China’s October commemoration of the Communist Party’s 70 years in power was extravagant, artistic and disciplined. It ushered in the next decade with verve reminiscent of that displayed at the 60th anniversary ten years earlier, but with one significant difference.
Back then, Beijing had just hosted the lavish 2008 Olympic Games with panache and style, portraying the country in a way that had won it global admiration.
At the time, Western democracies were reeling from the financial crisis, and their attempts to export democratic values to alien cultures lay smouldering in the deserts of Iraq. Beijing commanded the stage as the go-to capital for trade without too many questions being asked. […]