According the WSJ, there will be no "comprehensive accord" from Copenhagen.
But there will be a band-aid deal between US, China, India, S Africa. The Washington Post's initial headline sounds rather too optimistic to me.
Look forward to a weekend of journalists, columnists, and Sunday show guests sussing out whether the glass is half empty or half full. Seems rather parched to me.
Obama, in his final press conference in Copenhagen, sounds extremely tired.
He came; he spoke ... he did not conquer. It's unclear how much impact Obama's speech (text here) at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen this morning will have in nudging negotiators toward an agreement.
I found the most interesting line of his remarks this one:
Mitigation. Transparency. Financing. It's a clear formula -- one that embraces the principle of common but differentiated responses and respective capabilities"
Here he is picking up a favorite bit of Beijing's own rhetoric, the oft-repeated insistence on "common but differentiated responsibilities."
The original phrase derives from Kyoto, but it's been infused with so much meaning in Beijing -- basically meaning the rich countries should do more, and poor countries less for now -- that one could be forgiven for assuming it was as Chinese as fireworks.
Meantime, the full translated text of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's remarks are here.
And the FT has linked to a copy of a recent draft of potential agreement here.
In the absence of real progress to report, news coverage of the ongoing U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen has lately begun to focus on the protestors.
Here is what we know: There are a lot of them (estimates range from 50,000 to 100,000). They've got some nifty signs and face paint (slogans include: "Planet not profit" and "There is no Planet B"). They've come from around the globe. And several hundred have been thrown in jail.
What we don't know is: What do they want?
For all the stories I've lately read about whether the protests were generally peaceful, whether the anarchists were a fringe minority, or whether jail time for anyone was warranted, I'm still a bit hazy on the larger point.
Where have all the good protestors - and message disciplinarians - gone?
Once upon a time, there was a grand tradition of protestors channeling their energies toward some clearly defined goal. I've written about this before for the Washington Monthly, so please excuse the zeal for history. But here's a quick run-down of the golden age of American protests:
The very first protest march on Washington, DC took place in the midst of an economic depression in 1894 when populist leader Joseph Coxey led an army of 500 jobless men to the Capitol steps to demand a public works program that would provide jobs for the unemployed.
Two decades later, in what must have been the first counter-inaugural protest, 28-year-old Alice Paul organized 8,000 women wearing white to march down Pennsylvania Avenue a day before Woodrow Wilson's inauguration. The women were there to lobby for women's suffrage, a demonstration that was rewarded by the passage a few years later of a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote.
In 1941, the mere threat of a public protest was enough to force political change: When A. Philip Randolph, leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, announced plans for a march on Washington, Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order banning discrimination in defense industry and federal jobs.
And the granddaddy of all protests, the March on Washington in 1963, drew a quarter million people to the foot of the Lincoln Memorial to demand voting protections and desegregation of public spaces; shortly thereafter, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
You get the point. In each of these cases, a specific goal was identified; people were rallied behind the cause; a plan was devised; and often, as in the case of the women's suffrage and civil rights marches, a button-up dress code was enforced. The objective was for the message to be taken seriously. Everyone was more or less on the same page, and there was a clear benchmark for success.
Fast-forward to Copenhagen. Not only are the protestors' intentions and goals scrambled, but reporters have even stopped asking about them. It's no longer expected that protestors should have much purpose beyond self-expression. Which is a shame.
If today's tens of thousands of Copenhagen protestors wanted their efforts to amount to more than color for reporters' stories, they would do well to recognize the real reason why the marches of yesteryear are still remembered. It wasn't just about the messengers showing up; it was about the message - and a clear goal.
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This afternoon in Shanghai, U.S. President Barack Obama held a townhall-style meeting with university students. It was an event that his staff had worked hard to include on his China trip itinerary. After a brief speech extolling the importance of core values to the success of the United States as a nation and Americans as individuals, Obama took questions from the audience and online.
It has since come to light that not all of the questions came from bonafide students. One questioner was a vice director of daily affairs for the Communist Youth League; another was a young-looking teacher. Obama's answers about Internet freedom weren't heard by most remote audiences because several networks, including CNN, mysteriously cut away for commentary at that moment. The response among expats in China was, by and large, negative -- with many complaining Obama had minced his words, talking for instance of "universal rights" rather than "human rights." If one is looking to be cynical, there's plenty of fodder.
On the other hand, from the point of view of most Chinese I've spoken, these official efforts at censorship might have been silly, or nefarious, but they didn't have much impact. The notion of a president taking questions, not a frequent occurrence in China, was itself the point. The symbolism was more arresting, to them, than the content. "Why does he want to talk to Chinese students?" one 29-year-old Chinese woman asked me, without irony. She was puzzled, impressed, and a bit amused at the spectacle.
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The editor of China's most influential financial muckraking journal, Hu Shuli, has resigned. For several months, Hu had been under pressure to tone down the aggressive, investigative tone of the magazine from Caijing's business partners, who in turn had come under pressure from government officials. Hu will assume a new post as dean of Sun Yat-sen University's School of Communication and Design, and is expected to launch another editorial venture, likely involving several of her top editorial staffers, who quit alongside their editor-in-chief.
More details will surely come out in the coming days, but already one thing the incident shed light on is how censorship works in China. To western audiences, when we hear about "state-run media," we are accustomed to envisioning a censor with a red-pen, a list of forbidden topics, and an army of automaton scribes marching out to do the state's bidding.
In fact, the reality is much more subtle, and pernicious. There are indeed directives sent from the central propaganda office to the editors of major news outlets in China detailing forbidden topics. But aside from this high level communication, most censorship actually happens internally -- Chinese journalists, who by and large are bright and inquisitive (and drawn to journalism for the same reasons as western journalists: curiosity about the world, desire to travel, etc) work within the system and gradually learn the boundaries of what can and can't be said.
Official politics, for instance, are off-limits, as are details about the personal lives of political leaders. A friend who edits the Beijing-based Environmental Protection Journal once complained to me that he was struggling to make climate change interesting, and lamented that he couldn't tally and lampoon Hu Jintao's carbon footprint, as American publications have done for Al Gore. (Also off limits are any details about Hu Jintao's hair dye, which a reporter at Beijing Youth Daily classified, only half-jokingly, as "deepest state secret.")
What makes Hu Shuli so unique is that she's operated effectively within this system, without ever internalizing it. She has spent time studying and working abroad, not uncommon among Chinese journalists, but never accepted that the rules must be entirely different in China. Caijing has not been directly dependent on state-funding, also relatively rare in China, because Hu went out and secured independent financial backers who, until recently, allowed her greater editorial space.
Now this delicate balancing act has fallen apart, as Hu's departure indicates. It's also telling of how Chinese bureaucracy and censorship works that she wasn't fired. There were no high-profile stories that inflamed the government into a high-profile response and rebuttal. Instead, the end of Hu's tenure at Caijing has been brought about in subtler ways, through pressure exerted by middle-managers raising complaints about whether certain editorial content will turn off readers or advertisers, always tip-toeing around the real issue at hand.
This, too, is typical. When activists or trouble-makers, from the official point of view, face censure in China, they are usually presented with relatively benign-sounding charges. Xu Zhiyong, the pioneering rights lawyer in China and founder of Gongmeng (Open Constitution Initiative), was held in detention earlier this year after being charged with tax irregularities. Environmentalists in Beijing who come under scrutiny have been cited for failing to obtain the proper motorcycle licenses. In other words, small alleged sins (and the chaos of daily life in China means almost everyone has something on their record) are suddenly discovered and pounced upon by authorities when an individual begins to be seen by the government as too troublesome.
We don't know the full details of what's happened behind the scenes at Caijing. Likely we will know more in the coming days, though Hu, as a smart, savvy operator, probably won't fully spill the beans,
But I am reminded, sadly, of the fate of another, much smaller, but also innovative publication in China that met an unhappy end two years ago. ChinaDevelopmentBrief.com was a bi-lingual Chinese and English web site founded by a Brit, Nick Young, and employing several Chinese reporters, that examined a variety of development and environmental issues facing China. The staff was smart and sometimes cutting-edge in its analysis, but always extremely cautious not to finger-point or inflame the authorities.
Still, as environmental topics became hotter in China, and the site's traffic grew, it was perceived as a threat. (Being run by a foreigner was also a liability.) Young, who is no longer in China, left an account of how the house of cards fell, which is painful, haunting reading for the mundaneness of the charges: "On July 4  our Beijing office was visited by a joint delegation of a dozen officials from the Beijing Municipality Public Security Bureau, the Beijing Municipality Statistical Bureau, and the Beijing Municipality Cultural Marketing General Legal Implementation Team ... I, as editor of the English language edition of China Development Brief, am deemed guilty of conducting "unauthorized surveys" in contravention of the 1983 Statistics Law."
The other telling detail of Young's account was this: "After investigations and interviews lasting around three hours, they ordered the Chinese edition of China Development Brief to cease publication forthwith. The authorities are now deciding what punishment to apply. It appears that initially they were considering a relatively modest fine." In the end, the publication was permanently banned, and Young's visa revoked. But that wasn't a foregone conclusion.
There can be an extraordinary arbitrariness to how rules, including rules pertaining to media, are enforced in China. That's easy to miss if, from the outside, one has the impression of the PRC as an efficient police station. If you've lived in Beijing, you quickly realize that it's anything but.
And so, with regards to Hu Shuli and her new venture, it's clear that everyone -- muckraking scribes and wary officials alike -- are improvising their roles, and circumspect about what comes next. There isn't a firm policy, or clear marching orders. If this was China of 40 years ago, Hu might have been jailed, or exiled, or worse. But today, China's government is trying to control and curb the influence of independent voices like Hu Shuli in a more circuitous and at times uncertain way, with the final outcome - what degree of editorial freedom Hu will have in her next incarnation -- still unwritten.
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The Dalai Lama is in Washington this week, but he won't be meeting with Obama. This will be the first presidential snub since 1991, and as the Washington Post reports:
The U.S. decision to postpone the meeting appears to be part of a strategy to improve ties with China ... Obama administration officials have termed the new policy "strategic reassurance," which entails the U.S. government taking steps to convince China that it is not out to contain the emerging Asian power."
Recently, FP contributor Wen Liao explained the thinking:
The pragmatism that is Obama's diplomatic lodestar, it seems, comes at a price: Illusions must be abandoned. Publicly recognizing China's territorial unity is the sin qua non for effective bilateral diplomatic relations, and Obama knows it."
MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images
On the day of China's big 60th anniversary parade, the Beijing sky was bright blue -- thanks to some strategic short-term factory shut-downs and and a fleet of 18 aircraft equipped with rain-clouds disperal chemicals. The female militia units, clad in red mini-skirts and go-go style white boots, goose-stepped to perfection. The procession of nuclear missiles, some capable of striking Washington, went off without a hitch. China sure can put on a stellar parade.
And President Hu Jintao's ten minutes speech .... yawn. He gave no clues as to new directions or aspirations for the country, the economic or environmental crossroads China now finds itself at, his proposed solutions or looming questions. Riveting excerpts include:
It might seem odd to American audiences that Beijing's political elite would put more apparent energy into enforcing a pigeon ban within a 125-mile radius of Tiananmen Square, than into prepping the Chinese president for his 10 minutes in the global spotlight -- a chance to make a big statement about China's place in the world at this significant milestone.
At Washington Monthly magazine, where I previously worked as an editor, my boss was Paul Glastris, a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton. After every State of the Union Address, a swarm of foreign news outlets, such as the BBC, would call him to dissect the meaning of particular presidential turns of phrases, exploring how each speech measured up in the canon of great presidential oratory.
But expectations are radically different in China. One of the results of a political system that doesn't hold elections is that its political leaders aren't required to kiss babies, craft compelling personal narratives, or learn how to inspire the public with speechs that exhalt the spirit or signal new directions for the country.
In a sense, public speeches in China are a bit like Madlibs; the major nouns (dates, names, countries) are duly swapped out, but the essential structure and enduring slogans remain the same.
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Roman Polanksi, the famed director of Chinatown and The Pianist, who has not set foot in the United States for more than three decades, is now facing extradition proceedings in Switzerland -- at the request of the Los Angeles district attorney's office.
Upon touching down at the Zurich airport on Saturday, after departing his native France, Polanksi was detained by authorities. Unlike France, Switzerland has an extradition agreement with the United States that applies to cases like that of Polanski, who is wanted in connection with a 32-year-old sex case.
In 1977, Mr Polanski admitted to having sex with a 13-year-old in Los Angeles. The woman has since identified herself and publicly offered her personal forgiveness. But that has not changed the course of legal proceedings.
As Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, told the New York Times:
"Any time word is received that Mr. Polanski is planning to be in a country that has an extradition treaty with the U.S., we go through diplomatic channels with the arrest warrant."
Polanski's case is perhaps not unique in the world of extradition law, but it is provocative. The notion of the Los Angeles DA's office for 32 years tracking the director's busy European travel schedule, waiting for an opportunity, whilst he chose to appear at various film festivals via video-conference rather than in person, is fascinating. But beyond the celebrity factor, it's hard to pin down exactly what seems so incongruous.
Is it simply that in a post-9/11 world we're now accustomed to thinking of "extradition" in connection with national security interests, and clear-and-present danger?
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