Already 2008 has proved a tumultuous year in terms of global perceptions of China, and there are still 59 days to go until the Beijing Olympics. The tragedy of the Sichuan earthquake followed hard on the heels of the riots in Tibet and the demonstrations surrounding the Olympic torch relay.
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.
The question is not whether Tibet should be independent but the extent of the autonomy that it is allowed. Tibet has been firmly ensconced as part of the Chinese empire since the Qing dynasty's military intervention in Tibet in the early 18th century.
If the Age of Sport has been all champagne and roses hitherto, then expect our love affair with its newly-acquired prominence to become increasingly tainted by scandals about cheating. Sport is losing its shine and allure.
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.
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.
If anything, Brown is more oriented towards the other side of the Atlantic than Blair. Most of his reforming ideas and intellectual influences seem to come from the United States, and in a recent speech he went to great lengths to emphasise the historical affinity and shared characteristics of the U.K. and the U.S.
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.
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.
The fact that television and tourism have made the whole world accessible has created the illusion that we enjoy intimate knowledge of other places, when we barely scratch their surface. For the vast majority, the knowledge of Thailand or Sri Lanka acquired through tourism consists of little more than the whereabouts of the beach.
More than 90% of Chinese believe themselves to be Han. Of course, such a vast population is derived from countless different races, but because China has enjoyed such a long and continuous history as a polity, there has been thousands of years of mixing, melding and assimilation.
With the United States in slow long-term decline, how will that affect the position of English? And where will all that leave monolingual Britain? Our political leaders like to boast about how global Britain is, but when it comes to languages, it is near the bottom of the global league, together with another island state, Japan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Although one of the key justifications for the Vietnam war was to prevent the spread of communism, the U.S. defeat was to produce nothing of the kind: apart from the fact that Cambodia and Laos became embroiled, the effects were essentially confined to Vietnam.
The era when the United States was the dominant global power is steadily coming to an end, and it must find a way of acknowledging this and framing its ambitions and interests accordingly. Instead of claiming the right to continuing primacy in east Asia, for example, it should seek to share that primacy with China.