International panorama: parade of sovereignties from Catalonia with Kurdistan and session of Communist Party of China

Former Soviet diplomat Yulduz Khaliullin about the absence of stability in the world. Series 8

The last week continued under the aegis of independence of Catalonia and Kurdistan, which Soviet and Russian diplomat Yulduz Khaliullin had told about in his column of Realnoe Vremya. Our contributor also noted an upcoming important event – the session of the Communist Party of China where either the current ruler will be confirmed or a new leader of the biggest Eastern power will be appointed. In addition, he told how the launch of the first artificial satellite 60 years ago influenced his career.

How Soviet satellite changed the course of the 'Cold War'

The 60 th anniversary of the launch of the first artificial Earth satellite is celebrated in October. Space had a huge impact on international relations. The Soviet metal sphere Sputnik-1, which weighs more than 80 kilogrammes, turned out to be a kind of lightning conductor from the tension around the Caribbean crisis when the world was about to start a nuclear war. The first satellite launched from the Earth on 4 October 1957 changed the course of the 'Cold War'.

This launch also affected my personal life. Then I was a conscript sergeant, chaired the division of radio mechanics and radio operators in the direction finding centre, which was charged with following beep-beep signals. 10 days before the start, we were instructed to observe. We did not sleep all night on 3 October. And nothing happened. And the unit commander gave me a severe reprimand for not catching a signal. It turned out the launch was postponed to 4 October without telling us anything. We detected a signal then, of course, we followed it in the direction finding centre for several days and wrote down where the satellite was.

After that, I received not only cancellation of the reprimand but also a letter of gratitude from the Central Committee signed by A.N. Shelepin (he was the chairman of the Central Committee of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League). It helped me leave the service in the army 6 months earlier to pass exams to the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

Sputnik-1, archived photo

The race in space continued as 'race on the Moon'. N.S. Khrushchev stated that a Soviet person was to be the first man on the Moon. But, unfortunately, big money and powerful scientific possibilities of the USA won, and they were first in 1969. Then the natural satellite of the Earth was forgotten. Indians who launched Chandrayaan-1 space satellite several years ago reminded about the Moon. Polar regions of the Moon that were different from the equator where our and American satellites were send were examined with the help of this Indian space probe. Water ice was found in the polar regions, which became a discovery. Now many countries study Mars by finding out whether there is life on the 'red planet'. We will know in the short run what discoveries will be there.

Russia continues working in space by cooperating with Europeans and Americans a lot. Such cooperation in space plays a positive role, especially in conditions of political contradictions. Americans have to cooperate with us to a certain degree because now they can't make the rocket engines Russia manufactures.

Independent Catalonia?

Now let's be back to the modern state in the world. In the Parliament of Catalonia, President of the Generalitat of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont announced Catalonia's independence. Residents of the Spanish province prepared for this for a long time. Naturally, Madrid considered the recent referendum in the autonomy illegal and took all measures to prevent it: additional police squads were sent there, the polls were closed. But over 1 million people managed to vote, 92% of them were for independent Catalonia. Many people were not allowed to approach the polls.

Spain is one of the big countries of the European Union with a territory of about 0,5 million square kilometres and population of approximately 50 million people. Catalonia is the largest province in the country. They obtained the status of autonomy almost 40 years ago. Barcelona is the second city in the country after Madrid with a population of about 3 million people. The Catalonians amount to 7,5 million people in total. Catalonia gives the country about 20% of income. Catalonians are discontent because these 20 %, in their opinion, don't return to them. The majority of Catalonians as well as Spaniards profess Catholicism.

In the Parliament of Catalonia, President of the Generalitat of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont announced Catalonia's independence. Photo: Reuters

Apart from membership in the EU, Spain has also been a NATO member since 1982. So the referendum became a headache for both the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The political situation in the centre of Western Europe reminds Brexit somehow, it can become a stimulus for Basques of Spain and national minorities of other EU countries.

After Puigdemont announced Catalonia's independence, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy convened an emergency meeting of the government to discuss further steps to cope with the current situation.

Kurdistan on road to independence

A similar independence referendum also took place in Iraqi Kurdistan that had reached a bigger regional lever. Kurds live in the northern part of Syria, Iraq, Iraq and southeast of Turkey. Thousands of Kurds live in Armenia and in several regions of northern Caucasus. They have been fighting for their independence for almost 100 years. Now the Kurds total 30-35 million people. But none of the four countries want to grant them independence. Baghdad, Tehran and Ankara officially denied recognising the results of this referendum. In general, positions of these countries could also be predicted.

By the way, after expulsing Saddam Hussein from Iraq, Kurd Jalal Talabani who has recently died in Germany became the first president. He could render certain help in solving the problem. We also need to note that military units of Peshmerga Kurds played a greater role at some moment than links of the Ministry of Defence of Iraq in the liberation of northern districts of Iraq from extremists, particularly Erbil, where this independence was announced, and Mosul.

Our position on this occurrence is balanced. In the Soviet era, we almost supported the Kurds in their fight for national self-identification. Now the political situation in this region is completely different. Americans cooperated with Kurds, as far as it is known. Now neither Moscow nor Washington are ready to recognise Kurdistan's independence for quite understandable reasons – not to complicate relations with Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria.

''There is no doubt that current chairman of the People's Republic of China, Secretary General of CPC, Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the country Xi Jinping became the most powerful leader of China after Deng Xiaoping.'' Photo:

5 leaders of China

An important event in PRC is to take place next week – the 19 th Session of the Communist Party of China, which opens on 18 October. The media of the USA and Great Britain have recently written a lot about China. PRC is the main political and military opponent of Washington. This is why the media actively follow Beijing.

A big analytical piece about five leading political activists of China has been recently published in BBC. There is no doubt that current chairman of the People's Republic of China, Secretary General of CPC, Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the country Xi Jinping became the most powerful leader of China after Deng Xiaoping. I'm convinced that Mr Jinping will be re-elected as secretary general in the next session. We can just observe how he will cement his positions. In my opinion, an effective fight against corruption, especially in the Communist Party — from low levels to political bureau members — is one of the reasons for his success.

Information is an important component of China's politics. Information resources are in firm hands in the country where even the Internet is clearly controlled. The global network users in the country total up to a billion. According to Forbes, Ma Huateng (aka Pony Ma) is the third richest person in China. His Tencent company creates and provides support of WeChat popular communication system.

Jack Ma (Ma Yun), a former English teacher, is another influential businessman in PRC – now he is the second most famous Chinese billionaire. The businessman founded Alibaba Group, which is one of the biggest online trading platforms. It is considered that Jack Ma met with Barack Obama and Donald Trump face-to-face. The words ''Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine'' belong to him.

So the CPC session where I am sure that Xi Jinping will be re-elected will become one of the most important events of the next week.

''He has issued about 10 books in 10 years. He makes himself write at this age. He is an example for many Russian pensioners.'' Photo:

Life factor

By the way, in China, people who are older than 60 years account for considerable part of the domestic market consumers. About 10% of the country's GDP (almost $700 billion) are the production of goods and services for old people. Officials of PRC consider this group of the population as a significant factor that influences the country's economic potential.

In Russia, we have a negative structure and negative dynamics to have an active lifestyle for old people. People need to create art to prolong their life. It turns out that the influence of active lifestyle is the main factor of long life (50-55%). Other factors play a fewer role: environment and ecology, nutrition (20%), heredity (15%), health system (10%). Of course, the role of these factors in the development of some diseases is different. But lifestyle remains crucial.

In this respect, it is also suitable to mention my friend professor Agdas Burganov whose 97 th birthday we celebrated on 17 October. He has recently finished working on Renascence of Civilisation book and asked to write a prologue. I could not say 'no' as a mark of respect for him and his age. He has issued about 10 books in 10 years. He makes himself write at this age. He is an example for many Russian pensioners.

By Yulduz Khaliullin