• Nicholas Kristof on China's Leadership Problems After opening his column with a parable about Sun Tzu beheading his concubines, the New York Times columnist ponders the internal issues troubling China's political leadership. Kristof argues that behind the astonishing economic growth fostered by the Communist Party lay the seeds of social instability and government insecurity, embodied by the disparity of interests between the Politburo and the Chinese people with regard to Google. "Its greatest failing is its refusal to adjust politically to accommodate the middle class that it created," writes Kristof, "and its greatest vulnerability is the way it increasingly neither inspires people nor terrifies them, but rather simply annoys them."
  • Isabel Hilton on the Future of North Korea The Guardian writer and chinadialogue.net editor looks to North Korea's diplomatic past for insight into the future of the troubled state. Casting the Korean peninsula as "the final hold-out of the cold war," Hilton quickly crosses out reunification and inevitable collapse as viable solutions to the North Korean issue before finding an unlikely diplomatic savior in China:
China's approach to North Korea has evolved with its own development. Once seen as a buffer against US aggression, North Korea is now China's problem child, rattling its nuclear programme to gain attention, a source of instability on China's border. While China has thrived with economic liberalisation, North Korea continues on the road to bankruptcy, in part because of the regime's refusal to reform. China is growing tired of a game that has long outlived its usefulness, and anxious about North Korea's deterioration. Instead of being an obstacle to normalisation on the Korean peninsula and the demilitarisation that would allow, China could be a key ally.
  • Gail Collins on Mitt Romney's Liberal Cred  The New York Times columnist playfully tips her hat to Mitt Romney, "the man we have to thank for our new national health care law." Collins alludes to the remarkable similarities between Obama's health care plan and the Massachusetts plan that Romney approved as governor; she also dives into the weeds of the Obama plan to illustrate how some of the GOP's biggest post-reform rallying points won't actually summon much political good will to the party. Republicans are "currently crouched in the basement," says Collins, "waiting for the health care apocalypse to split the earth into smithereens."
  • Katherine Eban and J. Aaron Graham on Pharma's Gray Market  The authors pen a New York Times column about the complex underworld of medicine theft and resale. "Pharmaceuticals need to be stored properly," Eban and Graham write, and this often doesn't happen when drugs are boosted and sold through illegal channels. Improper storage can "degrade medicines or even alter their chemical composition," endangering consumers. But if drug companies are willing to pay for a kind of electronic technology known as "track-and-trace," it would become immeasurably easier to flag stolen drugs--which means "the market for them would quickly shrink."
  • Conrad Black on a Pakistani Turnaround  Play the odds for long enough, Black seems to suggest, and you'll eventually come across a winner. Writing in National Review, Black implies this is what happened for the Obama foreign-policy team in Pakistan: as the country's army "finally leads a determined effort to root the terrorists out of their mountain hideouts," Black sees the first step in a process leading to the eventual relief of "extreme and primitive theocratic influences" on the Muslim world. But apart from that, he contends, the first year of Obama's presidency--from an international perspective, anyway--has largely been a wash.