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Where's Russia's Rule of Law?

Telegraph: Britain’s Coalition must guard against the rise of right-wing parties. WSJ: Taiwan cracks down on its vibrant press. WashPost: Hungary shows the fragility of democracy.

China faces the threat of an inflationary bubble

Editorial Page Editor Hugo Restall writes in the Wall Street Journal that housing prices in China have risen so high they are completely out of reach of the average buyer. Most Chinese buyers use cash, and this could lead to an inflationary bubble.

QUOTE: The longer Beijing waits to start using interest rates to run monetary policy, the bigger the bubble will get. And the bigger the reckoning when it ends.

Case puts Russia’s legal system in the spotlight

Yuri Schmidt, one of the lead defense attorneys for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, writes in the International Herald Tribune that his client will appeal the Moscow court’s verdict because Khodorkovsky believes his imprisonment has been politically motivated. Khodorkovsky also hopes that Russia will one day return to being a nation governed by the rule of law.

QUOTE: An end to Mr. Khodorkovsky’s persecution would send a strong signal that change is coming to Russia and that there is hope that the country will develop a legal system worthy of the name.

Prospects remain gloomy for ordinary Americans

Columnist Bob Herbert writes in the New York Times that despite good news from holiday sales, the economic prospects for ordinary Americans are dismal. The recession has personally affected about 75 percent of the population.

QUOTE: There is a fundamental disconnect between economic indicators pointing in a positive direction and the experience of millions of American families fighting desperately to fend off destitution.

Britain’s Coalition must guard against the rise of right-wing parties

An editorial in London’s Daily Telegraph argues that given the large increase in Muslims, Britain might see a rise of populist, right-wing parties like France has. It states that the Coalition must ensure that these parties do not take root.

QUOTE: Britain is beginning to experience French-style anxiety about Islamisation. The fact that many terrorists are Muslims may lead to unfair assumptions about the loyalty of British Muslims.

India takes a harder line with China

Harsh V. Pant writes in the Japan Times that for years India has pushed aside its differences with China and tried to pretend they were insignificant. But now, as the conflicts become more pronounced, India is taking a harder line.

QUOTE: India's main security concern is not the increasingly decrepit state of Pakistan but an ever more assertive China, which is widely viewed in India as having a better ability for strategic planning.

American centrists need an ideology

Columnist Clive Crook writes in the Financial Times that despite the increase in fighting between US Republicans and Democrats, America’s political center is unlikely to make a revival. US centrists need to come up with strong policies to win support.

QUOTE: Centrism needs an ideology, too – the more strident, the better. Without one, it is empty.

Taiwan cracks down on its vibrant press

Jimmy Lai, the founder and chairman of Next Media, writes in the Wall Street Journal that Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has taken a number of steps to restrain the country’s previously free press. Taiwan needs a vibrant media that exposes government corruption and misdeeds.

QUOTE: The way a government treats its media critics is the true test of whether it truly supports a free press. By that standard, Taiwan is failing.

The history of public debt offers important lessons

Jacques Attali writes in Newsweek that history is intricately tied to public debt. However, the debts of the world’s biggest countries have never been as big or as threatening as they are now. The West
must take lessons from history and balance its budget, stabilize its financial sector and return to a path of growth.

QUOTE: Public debt can encourage growth and help make future generations richer. But for that, one must parse unwise debt (debt that finances running costs) from intelligent debt (public infrastructure for energy, transport, health care, or education).

Hungary shows the fragility of democracy

Columnist Anne Applebaum writes in the Washington Post that Hungary provides an example of how fragile democracy can be. Prime Minister Viktor Orban is so popular that he is able to change his country’s laws to keep himself in power without any significant opposition.

QUOTE: Since taking office he has appointed a council to rewrite the constitution, deprived the national audit office of funding and stripped some of the powers of the country's supreme court. More recently, his parliament passed a set of laws governing the media.

State elections will determine Angela Merkel’s fate

Journalists Florian Gathmann and Philipp Wittrock write in Der Spiegel that a series of upcoming state elections could determine the fate of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and it looks like her coalition will do poorly. In addition to impacting her ability to make policy, the elections could have a significant psychological impact on the country and thereby affect Merkel’s political standing. 

QUOTE: 2011 could turn into an annus horribilis for Merkel, despite a rapidly recovering economy.