Failing to take Putin and Xi at their word

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In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine many in the West described Putin as crazy. Yet for 30 years, Putin repeatedly claimed in his speeches that Russia and Ukraine were ‘one people’. When it comes to China and Taiwan it can seem that Westerners are making a similar mistake of not listening to what Xi Jinping is actually saying. So why are we so reluctant to take foreign adversaries at their word? What is it that prevents us from entertaining their perceptive on the world, however “crazy” it might seem to us? Are we worried that acknowledging a different way of thinking will put into question our own? At HowTheLightGetsIn festival London 2022, Peter Hitchens, Paul Mason, and Bhavna Davé debated why the West refuses to really understand its adversaries.  It’s fair to say that in the West we have become rather cynical about our politicians. We are used to them saying one thing, and then doing another. Bold statements about policy and vision before elections…

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