segment of the population that has been growing increasingly restive of late.

Rethinking intelligence

by Stash Luczkiw

Information is the raw material for spy work. But as information and processing power increase exponentially, will the importance and power of intelligence services follow suit?

Swarming intelligence
by Jack Ryan

The development of information technology and theory has ramifications in political analysis and intelligence gathering. By using computer models and algorithms to examine the behavior of “swarms” of individuals, analysts can get a more accurate picture of potential instability and avoid repeating grave errors of the past.

The future of intelligence
by Claudio Masci, Luciano Piacentini­­­­­­­

Spy work has evolved throughout history. Recent developments, however, require not only a familiarity with technology but a deeper understanding of foreign cultures, which can easily be undermined by neglecting the human element.


The other side of the German question
by Christopher Caldwell

Most non-German commentators have portrayed Berlin as inflexible and obsessed with imposing austerity on its partners. The view from Germany, however, is much more nuanced.

Why Germany works
by Ubaldo Villani-Lubelli

More than two decades after the unification that weighed so heavily on their economy, Germans are reaping the benefits of earlier far-sighted reforms. Is imitating Germany the answer to Europe’s current troubles? Only partially.

Wary welcome for the huddled masses
by Stefano Bertozzi

In the throes of the economic crisis, Europe and the US still have to contend with the perennial issue of migration. Public perception with regard to migrants is evolving continually.

­­­The oops of physics
by Luciano Maria Barone

Big science is now so big that the major experiments need vast collaborative and often transnational efforts. With so many variables involved, the potential for a glitch is inevitable. Managing the diffusion of experimental results in the age of internet has become part of the process.

Land rush

Trimming land for better hedges
by Maurizio Stefanini

Invest in land, they’re not making it anymore, the old adage goes. This advice has now been taken to heart by governments and private industry with the idea of hedging against future scarcity.

African land grabs
by Anna Bono

In order to modernize, African states have been selling or renting farmland to foreign companies and governments – often at the expense of local farmers who have been tilling the land and grazing their animals on it for generations.

Warming bloopers

Fukushima’s collateral damage
by Carlo Clini

In the span of a year, nuclear power has gone from being seen as the most viable clean energy source to a dangerous and overly expensive vestige. What can be done to revive it?