This year three of the permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, France and Russia – are holding elections, while a fourth, China, is embarking on its once-in-a-decade leadership transition. All over the world governments are having to deal with an increasingly volatile public opinion.
Last year the Arab people rose up. The same wave, less powerful but still unpredictable, is now spreading. There is no new revolutionary ideology behind this wave. What we have now is a digital culture which means that new ideas – such as the Occupy movement’s ‘We are the 99 per cent’ – take off globally.
Our cover story looks at one of the transforming aspects of the new vox populi, the web-based campaigns that are blurring the old distinctions between Left and Right. Like it or not, this is the future of political engagement.
Even China, with its minutely choreographed leadership change, is not immune. As Kerry Brown writes on page 16, China’s new generation of leaders will have to be politicians, not technocrats, to meet the challenge of a public opinion swayed by social media.
Amid rising talk of a pre-emptive strike against Iran, Patricia Lewis writes that Iranian public opinion is turning away from the government’s nuclear ambitions.
We are delighted to have a column by Dr Xinghai Fang, who has taken time off from running the Shanghai Office of Financial Services to assure the West that China’s rise does not mean the inevitable decline of the developed countries. On page 6 he offers some simple advice on how to compete with the rising powers.