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Chris Patten

Chris Patten

Associate Director of Design Thinking, Henry Ford Learning Institute. I use design to make complex issues more tangible and build empathy among stakeholders.

Articles by Chris Patten

The China “Constrainment” Doctrine

9 days ago

Liberal democracies must defend their belief in a global order based on credible international agreements and the rule of law. So, although democratic governments should be prepared to offer China incentives for good behavior, they must be prepared to deter bad behavior vigorously.

LONDON – It is necessary to know some history in order to draw the right lessons from it. All too often, alleged parallels and similarities seem far-fetched on close examination. So, when it was suggested recently that China’s recent behavior – bullying, lying, and violating treaties – was similar to that of Germany prior to World War I, I was doubtful.

The Main Street Manifesto

Andrew

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We Are Hong Kong

May 31, 2020

With his recent decision to impose a draconian new security law on Hong Kong, Chinese President Xi Jinping has ridden roughshod over the Joint Declaration and directly threatened the city’s freedom. Defenders of liberal democracy must not stand idly by.

LONDON – In my final speech as Hong Kong’s governor on June 30, 1997, a few hours before I left the city on Britain’s royal yacht, I remarked that, “Now, Hong Kong people are to run Hong Kong. That is the promise. And that is the unshakable destiny.”

The Lonesome Death of Hong Kong

PS OnPoint

Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images

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The Lonesome Death of Hong Kong

May 25, 2020

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Truth and Viral Consequences

March 20, 2020

Proper surveillance of potentially catastrophic public-health threats requires knowledge and transparency, both within and between countries. As the deadly COVID-19 pandemic once again shows, telling the truth saves lives.

LONDON – Of all the challenges that humans have faced over millennia, disease has always been a particularly brutal and resourceful enemy.
The COVID Wake-Up Call

The False Crisis Comparison

Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Three Essential Questions about COVID-19

Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty

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Liberal Democracy and Its Enemies

February 28, 2020

The challenges facing Western liberal democracies today are serious enough to recall Europe’s descent into tyranny in the 1930s, and should inspire sensible Americans and Europeans to mobilize to prevent any recurrence. While crying wolf is rarely recommended, sometimes there really is a wolf skulking through the wood.

LONDON – When the German playwright Bertolt Brecht wrote that, “All power comes from the people,” he went on to ask the rather important question, “But where does it go?”
Solidarity Now

PS OnPoint

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

When China Sneezes

Xinhua/Zhang Ailin via Getty

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Britain Enters the Unknown

January 30, 2020

Compared to the threats posed by climate change and China’s hostility to liberal democracy, the consequences of Brexit may seem far less significant. But the United Kingdom has chosen an odd and dangerous time to decide to go it alone.

LONDON – A history teacher at my school believed that every great event in the past should be approached on the basis of a tripartite analysis of its causes, pretexts, and results. He would list these in columns on the blackboard, and we would then have to learn them by heart: the causes of the eighteenth-century War of the Spanish Succession, the pretexts for the French Revolution, the results of the American War of Independence, and so on.
Britain Enters the Unknown

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How Truth Survived 2019

December 26, 2019

The "truthiness" of US President Donald Trump and other world leaders cast a dark shadow over public life in 2019, and probably will continue to do so next year. But fortunately for those who care about both democracy and the planet, the actual truth remains a powerful force.

LONDON – “Truthiness,” a concept coined by the American comedian Stephen Colbert, involves saying things that you want to believe are true even if there is no factual evidence to support these assertions. And without doubt, truthiness has had a great run in 2019 – from US President Donald Trump’s Washington, to the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom, to events in Asia.
How Truth Survived 2019

Isaac Lawrence/AFP

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Hong Kong Says No to the China Dream

November 29, 2019

China’s leaders and their mouthpieces in Hong Kong have repeatedly claimed that a silent majority of the local community opposed the demonstrators, and that foreign “black hands” were behind the protests. But the city’s district council elections on November 24 told a different story.

LONDON – At the beginning of his satirical novel China Dream, which has a cover designed by the dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Ma Jian expresses his gratitude to George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm. Orwell, he says, “foretold it all.”
Democratic Leadership in a Populist Age

PS OnPoint

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Democratic Leadership in a Populist Age

November 29, 2019

With populism and nationalism currently in the ascendancy in much of the world, where should we look for inspiring democratic leadership? It will not come from Trump, of course, but the US has shown enlightened and visionary global leadership before, and it can do so again.

MELBOURNE – In most airport bookshops, you will see rows of titles offering business travelers advice on leadership. I should not disparage them. It is doubtless possible to rise in the marketing department by learning a lesson or two from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.And, to be fair, some airport books on leadership are thoughtful, and draw on a variety of examples. The investor and philanthropist Michael Moritz, for example, has written very well

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What Happens to the United Kingdom Now?

October 30, 2019

Even after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, the country will face years of talks in which it will be negotiating from a position of weakness. The UK will be less prosperous and influential than before, and will be under increasing internal strain because of policies driven by malignant English nationalism.

LONDON – The United Kingdom’s Brexit psychodrama continues. Although the UK government and the European Union reached a revised withdrawal agreement in mid-October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was unable to push the deal through Parliament so that the UK could leave the bloc by his hoped-for date of October 31. EU leaders have therefore granted a further three-month extension of the Brexit deadline

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China’s Hong Kong Problem

September 30, 2019

The Chinese government is playing for time in Hong Kong in the hope that the demonstrators will lose heart and perhaps the will to resist. But if China’s leaders were as sophisticated as they claim, they would behave very differently.

LONDON – The demonstrations and the political crisis in Hong Kong are now into their fourth month. Every weekend, people take to the streets to protest against their government and the armlock in which China’s communist regime holds it. And for now, at least, there seems to be no resolution in sight.
The Constitution Won’t Save American Democracy

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

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Is Britain Becoming a Failed State?

August 20, 2019

Failed states used to be largely the preserve of the developing world, where the institutions of democracy do not have deep roots. But given the extent to which the Brexit campaign has undermined Britain’s institutions through lies, it is reasonable to worry that the country will soon come to resemble a tinpot dictatorship.

LONDON – What is a failed state? Not so long ago, when I was Britain’s Overseas Development Minister, and later European Commissioner for External Affairs, I would probably have tried to answer the question by pointing to specific examples, including several countries in Latin America and Africa.
The Case for a Guaranteed Job

PS OnPoint

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Great Countries, Bad Leaders

July 30, 2019

China and the United States are great countries, but are being badly governed – one by Leninist autocrats afraid of their own shadow, and the other by a bizarre populist who prefers despots to liberal democrats. For now, the rest of the world has good reason to hope for better and wiser leadership in Beijing and Washington – and soon.

LONDON – I first visited the United States in 1965 on a student scholarship funded by a generous Boston philanthropist. Ever since that trip, which took me from New York to California to Alabama and back, I have been a confirmed Americophile. I love the country and have visited it more often than any other outside Britain and Western Europe.
Their

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What Carrie Lam Should Do Next

June 25, 2019

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam is lonely and beleaguered following huge protests against a deeply unpopular extradition law. To ease tensions in the city, Lam should announce that the proposed law is dead, and launch an open and independent inquiry into police activity during the protests.

LONDON – I do not know Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive, very well. She worked for my administration when I was governor there. Diligent and well regarded – and Catholic, like many others in the then-colony’s civil service – she had been educated at Hong Kong University and at Cambridge. When I left in 1997, after sovereignty over the city was returned to China, she was rising

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The Legacy of Tiananmen Square, 30 Years Later

June 4, 2019

Type the words “Tiananmen” or “June 4” in a search browser in China, and little, if anything, identifies Beijing’s central square as the site where thousands of people, mostly students, were killed while peacefully demonstrating for democratic reform in 1989. Thirty years later, China’s government is as determined as ever to crush dissent.
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Unforgettable Tiananmen

May 29, 2019

It’s not surprising that the Communist Party of China has worked so hard to eradicate the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre from public memory. History – including the horrors of Mao Zedong’s rule – is too volatile a substance for the Chinese dictatorship.

LONDON – Thirty years ago this month, I was in Beijing as a British development minister for the annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank. But what took place at that gathering – including the seating for the first time of a delegation from Taiwan – was overshadowed by what was happening across the city. And what happened in China in 1989 continues to resonate deeply today, not least in Hong Kong.
Game of EU Thrones

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The Return of Violent Identity Politics

April 30, 2019

There is nothing wrong with nationalism when it is simply a celebration of a country’s best values, traditions, and history. But politicians in Europe and the United States need to be careful that the populist nativism they are stoking does not morph into more violent forms of identity politics, as it has in Christchurch and Sri Lanka.

LONDON – I first visited Sri Lanka as Britain’s development minister in the 1980s, during the early stages of the vicious war between guerrilla fighters – the so-called Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) – and Sri Lanka’s armed forces. This bloody ethnic conflict, pitting the largely Hindu Tamil minority against the largely Buddhist Sinhalese majority, surprised those who had

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The Brexit Hour Has Come

March 29, 2019

With Brexit possibly just two weeks away, most British voters and members of Parliament are still in the dark. Sadly, the national interest has taken a back seat to ideological obsession and the leadership ambitions of some of Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet colleagues.

LONDON – Do you want to know what is happening in British politics today in the great debate about the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union?

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images

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Join the club. With Brexit possibly just two weeks away, most British voters are in the dark. So are members of Parliament. So

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Playing Chicken with Europe

February 13, 2019

The philosopher Bertrand Russell believed the Cold War nuclear standoff resembled a high-risk game played by "youthful degenerates." British Prime Minister Therea May is playing a similar game, and if her Brexit brinkmanship goes wrong, the victim would be Britain.

LONDON – The game of chicken is simple to describe but dangerous to play. Based on evolutionary game theory, it was sometimes used to describe nuclear brinkmanship during the Cold War.

Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images

Photographer is my life/Getty Images

Fred Dufour – Pool/Getty Images

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Bertrand Russell, the great British philosopher and campaigner against

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Brexit Sweat and Tears

January 28, 2019

For years after World War II, Britons were aware of the palpable shift in the country’s fortunes. But there was a deep aversion to accepting the UK’s diminished status, and the failure – beginning with Winston Churchill – of successive generations of politicians to address it is what has led to the current impasse.

LONDON – I recently saw an American play in London called “Sweat,” written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Lynn Nottage. It was performed previously on and off Broadway and was described by the Wall Street Journal as a play that helped to explain Donald Trump’s election as president.

Fred Dufour – Pool/Getty Images

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Nottage had

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The Sum of All Brexit Fears

December 27, 2018

The Leavers lied: The costs of withdrawing from the European Union were always destined to outweigh the benefits. Alas, the responsible, imaginative, and inclusive political leadership needed to minimize the damage is nowhere in sight.

LONDON – Day after day, week after week, most British citizens think that the turmoil over their country’s proposed exit from the European Union cannot get any worse. But, without fail, it does. Turmoil turns into humiliating chaos; a political crisis threatens to become a constitutional crisis.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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Meanwhile, the date of the United Kingdom’s departure from

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From Brexit to Eternity

November 30, 2018

British Prime Minister Theresa May is now confronting Parliament with a vexing choice between an unsatisfying Brexit deal and crashing out of the European Union. But, because no compromise with the EU is acceptable to hard-line Brexiteers, the argument that another referendum would be divisive is beside the point.

LONDON – British members of Parliament will soon have to make one of the most difficult political decisions of their lives. The choice is between approving the Brexit deal that Prime Minister Theresa May has negotiated with the European Union, crashing out of the EU with no deal, or trying to reverse the exit process altogether. With respect to the third option, it has been two and a half years since a slim majority of

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Obama’s Letters and Trump’s Delusions

October 26, 2018

Unlike former US President Barack Obama, who made a point of reading and responding to letters from ordinary Americans, Donald Trump has ensconced himself in a bubble of self-delusion and sycophancy. But even if his advisers and Fox News will not tell him hard truths, US midterm voters still can.

TOKYO – When was the last time you sat down and wrote a letter? I don’t mean an email or a text message; nor would I count a dictated message to a machine or a personal assistant. No, I mean an old-fashioned “Dear Donald” or “Dear Hillary” letter.The reason I ask is that 65,000 people actually did write such letters to Barack Obama every week when he was serving as president of the United States. According to a recent feature in The Guardian, a

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China’s Repressed Memory

October 19, 2018

Over the past 40 years, China has managed to achieve levels of growth and development that would have been unimaginable during earlier decades of communist rule. But as the exiled Chinese novelist Ma Jian reminds us, that progress has been built on a foundation of repression and the corpses of his fellow citizens.

Ma Jian, Beijing Coma, Translated by Flora Drew, MacMillan, 2009.Ma Jian, The Dark Road, Translated by Flora Drew, Penguin Random House, 2014.Ma Jian, China Dream, Translated by Flora Drew, Penguin UK, 2018. LONDON – Search for the name Ma Jian on the Internet and you will most likely land on Wikipedia, where there are listings for two men with the same name and one thing in common: neither would turn up if the same Internet

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The Immorality of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump

September 18, 2018

US President Donald Trump and former UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have in common not just their crude nationalism, but also their apparent inability to control their sexual appetites. But is it appropriate to judge political leaders based on their sex lives, as many have been wont to do?

LONDON – In a 2013 press conference, then-recently inaugurated Pope Francis famously said that, when it comes to sexual orientation, including past homosexual acts, “who am I to judge?” Should we take a similarly non-judgmental approach to the past personal behavior of our political leaders?

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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The question is acutely relevant today in both the United

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Tough Times for the Tough Guys

August 23, 2018

Authoritarian leaders worldwide are confronting mounting crises of their own making. But while Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin face slower-brewing challenges, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and US President Donald Trump seem to be bringing matters in their respective countries to a head.

TARN, FRANCE – Shares in strongman leaders seem to be falling. The market has not yet turned bearish, but autocrats have little reason to feel bullish.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

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Consider China. The internal power games of the Communist Party of China (CPC) are notoriously opaque, and rarely does political infighting reach

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The Real Threats to the EU

July 2, 2018

The European Union must address a slew of challenges – from immigration to eurozone reform – that risk causing systemic problems lethal to the bloc. Given this, sensible leaders can be forgiven for politely sending the UK on its way, and focusing their attention on threats to the EU’s long-term cohesion and fundamental values.

LONDON – In the United Kingdom, Brexit looms large, with everyone from government ministers to tabloid newspapers frothing daily about the deal that will be struck with the European Union and the effects that it will have. But the EU faces too many pressing challenges to be obsessing about Britain.

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Photo by Carlos Tischler/Getty Images

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The Appalling Failure of Brexit

May 30, 2018

As the reality of Brexit sinks in, members of Britain’s cabinet and leading Brexiteers have turned on one another, while attempting to cast blame on everyone but themselves. The UK must plunge ahead, they insist, because that was “the will of the people," while they prepare their excuses for the impending debacle.

LONDON – It has been nearly two years since the United Kingdom narrowly voted in favor of leaving the European Union. As the march toward Brexit – formally set for the end of next March – proceeds, fundamental questions about the nature of the future UK-EU relationship remain unanswered. Instead, every time a tough decision must be made in the negotiations in Brussels, British ministers kick the can down the road,

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Populism Bites Back

April 26, 2018

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Political posturing is often expedient. But British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is now being reminded daily of the far-reaching consequences of staking out positions that lack any meaningful regard for the future.

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A Dangerous Trump Spring

April 2, 2018

Donald Trump’s disregard for liberal democratic values is weakening the institutional pillars of the world order that the US itself had long championed. Only if the world’s other liberal democracies cooperate to push back against the US can the international community hope to hold on until more responsible American leadership returns.
LONDON – It’s spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Flowers are starting to bloom, as the sun shines brighter and longer each day. When it comes to world affairs, however, the outlook is hardly rosy.

The Year Ahead 2018

The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

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