The starting point for understanding the deterioration in the relationship between the U.S. and Russia lies in Washington rather than Moscow. After 1989, Russia was a defeated power. Despite the fine words and some limited gestures, the Americans have treated it like one. Their policy has been one of encirclement.

Never underestimate the ability of political leaders to misread history on a monumental scale. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have both served to hasten western decline: they have both failed to achieve their objectives and in the process demonstrated an underlying western impotence.

In my experience, there are plenty of bad middle-class parents: those who put their own lives and careers before those of their children and make precious little time available for their offspring, preferring instead to hire in childcare and shower them with the latest and most expensive gadgets.

Now, I know it's a widespread assumption in the West that as countries modernize, they also westernize. This is an illusion. It's an assumption that modernity is a product simply of competition, markets and technology. It is not. It is also shaped equally by history and culture. China is not like the West, and it will not become like the West.

The Chinese view the state, not just as an intimate member of the family... but as the head of the family.

China is, indeed, in so many ways, not like the West. It is not even primarily a nation state but a civilisation state. Whereas the West has primarily been shaped by its experience of nation, China has been moulded by its sense of civilisation.

Australia - not western in geography, of course, but in every other respect for sure (it certainly doesn't want to be regarded as Asian, God forbid) - loves nothing more than to throw its weight around in South-East Asia by playing peacekeeper, carrying out its role as the United States' regional policeman.

If one wanted to find a modern symbol of personal freedom, the motor car is right there near the top of the list. But a car has come to mean much more than that. It has become a powerful statement about who you are and how much you earn.

The world is fortunate - for the time being, at least - that it has an American president in Obama who is prepared to take a conciliatory and concessive attitude towards America's decline and that it has a Chinese leadership which has been extremely cautious about expressing an opinion, let alone flexing its muscles.

Israel is the agent and surrogate of the United States and as such is treated entirely differently from every other country in the region. How can anyone expect Iran to accept that it is right for Israel to have nuclear weapons while itself being disallowed?

Always beware your moment of triumphalism: such emotions are a poor steer on the future.

Where the costs of entry are minimal, there is a wide avenue of opportunity for those with little or nothing, which is why football is just about the most democratic sport of all: African and Brazilian footballers compete on a level playing field with their rich white European counterparts.

In my experience (I am the lone father of an eight-year-old boy who lost his mother when he was one year old), parenting is the most difficult of all jobs: forget your chief executives, editors, prime ministers and the like - parenting is far more challenging.

I admired Margaret Thatcher - while abhorring much of what she offered - because she was so clearly a leader of huge substance. Blair was the dismal opposite.

One of the extraordinary features of the Blair government has been its slavish support for the central tenets of Bush's foreign policy - above all, the war in Iraq. During the Cold War, the Wilson government resisted the suggestion that it should send troops to Vietnam.

Neoconservatism in all its pomp conceived - in the Project for a New American Century - that, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world could be remade in the American image, that the previous bipolar world could be replaced by a unipolar one in which the U.S. was the dominant arbiter of global and regional affairs.

An increasingly multipolar world requires an entirely different kind of U.S. foreign policy: far from being unilateralist, it necessitates a complex form of power-sharing on both a global and regional basis.

Sport is increasingly played according to the tune, and rules, of those with the biggest bucks, whether their practices be legal or illegal.

The election of the nationalist Chen Shui-bian as president in 2000 and his re-election in 2004 was a nadir in the relationship between Taiwan and the mainland.

No one likes to admit they are racist or bear prejudices. Nor do they even like to be open and honest when they witness racist behaviour.

We still insist, by and large, in thinking that we can understand China by simply drawing on Western experience, looking at it through Western eyes, using Western concepts. If you want to know why we unerringly seem to get China wrong... this is the reason.

Following the end of the Cold War, there was much discussion concerning the point of NATO. In the event, it was reinvented as a means of reducing Russia's reach on its western frontiers and seeking to isolate it. Its former East European client states were admitted to NATO, as were the Baltic states.

China has existed within very roughly its present borders for over two millennia and for virtually the whole of that period saw itself as a 'civilisation state.' It was only when it was too weak to resist the western powers in the early 20th century that it finally acquiesced in an arrangement that was alien to it.

After its defeat in the Second World War, Japan, unlike Germany, failed to show true contrition or give a fulsome apology, though it showered its neighbours, including China, with generous economic assistance. Only in 1995 did it finally offer an apology, but this was of the most limited and formulaic kind.

If the truth be told, we are a society that is dripping in racism. This is not in the least surprising. For the best part of two centuries, we British ruled the waves, controlled two-fifths of the planet, and believed it was our responsibility to bring civilisation to those who allegedly lacked it.

It is not an accident that developing countries - virtually the whole of East Asia, for example - view the role of the state in a far more interventionist way than does the Anglo-Saxon world. Laissez-faire and free markets are the favoured means of the powerful and privileged.

In the aftermath of 9/11 and in the build-up to the invasion of Iraq, few questioned the idea that the United States was likely to be the extant superpower for several decades to come. Few anticipated how quickly the neoconservative project would run into the sands - or that China would rise so quickly.

One of the unique features of China is that, notwithstanding the fact that it has a population of 1.3 billion, around 92% regard themselves as Han Chinese. This is quite different from the world's other most populous countries, such as India, the U.S. and Indonesia, which are ethnically diverse.

Our ascendancy of the past two centuries - first Europe and then the U.S. - has bred a western-centric mentality: the West is the fount of all wisdom. We think of ourselves as open-minded, but our sense of superiority has closed our minds. We never entertained the idea that China could surpass the U.S.

Racism always exists cheek by jowl with, inside, and alongside culture and class. As a rule, it is inseparable from them. That is why, for example, food, language and names assume such importance in racial prejudice.

Blair's support for the Americans should not be seen as an aberration; on the contrary, it is closely linked to the main contours of New Labour policy. This has been a government that has majored on hyperbole, but in fact, from the outset it was hugely timid and cravenly orthodox.

Globalisation has obliterated distance, not just physically but also, most dangerously, mentally. It creates the illusion of intimacy when, in fact, the mental distances have changed little. It has concertinaed the world without engendering the necessary respect, recognition and tolerance that must accompany it.

When I am back in old Blighty, I am surrounded by the old and familiar concerns: New Labour, Europe, the Middle East and the rest. If you live in Britain, you will know what I mean - except you won't, because you will take it for granted that this is what the world is all about.

The cost to Tata of purchasing Land Rover and Jaguar may have been small, but its wider symbolic significance is enormous.

The American model was celebrated by Thatcherites and New Labour alike, California worshipped as the model of the future, 'Anglo-Saxon' embalmed as the fitting metaphor for the shared Anglo-American legacy, Europe denigrated and the rest of the world ignored.

It is much easier to learn another language when you are young, enthusiastic and unembarrassed.

Two European nations emerged with credit from the Iraq disaster: France and Germany. Both had the courage to withstand the Bush administration and oppose the U.S.-led invasion.

Blair - except at the edges - was a Thatcherite. Brown, in contrast, regarded Thatcherism as something that had to be taken on board while at the same time seeking to retain as much as possible of the Labour legacy, or 'Labour values,' as he would put it.

Fundamental systemic crises are often associated with the decline of the dominant imperial power and its increasing inability to sustain the system over which it had previously presided. The profound instability of the interwar period owed much to Britain's inability to maintain its role.

Move beyond the educated elite, and the great majority in most countries outside Europe don't speak English.

Just six years into the 21st century, one can say this is not shaping up to be anything like an American century. Rather, the U.S. seems much more likely to be faced with a very different kind of future: how to manage its own imperial decline.

Google will be obliged either to accept Chinese regulations or exit the world's largest Internet market, with serious consequences for its long-term global ambitions. This is a metaphor for our times: America's most dynamic company cannot take on the Chinese government - even on an issue like free and open information - and win.

Stuart Hall was an utterly unique figure. Although he arrived at the age of 19 from Jamaica and spent the rest of his life here, he never felt at home in Britain. This juxtaposition was a crucial source of his strength and originality. Because of his colour and origin, he saw the country differently - not as a native, but as an outsider.

It remains to be seen whether the more optimistic scenario for Sino-American relations can be realised. Much rests on the shoulders of the two leaders: Obama on this score has so far been disappointing; the early signs are that Xi is a highly confident leader who thinks big.

At the heart of globalisation is a new kind of intolerance in the West towards other cultures, traditions and values, less brutal than in the era of colonialism, but more comprehensive and totalitarian.

The more expensive and/or exclusive a sport, the whiter it tends to be: the fact almost has the force of a law. That is the main reason why the Rugby World Cup, the Pacific islands excepted, was so desperately white, the Springboks included.

Since the election of Shinzo Abe as the new Japanese prime minister, by reputation a fervent nationalist, relations between Japan and China have paradoxically improved a little.

Just as the Japanese pioneered a new form of manufacturing - lean production and quite new standards of reliability - so Tata, too, is embracing new forms of manufacture in order to revolutionise the price to meet the consumer needs of a poor, developing country.

The election of Shinzo Abe as the leader of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic party and now prime minister will have profound repercussions for Japan and East Asia. Most western commentary during the premiership of Junichiro Koizumi has been concerned with the extent to which Japan has allowed a freer rein to market forces.