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French press review 18 October 2017


The Chinese Communists are having a congress, with their boss Xi Jinping hoping to consolidate his already considerable position. There's a call for the French government to tell "the truth" about President Emmanuel Macron's budget. And what went wrong in Somalia last weekend?

Today sees the opening in Beijing of the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.

Right-wing Le Figaro gives the event the front-page honours, noting that web censorship and police security are at peak levels to ensure that nothing tarnishes this confirmation of the power of the Chinese number one, Xi Jinping.

This is an important week for Xi who, according to Le Figaro, intends to use this meeting to consolidate his power. At the end of the congress, seven days from now, he will have placed a sufficient number of his supporters in the 25-man Politburo to have effective control. Crucially, five of the seven members of the all-powerful Permanent Political Committee are due to be replaced.

Xi needs all the help he can get since, despite a level of power already being compared with that of Chairman Mao, the current Chinese president will be too old to stand again by the time of the next elections, due in 2022.

Open for business

The web edition of Le Monde notes that the congress has already opened, with Xi in his warm-up speech making much of his determination to open the Chinese economy to foreign investors.

All companies working in China will be treated fairly and equally, according to the main man. The new Chinese model will thus run counter to US President Donald Trump's protectionist stance for American businesses.

At least in theory. Because, as Le Monde points out, there has been a long litany of promises to foreign interests to end the discrimination in favour of local concerns. But very little concrete action.

Certain economic sectors are closed to foreign firms. Other sectors require the involvement of a Chinese partner company and the consequent transfer of technological expertise.

Xi's three hour speech gave no sign of any political liberalisation. He did promise a "new era" but called on all Chinese Communists to fight anything that threatens the party's authority. Which sounds a bit like the old era.

A budget for the rich?

Left-leaning Libération wants to be told the truth about President Emmanuel Macron's "budget for the rich". As the debate on next year's income and expenditure gets under way in the French parliament, Libé says the authorities should publicly explain the impact of the reform of wealth tax, to prove that it is not just another gift to the very well off.

All they have to do is explain why it is a good idea, and to the benefit of everyone, for the government to sign a cheque for 4.5 billion euros in favour of the 340,000 best-off families in the country.

Madness in Mogadishu

Le Monde's editorial is an attempt to make sense of the truck-bomb explosion that devastated the centre of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, last weekend, killing at least 300 people and injuring 500 others.

The problem, according to the centrist daily, is that Somalia is the perfect place for such an atrocity.

Poor, subject to anarchy, corrupt, with various greedy elites and clans fighting for control of resources, and, crucially, without a functional state administration, the east African nation has none of the safety nets which make the work of terrorists more difficult elsewhere.

The local branch of Al Qaida, know as Al Shebaab (The Young), has shown itself to be a skillful manipulator of the flaws in the Somali police system and of the political divisions which have made the country practically ungovernable. They haven't yet claimed responsibility for the lastest attack, but no one in Mogadishu has any doubt.

And what, Le Monde wants to know, is the rest of the world doing to help?

The US alone spent 500 million dollars last year on Somali security. Fifty thousand soldiers and police officers have been trained by international experts. The African Union has 22,000 troops in the country. Where were they all last Saturday?

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