Some Initial China Trip Reactions

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China’s been out of the game for a few hundred years, but it’s back.
The Chinese themselves believe that their collective ascendancy is fragile and fraught with problems — particularly environmental degradation associated with growth. The smog in Beijing really stings the unconditioned eyeball.
I’m staying at the Beijing Friendship Hotel, originally built for Soviet technocrats. All the buildings are massive — and I’m now across the street at a Starbucks enjoying free wireless — but nearly got whacked a couple of times by cars and buses speeding by. There are no crosswalks on this large street — people and autos sort of fight it out. It’s kind of the more modern and deadly version of Pamplona.
As modern as China is in many ways, its consumer orientation is still undeveloped. I have gone through a bit of a nightmare in fighting a battle between Expedia and various hotel and airline operators here. Expedia’s interface with flight data from Hainan Airlines is completely fouled up. Nothing is correct. So, I am booked on nonexistent flights around which I made a schedule. All of it is now up in the air — and Expedia has required about 4 hours phone time to figure out how to refund parts of this that were caused by these problems. Not good. Be careful.
Just had an excellent meeting with one of the chief (talented) US watchers from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and also met separately a group of Chinese readers of The Washington Note. I was impressed with their degree of detailed knowledge on the political nuances that divided Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. Also, the understanding that observers here in Beijing have between various camps inside the Bush administration was notable. I’d expect that from a high quality expert from CASS — but the Chinese students and professionals I met were equally impressive.
Reality hit though when I got a ‘Google alert’ that I was quoted by Trudy Rubin in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. That seems to be one of the newspapers here that is blocked by Chinese internet filters. I have no access to it — though I can get the New York Times, Washington Post, The Washington Note, Atlantic Monthly, and some others. Just my luck.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

10 comments on “Some Initial China Trip Reactions

  1. Mr.Murder says:

    They should note how India fueled additional sector booms by making things like telecommunication uch easier for the average person. Cell phone bandwidth can be purchased for pennies a day.
    Macro trends should be the norm.

    Reply

  2. Mr.Murder says:

    Yes, average diplomacy as a benchmark, is something worthy of medals, in the Bush corporation HQ, at 1600 PA Ave.

    Reply

  3. Bobbie says:

    Worldview: N. Korea deal suggests talk works; next, Syria, Iran?
    By Trudy Rubin Inquirer Columnist
    Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA); 871 words
    Published: 2008-06-29
    Section: CURRENTS | Page C01 | Edition: CITY-D
    Dick Cheney was angry.
    He was answering questions at a meeting of foreign-policy experts in Washington last week. Then he got a query about the U.S. decision to delist North Korea from the terrorism blacklist.
    “It was a fascinating, little bit scary moment because the vice president . . . just went stone silent,” says the questioner, Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation. Cheney gave a nonanswer and exited the room.
    That moment sums up the tragic contradictions of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. In the never-ending battles between its pragmatists and überhawks, the North Korea deal marked a huge defeat of the Cheneyites and a victory for Condoleezza Rice.
    But this was a deal that could, and should, have been done at the beginning of Bush’s first term. As John Bolton, our former U.N. ambassador and a harsh critic of the deal, rightly said, this deal is “the same thing that the State Department was prepared to do six years ago. If we are going to cut this deal now, it’s amazing we didn’t cut it back then.”
    It was not done then because Cheney’s views were then ascendant. In the meantime, North Korea became a dangerous nuclear power.
    Now, with their legacies in mind, Rice finally convinced the president that they should try to change North Korean behavior through painstaking diplomacy, rather than pursue the chimera of regime change.
    Bush’s change of heart has infuriated Republican superhawks. “This is a sad, sad day,” Bolton said. “I think we’ve been taken to the cleaners.”
    Wrong.
    Yes, the deal’s imperfections are apparent. Pyongyang has turned more than 19,000 pages of documents of its plutonium-production program for making nuclear weapons and has blown up the cooling tower at its main nuclear reactor. It has yet to reveal, however, the details of a secret uranium-enrichment program. (Most experts don’t believe that program got far.)
    Also missing are accounts of its sales of nuclear technology to other problematic nations, like Iran and Syria. Israel recently blew up a Syrian facility that supposedly was a nuclear reactor being built secretly with North Korean help.
    The North Koreans, the most infuriating of negotiators, were six months late in turning over the documents. Verification will be difficult, but crucial. Much needs to be confirmed in the next 45 days, during which Congress can review the deal.
    And, yes, the superhawks are correct to call the regime of Kim Jong Il despicable. It has starved its own people and sentenced untold thousands to death camps. One issue that slowed the deal was North Korea’s failure to come clean with Japan over the fate of scores of Japanese who were kidnapped from Japanese coastal areas. The abductees were forced to train North Korean spies. Some have been returned to Japan, but the fate of others is still unknown.
    President Bush said he would work with Japan to resolve this issue, and he should do so. He did not, however, mention the equally tragic case of U.S. permanent resident and Christian missionary Kim Dong-shik, who was abducted by North Korean agents in northeast China in 2000 while helping desperate North Korean refugees flee their country. If Kim is still alive, he presumably is suffering inside a North Korean prison. This case, too, needs resolving.
    The bottom line, however, is not whether the deal is imperfect; it is whether a deal makes visible progress toward ending North Korea’s nuclear program. “We believe our policy could verifiably get the [North Korean] regime out of the plutonium-making business,” Rice wrote in the Wall Street Journal. That is a big deal.
    The Cheneyites have never admitted that their path has led only to failure. The White House debunked and backed off a 1994 U.S.-North Korean deal that had shut down Pyongyang’s plutonium program. The result: North Korea unsealed the reactor, enriched six to 10 bombs’ worth of plutonium, and tested a weapon. Nor did the Cheney approach do anything to improve Pyongyang’s terrible human rights record.
    For years, Bush permitted multilateral talks, but no direct U.S. contacts with North Korea – a charter member of the “axis of evil.” Only when Rice finally let U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill engage directly with his North Korean counterparts in 2007 did talks finally move forward. Cheney was reportedly furious.
    Future progress will be slow and incremental. North Korea may backslide. But removal from the terrorism list provides only minimum economic benefits. Other sanctions won’t be dropped before Pyongyang lives up to its commitments. “What if North Korea cheats?” Rice asks rhetorically. “The answer is simple. We will reimpose . . . sanctions.”
    Her message sounds so logical, so pragmatic. Negotiate, assess progress, look for incremental change rather than the transformation of nations. What’s unclear about the new White House pragmatism is whether the president has connected the dots on stopping dangerous nuclear programs, dots that connect Libya to North Korea to Iran.
    Direct talks led to the end of Libya’s nuclear program, and they hold the best chance to curb North Korea’s. But the wait of seven years will make it much harder to reach that goal with Pyongyang and exponentially harder to reach similar results with Tehran.
    The burden will fall on the next president. He will have to dig out from this one’s mistakes.

    Reply

  4. John says:

    Hey Steve, have you tried any work-arounds to the blocked sites you’re hitting? e.g. The Cloak http://www.the-cloak.com/anonymous-surfing-home.html
    and similar. Might be worth a try.

    Reply

  5. Matt says:

    Steve,
    AFAIK, the Chinese government has moved away from wholesale blockages of entire websites. The “Great Firewall,” from what I gather, is more keyword-based these days, meaning that it’s smarter and blocks pages from loading if they appear to be discussing certain issues…which in turn may lead to temporary blocks on the entire domain name. The following phrase occurred in that article you tried to link to, which mentioned your name: “…U.S. permanent resident and Christian missionary Kim Dong-shik, who was abducted by North Korean agents in northeast China in 2000…” This could have been the cause of what you are experiencing when you try to view the newspaper’s website, and that article in particular.
    Also, if you use Firefox and you haven’t upgraded to Firefox 3 yet, I believe the following plugin, called Gladder (“Great Ladder”–hah!) could solve your internet access problems.
    See here.

    Reply

  6. WharfRat says:

    Just out of curiosity, when you’re on a trip like this, do you meet with any non-elite Chinese? Do you spend any time in the poorer quarters of Beijing, or talk to any of those who are “losers” in China’s development? It might be illuminating, and it certainly would probably give you a different understanding of how far China’s “modernity” reaches. I write you from Mexico City, another schizophrenic megacity; I’ve never been to Beijing, but I see executives, politicians, and academics come and go here, buzzing from neighborhoods like Polanco to Santa Fe, maybe stopping in Condesa, thinking that they have a sense of what Mexico City is like, even though they only see one social network of many. Only a few are actually here long enough to even hope to get a sense of the city in its immense entirety. In my experience, the people jetting down here from the US who have the best ideas–the ones that are the most creative, and the most sustainable–are the few folks who make it a point to see as many facets of the city as possible: including the ones that their hosts try to hide.
    It’s also worth noting that there are many people in the US who think that precisely the highly developed consumer orientation–the expectation that you can get what you want when you want it–is one of the attitudes that needs to be dislodged (and these aren’t scary Marxists either, but fairly mainstream Progressives). All I can say, Steve, is: something didn’t work out like you planned? Welcome to the experience of most of the world.

    Reply

  7. Sue says:

    Steve, I hope you can see this. The best way to get any ticket in
    China is through the business center in your hotel. You get it right
    with no problem.

    Reply

  8. Mavis says:

    I’m sure in your business you have to run your life on a schedule. I’m sure it’s driving you insane to be up in the air. And having info blocked is frustrating.
    You will just have to know, “we get places when we’re supposed to be there, not when we THINK we’re supposed to be there”
    And “We find out what we need to find out, when we need to find it out, not before”
    The universe has a way off sorting things out. When we are forced to get of course, there is usually a treasure waiting in our path.
    If only I could take my own advice!
    I’m stepping off my soap box now!

    Reply

  9. alec says:

    I have not been to china but I have always heard their most comprehensive and most used internet travel site is ctrip.com.
    that might help you, not sure.

    Reply

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