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Weekend Roundup: The Pope Blesses China

Many seem to fear the rise of China as a challenge to the West. Not Pope Francis. In a remarkable interview published this week in Asia Times, he takes the long view, transcending contemporary geopolitics and embracing the return of the Middle Kingdom's ancient civilization to the global stage as enriching for us all.

"For me, China has always been a reference point of greatness," the pontiff was quoted as saying. "A great country. But more than a country, a great culture, with an inexhaustible wisdom." It was the first time in 2,000 years that a pope had extended greetings on the Lunar New Year to a Chinese leader. In the interview, Francis referred to the experience of Matteo Ricci, the 16th century Jesuit missionary who in many ways introduced China to the West. "Ricci's experience teaches us that it is necessary to enter into dialogue with China, because it is an accumulation of wisdom and history." We in the West, he further said, have a "duty to respect it with a capital 'R'."

Writing from Rome for our "Following Francis" series, Sébastien Maillard explains why the pope is "looking East" to Russia and China, including talk of a possible compromise with Beijing that would allow the Vatican to once again appoint bishops there.

Former Hong Kong governor C.H. Tung also invokes history to make his case that China has no desire for world leadership today. "At the height of the Ming Dynasty, when China had 30 percent of the GDP of the world, China remained peaceful and did not make incursions into foreign lands," he writes.

Those who aren't concerned about China's rise are concerned about its demise as the rapid growth of past decades slows. Writing from Beijing, Justin Yifu Lin tells us not to worry. With plenty of capital to invest and through a turn toward consumption and services, says Lin, China will be able to reach its 6.5 percent growth target. It "will continue to be the main growth engine in the world, contributing around 30 percent of global growth annually." In a gallery of images from a new book by China Digital Times, Sophie Beach displays the popular protest cartoons of Chinese illustrator Badiucao.

In the U.S. presidential primary caucuses in Iowa this week, voters demoted Donald Trump, America's top China-basher, knocking him down to second place just ahead of another China foe, Marco Rubio, both falling behind the first place finish for Republicans of evangelical crusader Ted Cruz. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton squeaked by left-wing populist Bernie Sanders. These results prompted veteran analyst Jeff Greenfield to posit that "anger could prove to be the driving force of the primaries." For Greenfield, the votes ahead will answer these consequential questions: "Just how disaffected is the American electorate? Is disaffection deep and powerful enough to render the traditional assets of a potential president -- experience, temperament, solidity -- an actual liability?" Former Obama adviser Ben LaBolt concurs. "Extreme populism has been on the rise in Europe," he writes, and Sanders and the Republican frontrunners "are attempting to foment a similar sentiment in the U.S.."

In an interview with WorldPost Managing Editor Farah Mohamed, Islamic scholar Akbar Ahmed weighs in on President Obama's first visit to a U.S. mosque as commander in chief. It may be late in his term, Ahmed says, but for the president to visit a mosque when Donald Trump is calling for a ban on Muslims entering the country is clearly a significant statement of American values. Arturo Sarukhan joins two other diplomats in calling for "a pivot to North America" in the global strategies of Mexico, Canada and the U.S..

In the first of a new series, Astronomer Royal Martin Rees wonders what will happen to a planet populated by 11 billion people. In an interview, Alec Ross outlines his new book on the pros and cons of "The Industries of the Future." "The last trillion-dollar industry was built on computer code," Ross says. "The next will be built on genetic code." He also says that "the weaponization of code is the biggest development in warfare since the invention of the atomic bomb." Writing from Cape Town, Claire van den Heever reports that Facebook is not the only game in town in Africa, where the Chinese WeChat service is set to become the only app Africans need.

Writing from Oslo, Jan Egeland scores the dearth of international aid for refugees. Governments closing their borders to Syrian refugees often claim they help Syrians best "in their own region," he writes, but "it is a myth that they provide Syrian war victims with significant aid." In this week's "Forgotten Fact," we also look at the conflict in Syria and the aid that has unfortunately not made its way there. Daniel Marans describes how Greece is being squeezed between the burdens of the refugee influx and its economic downturn.

European parliamentarian Miguel Urban writes from Spain that, "the exponential increase of refugees and migrants is tearing at the seams of the European Union, which is neither as united nor as supportive as it has tried to appear." This photo series by Josef Schulz captures Europe's past of closed borders to suggest it could also be the future. UNESCO chief Irina Bokova writes that she's concerned about the lack of education for young refugees as their exile from home drags on. "Six years on," she writes, "it is time to think more long term, because a generation of young Syrians is in danger of being lost to despair, to violent extremism -- the foundations for peace in the future will erode if this reality is neglected." Writing from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, Dana Ali laments that, five years after the overthrow of Gaddafi during the Arab Spring, "Libya is still in a state of war." World Reporter Nick Robins-Early explains how Libya is becoming the fallback location for the self-described Islamic State as it loses territory in Syria and Iraq. Writing from Paris, Bernard-Henri Lévy reviews a new film by François Margolin on "how jihadists are made."

World Bank Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indrawati sees extreme inequality around the globe today as "a symptom of broken society." The U.N. Development Program's Mandeep Dhaliwal examines how the combination of environmental degradation and gender inequality can lead to the rise and spread of diseases, including the Zika virus. World Reporter Charlotte Alfred reviews how the lessons of the Ebola outbreak can help us cope with the Zika virus.

In a photo post from our series on everyday entrepreneurs, we profile resilient farmers in Timor-Leste who are rethinking the way food is produced in that country in the face of rising competition from cheap, factory-processed foods.

Of significant note, the Berggruen Institute announced this week that the director of the London School of Economics, Craig Calhoun, will take over as president of the Berggruen Institute in the summer of 2016. Announcing the appointment, Nicolas Berggruen, the founder and chairman of the Berggruen Institute, remarked, "Having headed the London School of Economics, Craig brings to us the world-class experience of leadership as well as scholarly achievement in the top ranks of global education. His aspiration over the years to establish 'an institutional location for practical reason in public affairs' is a perfect fit with the mission of the Berggruen Institute."

Fusion this week looks at the new ways Uber has developed to monitor bad drivers through their smartphones. Finally, in our Singularity series, we learn that the secret to memory capacity (in humans) may be synapse size.

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VICE PRESIDENT OF OPERATIONS: Dawn Nakagawa.

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the "whole mind" way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

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