Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics


The news this weekend is dominated by reports of how the entire EU failed last week to reach agreement with David Cameron on the next president of the EU Commission, and had to settle on a compromise candidate, Jean-Claude Juncker, supported only by the non-British faction of the EU. Only Hungary — despite its borderline fascist government — was able to garner Cameron’s support, while the remaining 26 EU members had to make do with the bare consolation of having their preferred candidate take office.

(This was right after soccer teams from many nations were brusquely snubbed by the England side, who could not be persuaded that the quality of the other team’s playing was such as to keep them from attending to other pressing engagements back home.)

Senior Conservatives were not magnanimous toward the defeated EU, accusing other national leaders of “cowardice” for refusing to publicly defame the EU leader whom they had agreed to, and would consequently be working with in the coming years, despite the fact that some of them had not at first considered him their favourite candidate.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said Britons “will be proud that at last they have a Prime Minister who has demonstrated that he puts the interests of Britain first — regardless of who or what is pitted against him.” Perhaps the leader most determined to assert British interests against Europe since King Harold II, who was also famous for keeping his eye fixed (on real reform). They were similarly disdainful of reports that Pope Francis has not completed a conversion to the Anglican Church, and are seeking further investigation of reports that a large ursine has been seen defecating in a forested tract. We all know how much the British establishment appreciates public candour. I’m sure that determined the responses a couple of weeks back when the Chinese state-run Global Times last month, when it took the Chinese premier’s visit to the UK as an opportunity to dismiss Britain as “just an old European country apt for travel and study”, and suggest that China, as a “rising country” should show indulgence toward this

old declining empire and at times the eccentric acts it takes to hide such embarrassment. Diplomacy has to be based on realistic recognition of the two countries’ power. No matter for China or the UK, it will be tiring if they try to distort this reality.

Ahem. I can’t find the links to where the UK ministers lined up to praise the Chinese government’s honesty. Instead, all I can find is an official quote from David Cameron’s spokesman, saying

I read in the Times of London Premier Li’s article when he said this was a great nation. That is the prime minister of China’s view.

That obviously can’t be right. Obviously the PM was incensed that the Chinese government was making cowardly flattering noises in the London press, while mocking Britain back home. I’m sure, when he got Premier Li in private he gave him a good dressing down. “We want to hear your unvarnished opinion openly stated. It’s insulting and cowardly for you to be telling the Times of London what you think we want to hear, rather than the frank truth. What do you think we are, some thin-skinned second-rate candidate for an EU post? And in that spirit, I want to tell you that our Queen has very strong feelings about the unconscionable anti-democratic nepotism that pervades the Chinese state and official administration.”

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