I attended two talks from the festival this weekend, both held in the main hall of the Bath Guildhall. Both took the form of discussions with either a small panel with a moderator or a single person being interviewed.
The first of these was “Understanding China, the country and the myth“. I am not sure how much of this was or really could be covered in a one hour discussion but the participants put on quite a good show. The most interesting panel member was Jonathan Fenby, author of Will China Dominate the 21st Century? He was a rather portly, red-faced chap in the ‘old China hand’ vein but clearly knew his stuff. I made some very laconic notes in Evernote afterwards as I ate my now famous Steak and Kidney pie in Blue Quails Deli.
- Rule by law not of law.
- Still a Leninist state.
- Party is supreme – politbureau rules.
- Xi Jinping is chairman of this which is where his real power lies, not in being President.
- Deng Xiao Ping chose to use capitalism as the road to securing the power of the party, not because he wanted to lift 300 million people out of poverty.
The event after lunch featured Martin Wolf the Financial Times commentator and author recently of “The Shifts and the Shocks”, an analysis of the aftermath of the financial crisis. The first thing to note is that he is a rather short and stout man with a large head. As usual not how I imagined him to be. The second point is that he talked almost non-stop requiring only the merest prompting from the “interviewer” who was largely reduced to nodding politely and raising his eyebrows and smiling etc.. Still he had an easy time of it.
The main message I took from Wolf was that he got it wrong even if he was a bit uneasy about how the financial system was going and now believes that the system is inherently unstable passim Hyman Minsky, that bankers are incentivized to do all the wrong things and should have their pay and bonuses completely re-structured, that not nearly enough has been done to re-regulate banks and financial institutions, that the austerity program was way to harsh and didn’t need to be applied so quickly and that about one 6th of GDP growth has probably been permanently lost as a result.
I shall report from the festival again next weekend when I attend two more talks. Watch this space…