Letter 47: Poking and Prodding Democracy

On Monday at 9:30 a.m., I’ll chat with George Megalogenis and A.C. Grayling, the British philosopher, about democracy and populism. (This one will be live-streamed.)

Both discussions should be interesting, with overlapping themes, and I’d love to see and say hello to any and all Australia Letter readers who are able to come.

I’m also still preparing questions for each of the sessions and would love to hear from you.

Letter 47: Poking and Prodding Democracy
Letter 47: Poking and Prodding Democracy

What do you think I should be asking Clive about China, and Australia’s vulnerabilities to Chinese interference?

What should I get George and A.C. to discuss about democracy and the rise of populism around the world?

Send your thoughts and questions to with “Democracy” in the subject line and I’ll try to a work a few of them into our discussions.

Also, as long as we’re highlighting events, Francesca Donner, the editorial director of The Times’s new Gender Initiative, is in Australia this week.

She’ll be at the Sydney Opera House on Saturday for a panel discussion titled Grabbing Back: Women in the Age of Trump and she’ll be in Melbourne on March 7 at the Wheeler Centre for a discussion about Reporting the Gender Reckoning (sold out).

You can also hear her discussing gender and The Times this evening with Richard Glover on ABC’s “Drive” program.

Finally, Francesca is looking for a handful of female, under-45 subscribers to join her for a dinner on March 7 in Melbourne to discuss media, gender — and to get some feedback on The Times.

Please email with “Melbourne dinner” in the subject line if you’re interested.

Now here are our stories of the week, which I organized in a slightly different way this time around.

I broke it all down into three sections: China (big news week there); Australia; and Fun (stories that make us smile, because hey, we all need a break sometimes). In each group, I pointed out a few top picks in case that’s all you have time for.

Feedback is welcome, as always. So is sharing this newsletter with friends.


China’s Power Grab


The Communist Party is abolishing limits on presidential terms, effectively allowing President Xi Jinping to lead China indefinitely.Credit Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

Xi Jingping set himself up as China’s ruler for life on Sunday — a huge story with dramatic implications for the world and especially this region, Australia included.

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Our colleagues (including two Aussies in China, Jane Perlez and Chris Buckley) have been hard at work examining the news.

Here’s a breakdown with asterisks next to the stories you should read if you’re pressed for time.


China Moves to Let Xi Stay in Power by Abolishing Term Limit ***


With Xi’s Power Grab, China Joins New Era of Strongmen

Xi Jinping Extends Power, and China Braces for a New Cold War

As Xi Tightens His Grip on China, U.S. Sees Conflict Ahead

President Xi’s Strongman Rule Raises New Fears of Hostility and Repression

Xi Sets China on a Collision Course With History ***


President Xi Jinping’s Rise in China, as Covered by The Times ***

Xi Jinping Thought Explained: A New Ideology for a New Era



Xi Jinping Dreams of World Power for Himself and China

Xi Jinping’s Power Grab


Australia This Week


Credit Diana Oliva Cave for The New York Times

I’ve started listing all our Australia stories each week in part so I can keep track, but also because I figure there’s probably something you missed.

My favorites this week involve pineapples and tigers.

Gay Mardi Gras in Sydney Goes Corporate, Clashing With Activist Roots: The inclusion of more corporations in a festival sometimes comes at the expense of grass-roots activists and longtime participants. (International)

Pay Me a Pineapple: Our audience growth editor is getting married. In her honor, this week’s Australia Diary is about how her talented fiancé, Will Cuming (a musician known as LANKS), became haunted by tales of spiky fruit. (Australia Diary) ***

When Stars Were Born: Astronomers say they have glimpsed farther back in time than the Hubble Telescope to see what was happening when the first stars were forming. (Science)

A 3-D Look Inside the Tasmanian Tiger’s Pouch, Long After Extinction: Researchers scanned young thylacines preserved in jars in museums, gaining an understanding of when in their development the marsupials turned canine-like. (Science) ***

Saving Koalas, and Other Marsupials, With Milk Almost as Good as Mom’s: When baby koalas or kangaroos need to be hand-reared, cow’s milk can sicken them. So a local company began creating custom formulas, and expanded to echidnas, sugar gliders and other Australian natives. (International)

‘Creepy’ Interview Quizzes New Zealand’s Prime Minister on Conception: Questions by a “smitten” interviewer for “60 Minutes” in Australia startled Jacinda Ardern and outraged many viewers. (International)

An Australian Model on Guns? Trump and Turnbull Reject Comparisons: A Florida shooting survivor implored President Trump to emulate Australia’s gun crackdown. But when Australia’s prime minister visited the White House, the two said the nations are too different. (International)

Australia’s Gun Laws Are Not a Model for America: Australians are scared of guns. Americans love them. (Opinion)

Barnaby Joyce Is Replaced as Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister: The conservative Mr. Joyce was felled by scandals including an affair with a staff member. Michael McCormack, the veterans affairs minister, succeeds him. (International)


Stories that Make Us Smile


Two baby bottle-nosed dolphins at a zoo in Duisburg, GermanyCredit Roland Weihrauch/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

You’ve seen those dolphins off the Australia coast playing in the waves. But did you know they are quicker to mug for the mirror than humans?

File this in the category called “Finally”: Any student in the world can now qualify for a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford.

Architects-turned-pastry chefs are taking the dessert world by storm.***

I’ve spent time in southern Chile, and it is amazing. Now it’s going to be part of a new national park system that will be three times the size of Yosemite and Yellowstone combined.

Book your travel now!

Damien Cave is the new Australia bureau chief for The New York Times. He’s covered more than a dozen countries for The Times, including Mexico, Cuba, Iraq and Lebanon. Follow him on Twitter: @damiencave.

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