Punjabi farmhands in Italy: From Ludhiana to Latina

The low-lying hills that punctuate the countryside of Latina in central Italy reverberated with the screams of Harbhajan Singh’s chainsaw. The 41-year-old Sikh attacked the trees that carpeted the hillside like a demon, cutting great bloodless gashes into the trunks. Originally from a village near Kapurthala in Punjab, Harbhajan has spent over 10 years felling…
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Europe’s German Schizophrenia

Germany has always been at the heart of the European project. A nation that came to represent the continent’s deepest psychological scars, it was also the motor driving European integration. The European Union emerged and developed in the aftermath of the Second World War as the vehicle by which Germany was to be both contained…
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When a Billion Chinese Jump by Jonathan Watts

One way of framing the complexity of China’s long history is to understand it as the interplay of ideas between the pragmatic, human-centric precepts of Confucianism and the nature-worshipping, harmony-seeking philosophy of Daoism. This dichotomy between values that stress conquering nature for human benefit and those that emphasise the importance of seeking a sustainable balance…
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Colonialism and amnesia : Colours of perception

The fracas surrounding the perceived racism of the comic book Tintin in the Congo is entering a new phase, with a decision on a fresh civil suit pending in a Brussels court. Pallavi Aiyar traces the history of outrage Brussels’ gently warm summer days draw thronging crowds out to Cinquantenaire Park, a generous green sprawl…
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Celebrating the Decline of Europe

t wasn’t long before I realised that moving from Beijing to Brussels entailed more than a switch from chopsticks to chocolate. At heart it was a move from an energetic story of rise to a tired one of decline. In China, everything was on the up: the economy, the sky-scraping new buildings, nationalism, sporting prowess,…
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Feminism, stocks and chocolate

Already the mainstay of Belgium’s tourist industry, Brugge is more than the world capital of chocolate. The silence is deep, sacred, broken only by the distant hooting of a wood pigeon. Two nuns approach: one as gnarled as the roots of the ancient trees that cluster in the grove, the other butter-cheeked and youthful. I step aside to…
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China’s Olympic Run

BEIJING: For seven years the Beijing Olympics have provided the over-arching umbrella under which Chinese authorities have sheltered while pushing through some of the most sweeping transformations of a society the world has seen. With traditional beliefs like Confucianism having been battered by decades of communist struggle and in turn socialism’s egalitarian ideals punctured by…
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Why Beijing Can’t Grasp Tibet

  BEIJING - Over the past three decades, the Chinese leadership has proven remarkably responsive to changing circumstances. The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has displayed a pragmatism and flexibility that has allowed it to retain power, even as the Iron Curtain of the former Soviet Union was torn down along large parts of China's…
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China Through Indian Eyes

FIVE years was a decent slice of time to spend in a country and I had used it relatively well: travelling and asking questions. But as I geared up to draw a curtain across my China-life, I was increasingly being called upon to answer a few questions as well. ‘Where was China heading?’ people would…
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Water woes

For millennia China's great rivers have snaked their long meandering courses across the country, providing lifeblood for Chinese civilisation. Along the banks of the Yellow River to the north and the Yangtze to the south, five thousand years of history and culture have unfolded, with agriculture flourishing in otherwise inhospitable terrain and trade bringing prosperity…
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