Tales from the Trail

The coming conflict with China

2008 was the last presidential election when voters didn’t know or care about the candidates views on China, argues political risk analyst Ian Bremmer.

NUCLEAR-SUMMIT/Bremmer’s new book “The End of the Free Market” argues that the Chinese economic model — which he calls state capitalism — is so fundamentally different from Western free market capitalism that tensions and economic conflict are inevitable in the years ahead.

The main goal of China’s state-directed capitalism is to harness economic growth to ensure political stability and keep the Communist Party in power, Bremmer says.  And since the financial crisis, China has seen the United States and the West as “less indispensable”.

Bremmer is not predicting a military confrontation, but an economic war, in which China reserves large parts of its domestic market to domestic firms, and elbows out Western multinationals — he explains Google’s withdrawal from China in terms of protecting China’s top internet search engine Baidu, which is already reaping the benefits.

The Obama administration, which often stresses the mutual interests of the two nations and talks in terms of partnership, sometimes underestimates some of the zero-sum games involved in the relationship, he says.

Hotter ties with Brazil? Tap Obamamania, says expert

BRAZIL-CARNIVAL/The United States’ influence in its traditional “backyard” is waning and needs a boost. Washington should be forging closer ties with Latin America’s emerging powerhouse Brazil, says Johns Hopkins political scientist Riordan Roett.

Best way to do that? Send the Obamas to Brazil because Brazilians will go nuts about the U.S. First Family.

“The White House should send the Obamas to Brazil. Can you imagine the Obamas getting off the plane in Rio de Janeiro? It would be extraordinary, a carnival, absolute madness,” Roett told the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit.

We’ve built it…will they come?

OBAMA-ASIA/At least she didn’t have to build it herself.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday hailed the successful completion of the U.S. Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo — the whiz-bang coming-out party for the financial heart of an up-and-coming economic superpower.

It was, by all accounts, a U.S. building that almost didn’t get built, and Clinton said she was gratified that U.S. businesses stepped up to fund the $61 million pavilion — a move made necessary by U.S. laws which forbid the spending of public money on such showpieces.

“I vowed last year that I would personally build the pavilion if I had to, so we could be part of that Expo. Thankfully I did not because all of you worked together to make this a great success,” Clinton said at a special meeting in the State Department marking the official opening of the Shanghai extravaganza.

Obama, Hu share moment of silence for dead miners

U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao interrupted their high-powered diplomacy on Monday to share a moment of silence in memory of the miners who have died in recent accidents in both countries. NUCLEAR-SUMMIT/

Obama paused during vital talks ranging from sanctions against Iran to China’s yuan currency on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit to tell Hu about the 29 miners lost in a mine blast in West Virginia last week.

Recalling 85 miners had also died in China’s Shanxi province in the last 10 days, Obama asked both delegations to take a moment to honor the dead, the White House said.

Has U.S. “missed the boat” on long-range renewable energy planning?

OBAMA/There was President Barack Obama, working a friendly crowd in Henderson, Nevada, not far from Las Vegas. And then a sympathetic comment from a French businessman who wants to see U.S. regulation of climate-warming greenhouse emissions seemed to get the president all wound up.

After noting that the weather has been particularly wild lately — five feet of snow in Washington DC, rain at the Vancouver Olympics — Obama said the best way to “unleash” dynamism in the energy market is to set fuel efficiency standards, notably for cars.

“If you’ve got a fuel-efficiency standard in place that says your car needs to get 20 miles a gallon or 30 miles a gallon, suddenly all these engineers are thinking, well, how do we do that?  And all these companies start coming up with new technologies that make your cars more fuel-efficient.  Ultimately, you end up seeing jobs and businesses thriving in response to the regulation that’s been put there,” Obama told the town hall meeting.

Dalai to Washington special syntax brings

The Dalai Lama, fresh from his controversial meeting with President Barack Obama, greeted the U.S. press corps during a blustery press conference on Thursday outside his Washington hotel, and delivered his pearls of wisdom with a brand of syntax that sometimes leaves listeners scratching their heads.

“Important is truth,” the grinning Dalai Lama told reporters, when asked if he ever got discouraged about China’s implacable resistance to his cause.

“This is not question of justice how soon achieved. Something worthwhile, make attempt. Then, whether materialize this goal within one’s own lifetime or not, it doesn’t matter.”

Who knew the Dalai Lama was a feminist?

World peace came first. But then the Dalai Lama told reporters he brought up to President Barack Obama during their White House meeting the issue of women in leadership roles. USA/

“I also mentioned the female, biologically, more sensitive about others’ pain … about others who are suffering,” the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said, adding with a laugh that Obama agreed with that sentiment.

“I wish, you see, the amount of leadership more female … should take the leadership role,” he said.

Brzezinski sees encouraging signs emerging from Haitian catastrophe


It might sound Pollyannaish coming from anybody other than Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hard-nosed intellectual who was Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser. But he says the gigantic catastrophe in Haiti may suggest some good things about the state of the modern world.

“As I look at this tragedy and as I look at this enormous human suffering, I’m also a little bit encouraged by the symbolism of the collective global response,” Brzezinski said in an interview with MSNBC.

Help has arrived quickly not only from the United States, the country’s biggest and richest neighbor, but also from other countries including Brazil and China. That could be a hopeful sign of an emerging international template for responding to turmoil around the world, including in hot spots like Afghanistan.

Obama’s tweets hit milestone, but Ashton is the twitterer-in-chief

President Barack Obama may be the leader of the free world, but actor Ashton Kutcher is the king of twitter and pop princess Britney Spears is, USA/OBAMAer, its princess.

 Obama’s twitter feed recently attracted its 3 millionth follower, which was announced with this tweet — “As we kick off 2010, our Twitter community has grown to over 3 million. I continue to be grateful for your partnership as we work for change” — on Monday afternoon.

The development made Obama’s feed — actually run by the Democratic Party’s National Committee — only the fourth ever to garner such attention. But he still remains far behind the leaders, the Hill newspaper noted on its “Twitter Room” blog.  They each have 4 million followers, the blog said, citing TwitterCounter .  

Good day for jobs, sad for panda lovers

For all those who woke up to the sad news that Washington’s loveable giant panda cub would be heading back to China, here’s a bright spot for your Friday:

USA/Job cuts in November were much lower than had been expected and the unemployment rate unexpectedly dropped to 10 percent from 10.2 percent.

The stronger-than-expected numbers helped boost the U.S. dollar and global stock prices on hopes for a strong economic recovery.