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Margaret Thatcher, baroness of Kesteven, died on Monday, from a stroke at the age of 87. The iconic leader of the Conservative Party, Thatcher served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 up to her resignation in 1990.

The Soviet Press gave her the nickname the “Iron Lady” for her toughness, and she led what some scholars have dubbed a “paradigm shift” in both British and world political affairs. Historians, politicians and economists will continue to debate whether the epochal changes were for the better, but she won't soon be forgotten. Here are five pillars of her legacy:

1. Neo-liberalism The three decades following World War II were paved with social policies, fashioning a robust welfare state. But Thatcher considered that the State had to disappear as much as possible, so that citizens take care of themselves. Hence, a proudly neo-liberal agenda of tax reductions and spending cuts. “There is no alternative,” she declared. In 1986 she triggered the so-called “Big Bang,” that deregulated the City, allowing the London financial industry to boom in the years to come. Yet such unencumbered capitalism, some would say, is one of the sources of the current global economic crisis.

2. Alliance with Ronald Reagan It was perhaps the best expression of the “special relationship” that has united post-War UK and the US since WWII, resting on three key points: a shared vision of a strong executive leader, of neo-liberal economics and, in the context of the Cold War, unblinking anti-Communism.


3. The Falklands After the invasion of the Falkland Islands, a British overseas territory, in 1982 by the Argentinian junta, Thatcher declared war and won. In two months, 255 British and 650 Argentinians died, in order that London could maintain this faraway, barely inhabited remnant of the former Empire. The former colonial Empire. The old grievances are still alive today: Cristina Kirchner, the Argentinian President, still claim possession of the archipelago, yet last March, residents of the islands overwhelmingly voted to remain British in a referendum.

4 The “Enemies Within” The IRA, to begin with was a violent enemy that Thatcher set out to defeat. In 1981, nine terrorists imprisoned were left to die from a hunger strike they had started in order to be considered as political prisoners. Secondly, trade unions, which, after a year-long strike, capitulated -- and have never recovered their influence.


5. Euroscepticism Under Thatcher, the United Kingdom was “the awkward partner” of the European Union. Trying, with little success, to turn the union into a free trade area, and nothing else, she grew disillusioned. In September 1988, she gave a speech in Bruges opposing further European integration, which remains a blueprint for Conservative Euroscepticism. Last January, the current Prime Minister, David Cameron, pressed by his party allies and Thatcher's disciples, made a speech evoking the possibility of leaving the Union altogether if Britons decided so in a referendum by 2015.


6. A Woman Of Her Times Though she would never belabor the point, and was no friend to the Feminist Movement as such, Thatcher will certainly be remembered by history as the first woman to be Prime Minister in Europe. In winning her first campaign for Prime Minister, she put it this way: "Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country..."

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Society

Why Chinese Cities Waste Millions On Vanity Building Projects

The so-called "White Elephants," or massive building projects that go unused, keep going up across China as local officials mix vanity and a misdirected attempt to attract business and tourists. A perfect example the 58-meter, $230 million statue of Guan Yu, a beloved military figure from the Third Century, that nobody seems interested in visiting.

Statue of Guan Yu in Jingzhou Park, China

Chen Zhe


BEIJING — The Chinese Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development recently ordered the relocation of a giant statue in Jingzhou, in the central province of Hubei. The 58-meter, 1,200-ton statue depicts Guan Yu, a widely worshipped military figure from the Eastern Han Dynasty in the Third century A.D.

The government said it ordered the removal because the towering presence "ruins the character and culture of Jingzhou as a historic city," and is "vain and wasteful." The relocation project wound up costing the taxpayers approximately ¥300 million ($46 million).

Huge monuments as "intellectual property" for a city

In recent years local authorities in China have often raced to create what is euphemistically dubbed IP (intellectual property), in the form of a signature building in their city. But by now, we have often seen negative consequences of such projects, which evolved from luxurious government offices to skyscrapers for businesses and residences. And now, it is the construction of cultural landmarks. Some of these "white elephant" projects, even if they reach the scale of the Guan Yu statue, or do not necessarily violate any regulations, are a real problem for society.

It doesn't take much to be able to differentiate between a project constructed to score political points and a project destined for the people's benefit. You can see right away when construction projects neglect the physical conditions of their location. The over the top government buildings, which for numerous years mushroomed in many corners of China, even in the poorest regional cities, are the most obvious examples.

Homebuyers looking at models of apartment buildings in Shanghai, China — Photo: Imaginechina/ZUMA

Guan Yu transformed into White Elephant

A project truly catering to people's benefit would address their most urgent needs and would be systematically conceived of and designed to play a practical role. Unfortunately, due to a dearth of true creativity, too many cities' expression of their rich cultural heritage is reduced to just building peculiar cultural landmarks. The statue of Guan Yu in Jingzhou is a perfect example.

Long ago Jinzhou was a strategic hub linking the North and the South of China. But its development has lagged behind coastal cities since the launch of economic reform a generation ago.

This is why the city's policymakers came up with the idea of using the place's most popular and glorified personality, Guan Yu (who some refer to as Guan Gong). He is portrayed in the 14th-century Chinese classic "The Romance of the Three Kingdoms" as a righteous and loyal warrior. With the aim of luring tourists, the city leaders decided to use him to create the city's core attraction, their own IP.

Opened in June 2016, the park hosting the statue comprises a surface of 228 acres. In total it cost ¥1.5 billion ($232 million) to build; the statue alone was ¥173 million ($27 million). Alas, since the park opened its doors more than four years ago, the revenue to date is a mere ¥13 million ($2 million). This was definitely not a cost-effective investment and obviously functions neither as a city icon nor a cultural tourism brand as the city authorities had hoped.

China's blind pursuit of skyscrapers

Some may point out the many landmarks hyped on social media precisely because they are peculiar, big or even ugly. However, this kind of attention will not last and is definitely not a responsible or sustainable concept. There is surely no lack of local politicians who will contend for attention by coming up with huge, strange constructions. For those who can't find a representative figure, why not build a 40-meter tall potato in Dingxi, Gansu Province, a 50-meter peony in Luoyang, Shanxi Province, and maybe a 60-meter green onion in Zhangqiu, Shandong Province?

It is to stop this blind pursuit of skyscrapers and useless buildings that, early this month, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development issued a new regulation to avoid local authorities' deviation from people's real necessities, ridiculous wasted costs and over-consumption of energy.

I hope those responsible for the creation of a city's attractiveness will not simply go for visual impact, but instead create something that inspires people's intelligence, sustains admiration and keeps them coming back for more.

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