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China Tightens Screws on Foreign Reporters

Vice-president Joe Biden’s recent trip to Beijing focused a spotlight on the Chinese government’s often heavy-handed treatment of Western journalists, while raising questions about how the U.S. administration could and should respond.

 

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Originally I thought reciprocity appropriate. I would still throw out some number of Xinhua reporters because the Chinese could draw a direct link and because it would be disruptive to Xinhua's presumed non-journalistic work. I would deny visas to the executives. I would leave journalists from Caixin and other more credible organizations untouched.

A WTO case is a good idea, though if the US brings the case, and the WTO finds in the US favor, I would expect the Chinese to still ignore much of the verdict. The US should plan for this. The US needs to also look at ways to protect academics that research China and punish China for denying visas to these people as well. Perhaps a WTO case could be applied here as well.

Your equivalence of China with a corrupt African regime is, to say the least, tendentious. Certainly the Chinese people do not share that opinion of their government, and they're smarter than us and connoisseurs of governance.

Yet 85% of them trust their government and approve of its policies (Pew, Edelman, et al). They've felt that way for decades, during which time their access to democracy has far surpassed anything in their history. They've seen their incomes double every ten years, which allows 90% of them to own their own homes, they established 3 of the top 5 best school systems in the world.

And, every five years the Chinese State Broadcasting makes sure that everyone in China hears the promises that their government makes for the upcoming 5 years. They find these sessions boring, because they know that their government has delivered on every promise they've made.

A corrupt African regime? Come, come.

Yes, I was being deliberately provocative with that comparison -- and since I did cover Africa. But the point was not to say China is the same as an African regime. The point is to say that we, meaning journalists, would not hesitate to call out another regime for its abuses of human rights, if that were not the world's second largest economy that was also holding a huge portion of U.S. foreign debt, that's all.

Keith

The African counter-example is apt. News organizations need political guarantees to underwrite their free speech activities. In some countries, this is immediately recognized, but in China this is understated or avoided. That is because news organizations have invested a lot in their China operations.

But the bigger question is, why do we expect free press in China? And how much will it cost? Should the US try to "price" this freedom? The WTO is *not* the right venue for this. Instead, the US should make a bilaterial trade and attach it to something the Chinese want (Chinese press in the US already have their freedom). That is, make the Chinese price the value of this and bear the cost. The Chinese will, however, attempt to punish the US for doing this - avoiding a tit-for-tat war is probably the reason this kind of proposal will go nowhere.

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GOP Shutdown Damages U.S. Standing

Seen from abroad -- and I’m in China at the moment -- the U.S. government shutdown seems worse than absurd; it’s actually threatening America’s long standing as the beacon of democracy in the world.

 

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The Nairobi Siege Should Make Us Reflect

The four-day siege of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, near where I once lived, is a sobering reminder yet again, as if any were needed, of the vulnerability of open societies to a determined band of terrorists bent on doing evil.

 

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Echoes of Iraq, and Somalia, in Syria Intervention

Generals are always fighting the last war, or so the old adage goes.  I would add my own corollary; politicians are always trying to avoid the last war, especially when the last one has gone particularly badly.

Comments

Thanks for the perspective and elucidation, Keith.
The US will be free of "other people's oil" by the end of this decade, and before that if we include our friendly Canadians as part of the home team. If those events are not game changers, they are at least attention diverters.
I think the Obama gang is getting the Syria response right--finally. Push for a removal of weapons with global support. Be ready to do "something more" if Syria doesn't follow through.
Bombing is not the right thing to do now.
But Obama certainly didn't look sharp getting us to this point.
Alison is now in Dublin and sends her regards.

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Privacy v Security is a Balancing Act

The precautionary closing this weekend of nearly two dozen American diplomatic facilities around the world due to a suspected terrorist threat refocuses public attention on a crucial, if sometimes forgotten, fact; there are still bad people out there who want to kill us.

That may sound simplistic to say it. But it needs saying, explicitly, as the debate continues over the NSA spying program, the government’s email and telephone metadata snooping, and the search for the right balance between civil liberties and needed vigilance.

Comments

Excellent article! As Americans we live in our bubble and most don't understand the hate that exists by some against our government or way of life. Even internally. Look at how many hate our current administration. While 95% of the angst againt America is discussion (Freedom of Speech) there is a small percentage that actually want to harm America and its citizens. If you send it through digital media there should be no expectation of privacy. Its not just government that has access - but each telecom and internet company has access to the data you send through their system.

Good points. Thanks for writing.
Keith

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Fear of Talking About Race

I don’t normally comment on American domestic issues, since my specialty is foreign affairs, and I’m currently in China.

But from Shanghai, where I’m now ensconced, I’ve been watching from a distance the reaction in the U.S. to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. I tried to refrain, but decided it was time to jump in with my two cents.

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Dude, really great post. Keep them coming. Also loved the Detroit piece in the WP this past week.

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What is the future of local?

Can a global brand have a local identity in the community where it operates?  What does “local” mean anymore, in our increasingly globalized, interconnected world?  What is local, when communities are increasingly being formed online, virtually, where common issues and interests trump geography and physicality?  And what are the responsibilities of global brands to local communities?

As someone who has spent the last 20 years as a correspondent in some of the farthest flung corners of the globe, I can tell you these are complex issues, with no easy answers.

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China Will Pass US, But Not Yet

     Two recent stories highlight the changing relationship between the U.S. and China, the superpower and the rising power.

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let me know your thoughts -- Keith

(((((

That must have been a tough call. Honestly it was unexpected since most of the policies were mutual decisions. However, China can still re think about the whole affair and turn the table around. http://www.poweredpbx.com Now it is completely left to them.

(((((

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Avoid Syria's Morass

Should President Obama intervene militarily in Syria?

The question is being debated with new urgency, with evidence that the regime of Bashar Asaad likely crossed Obama’s own stated “red line” with the use of chemical weapons, possibly sarin gas, against civilians in the ongoing civil war.

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When We Shelter In Place, Do Terrorists Win?

Last week’s drama in Boston and Cambridge -- the late Thursday shootout  with two terrorism suspects firing automatic weapons and hurling grenade, then the manhunt for the wounded survivor that paralyzed the entire area -- ended in a success for law enforcement and for this gritty town’s resilient defiance.

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This past year and a half has had several shut-in days, or better parts of a day - there was Hurricane Irene, then Hurricane Sandy, then snowstorm Nemo. Sometimes staying inside is more optional than other times. Buy it bears remembering: this wasn't the first time the streets were empty.

I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Thank you. I hesitate to add my uninformed opinion. But mine comes from somebody who spent much of my life in the South. Many of my social media acquaintances are still in the Deep South. It appears from their comments that they all are armed to the teeth and itching to do battle. Having such an attack in Boston is one thing. If it happened in Jackson, MS, you could well have groups if folks out shooting anybody they find scary. They find a lot of people scary. Best to keep them out of the way of professionals, I think.

I think New York might have responded differently than a lockdown. In fact, there are parts of New York the suspect would have been wise to avoid -- I'm sure they wouldn't have waited for the professional law enforcers to arrive. Cheers, Keith

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After Boston Attack, Wake Up to the "New Normal"

The brutal, senseless bomb attack on the Boston Marathon – turning a glorious spring day of celebration into a bloody scene of death and injury – serves as another reminder, as if any were needed, that terrorism is now our “new normal.”  And although since 9/11 we’ve been comparatively lucky and increasingly sophisticated at intercepting plots and plotters, terror is now a feature of our country that’s here to stay.

We simply can’t assume we’re safe here in the homeland.

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Britain's Divisive Iron Lady

Reading over the many tributes to the late former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, I recall my own year living in London, 1983-84, during the peak of the bloody miners’ strike and the social turmoil that Thatcher’s brand of conservatism unleashed.

 

Comments

I agree with most of your observations, but I think your conclusion gives her far too much credit in terms of her long-term impact on places beyond the UK. Her global repute is more a function of the worldwide reach of the British media, than any lasting impact. The Beeb even gave voice to the idea that somehow she played a role in the demise of the Soviet Union, quoting that charlatan Vaclav Klaus to the effect that her push back against socialism gave people like him courage. Hogwash. The Soviet empire collapsed under its own weight, brought down by its economic inanity and by the truly courageous resistance of thousands of dissidents throughout the Bloc, most of whom were themselves socialists

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China Rising the topic at Harvard IOP Forum

Wednesday night, April 3, at the Harvard Kennedy School’s JFK Jr Forum, we had a lively discussion about China, with former U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and me as moderator.  The huge turnout – the event was ticketed and held before a capacity crowd – attests to the intense interest these days in almost everything related to China.

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China's Critical Importance

For Harvard's Institute of Politics, I co-authored a piece with former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who will be at the IOP as a visiting Fellow this week and attending my China Study Group Wed. April 3.

In the piece, we discuss the nature of the U.S.-China relationship as one defined by multiple, overlapping layers of engagement and mistrust, and one which will require careful and sustained high-level attention over time.

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This is Keith. I welcome any and all comments. Cheers.

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On gay marriage, ask the Dutch

Watching the spectacle surrounding the Supreme Court oral arguments this week in two cases involving same sex marriage, I’m transported back a dozen years, to April 1, 2001, when I covered the world’s very first same sex marriage ceremonies in the Netherlands, in Amsterdam’s city hall.

Comments

I agree. Europe tends not to "cover" things as we do here in America. As much as we ignore and/or judge, one would think we like to play God. The Dutch also help those fight addictions instead of jailing those who suffer from drug aiction. I have many friends who are gay and happy, raising children and positively contributing to society . Part of me says, "what's the big deal to legalize drugs and gay marriage ," while another part of me worries what will be next?Seems like no one really knows what is best - stronger gun laws or not, gay marriage or not, drugs or not. I say give it a chance and see. We can always adjust.

Thanks for that thoughtful comment. I like your conclusion -- give it a chance, and we can always adjust. Cheers, Keith

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Pragmatism or Principle in Kenya?

Barring any last minute court intervention, it appears Uhuru Kenyatta, the deputy prime minister, will be sworn in as the elected president of Kenya.  Kenyatta is the son of the country’s founding first president Jomo Kenyatta.  He is also an indicted suspect for crimes against humanity, for his role in Kenya’s 2007-2008 post-election violence that left more than a thousand people dead and tens of thousands displaced.

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Welcome!

Greetings, and welcome to my new and improved site.

It’s here in this space that I plan to post regular blog entries — ramblings, musings, commentaries, opinions on whatever happens to be fresh in the news, or on my mind. You might find my take on a particular news development inside China one week, or I might weigh in on an interesting current debate about, say, the efficacy of the one-child policy or whether Xi Jinping is actually producing real change.

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