'Those look less, like a new, self-sacrificing focus on institutional security, than plain bad decision-making.'

It is very difficult for me to understand. I get the part of 'Those look less than plain bad decision-making.' but have no idea of the part of 'like a new, self-sacrificing focus on institutional security.' What is the latter part describing in the whole sentence?

  • 1
    Where you found it?
    – Sam
    Sep 18, 2023 at 4:28
  • Does it matter? The Economist.
    – Stephen
    Sep 18, 2023 at 4:40
  • (This is National security not institutional security)—I think
    – Sam
    Sep 18, 2023 at 4:59
  • I'm afraid I don't have. It's from the article about criticizing the economic policy of China weeks ago. I joined a study meeting for English, which shared the article with participated member.
    – Stephen
    Sep 18, 2023 at 5:09
  • I don't remember the exact sentence word by word. I remember it from Twitter of The Economist. I have tried digging Twitter for nothing.
    – Stephen
    Sep 18, 2023 at 5:13

1 Answer 1


The most obvious issue is the punctuation. I would omit the first and last commas:

Those look less like a new, self-sacrificing focus on institutional security than plain bad decision-making.

Saying something is less (or more) like one thing than another is a very common construction, but the whole thing should flow as a single statement. Only one comma is needed to separate the two listed adjectives.

The writer is suggesting that "those" (whatever they are) are evidence of "plain bad decision making", but perhaps are being passed off as a deliberate strategy "a new, self-sacrificing focus on institutional security".

  • Thank you so much. Now it is clear to me.
    – Stephen
    Sep 18, 2023 at 8:25

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