IT WAS a brief encounter—an hour of discussions followed by a low-key dinner—but one of great historical resonance. Not since Mao Zedong’s takeover of China in 1949 had there been any meeting between the leaders of China and the island of Taiwan, to which the defeated government of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek fled. At a hotel in Singapore, Xi Jinping, China’s president, and his Taiwanese counterpart, Ma Ying-jeou, clearly revelled in the symbolism, grinning and waving as they shook hands before a mass of cameras gathered in a ballroom. But China’s dream of eventual unification with Taiwan is no closer to fulfilment, and its suspicion of the island’s increasingly separate identity is undiminished.
Officials had given only a few days’ notice of the unexpected meeting, which took place on the sidelines of Mr Xi’s long-planned state visit to Singapore. Careful choreography aimed to ensure that both statesmen would be seen as equals. The two emerged into the flash bulbs together, but from opposite sides of the room. They had agreed to refer to each other using only the honorific “Mr”, forgoing titles such as “president”, which would risk conveying legitimacy. And both delegations have reportedly agreed to split the bill for dinner, and for the use of the hotel’s conference rooms.
The seeds of the meeting were some very immediate concerns. Ties between the two countries have warmed immensely during Mr Ma’s premiership. But term limits require him to step down at elections in January, when polls suggest the presidency (and perhaps the legislature) will fall to the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), whose members lean towards independence and are suspicious of China’s overtures. Mr Ma is presumably not foolish enough to think that kudos from the landmark meeting will give his party, the Kuomintang (KMT), a better chance of holding power. He may instead be thinking of his own political legacy, given that growing domestic opposition to recent cross-strait trade deals has left his and his party’s popularity in tatters. For the KMT, the resonance of the meeting goes back to 1945 when it ruled all of China. In August that year Chiang met Mao for the last time before full-scale civil war erupted. The discussions between Mr Ma and Mr Xi were the first between the two parties’ leaders since then.
Illustration by Sean McCabe
Down in Miami, in a suite in the Crowne Plaza, Jeb Bush stared at a computer screen. Surrounded by his wife, his children, staffers and several reporters, the 41-year-old Republican candidate for governor of Florida had been running for office for 18 months and had been thinking about it for a lot longer than that. He watched the results roll in, showing the state’s closest such race in more than a century. But he knew.
“I’m going down,” Bush said.
He called his opponent around 11:30 p.m. to concede, then stayed up into the wee hours, smoking his first cigarette in years and drinking Scotch.
Bush lost more than just the election in Florida that night, because his older brother won one in Texas. George W. Bush would get to be a governor, and Jeb Bush would have to wait, upending the family’s expectations and radically scrambling the brothers’ trajectories and presidential prospects.
“Had Jeb won in ’94, he would’ve been the nominee in 2000,” anti-tax activist Grover Norquist tells me. Many people I talked to, from politicians to analysts to operatives, say the same thing.
And Clinton’s failure in her zealous efforts at health care reform, hitched to her role in the debilitating Whitewater hassle, made her conservatives’ top target. “I don’t know what’s right anymore,” she confided that year to an adviser. “I don’t even trust my own judgment.”
“If you want to see where modern Hillary starts,” Republican strategist Joe Brettell tells me, “that’s it—1994.”
For both Clinton and Bush, 1994 was a year that looked bad then—but looks worse now. It was a year that changed them, and their lives, forever. It was a year when political opponents learned how to take them on—and win. It was a year when being Bill Clinton’s wife or George H.W. Bush’s son started to feel quite complicated for two aspirants who sought to stand on their own. It was a year, too, in which the new contours of our collective media mayhem began to become clear, with seminal moments in 24-7 news entertainment, reality television and the advent of the commercial Internet, and talk radio rumbling on behalf of Republicans. The far-seeing already were imagining hand-held miracle phones.
The ‘Gist Settlement’ for freed slaves leads to a legal fight 200 years later
A troubled country has the chance to take a step forward
FOR the capital of a country where recent election turnouts have been low, Port-au-Prince does not lack for political advertising. Lampposts, electricity poles, even the lintels of lottery shops are plastered with toothy photos of the 53 candidates who are competing to be Haiti’s president in elections that begin on October 25th. Hundreds more are vying for parliamentary and municipal seats.
Though teeming with would-be presidents, Haiti barely has any elected officials. Just 11 are in office in the entire country: the current president, Michel Martelly, and ten senators. Elections were delayed twice—in 2011 and 2013—and parliament was dissolved early this year, leaving Mr Martelly, who cannot run again, to govern by decree. This month’s vote is thus a step towards restoring a functioning elected government.
Whoever leads it will face huge challenges. More than five years after an earthquake flattened much of the capital, Haiti is hobbled by corruption and political instability, and still vulnerable to disasters. The biggest shortcomings are in education, electricity and governance, says Gilles Damais of the Inter-American Development Bank. Money to fix them is scarce. Income from foreign donors dropped from 12% of GDP in 2010 to 7% last year. The government’s domestic revenues were a scant $1.1 billion, or 13% of GDP, in 2013.