With all tickets sold beforehand, the OHCT Blenheim Lecture delivered by John Simpson on 16th October 2019 promised to be an evening full of interest, and it did not disappoint. After drinks we sat down to a tasty meal in the elegant surroundings of The Orangery, and then gathered in the Marlborough Room for our lecture by the BBC’s most senior news broadcaster and one of the outstanding journalists of his generation. John has reported from 140 countries and interviewed at least 200 world leaders, and gained numerous awards in his long career.
He spoke about his long involvement with China and the huge changes that have taken place there over his lifetime. From being a closed and repressive society, in the last 20 years it began to open up, but under the current President Xi Jinping China has closed down again, although John stressed that China is neither an enemy nor a friend, but does want to be accepted by the international community.
John spoke more widely of the shifts of power and influence in the world today – the implosion of American influence in the Middle East, the fall of Britain’s standing because of Brexit, and the refusal of Europe to become a major influencer within the current conflict zones. All this has resulted in Russia moving in to fill the vacuum in an opportunistic way, which has further destabilised the international situation.
But John ended his lecture with a reminder that in spite of this negative picture there are many “hidden positives” in the modern world compared to the world of 50 years ago, so we should not despair.
The lecture was an example of how reasoned analysis and first-hand knowledge is crucial to our understanding of global affairs, and the many questions from the audience which followed showed how much we had appreciated his reflections on his years in broadcasting.
Once again OHCT are extremely grateful to the Duke of Marlborough and his staff for providing such a fine venue.