What wasn't on the agenda in Davos

I hadn't seen this earlier: John Pomfret relays word that Google's declaration that it would no longer comply with Chinese Internet censorship rules was a verboten subject in Davos this year.

"At China's request, that topic was left off the table at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Josef Ackermann, chief executive of Deutsche Bank and co-chairman of the event, told Bloomberg News," he writes.

So now China is capable of silencing debate in what's supposed to be an open forum?

Here's more from Bloomberg, which quotes Ackermann saying "China didn't want to discuss Google":

At Davos, participants such as financier George Soros, economist Joseph Stiglitz and French President Nicolas Sarkozy debated technology topics such as social networking and 3-D features used in the motion picture "Avatar." The discussion didn't include the conflict between China and Google, even in panels such as "The Rise of Asia" or "Redesigning the Global Dimensions of China's Growth."

Way to tackle the tough issues, guys.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt did briefly raise the subject on his own, however, according to the Wall Street Journal:

"We like what China is doing in terms of growth...we just don't like censorship," Mr. Schmidt said, speaking at the World Economic Forum's annual summit here. "We hope that will change and we can apply some pressure to make things better for the Chinese people." [...]

Mr. Schmidt maintained Friday that Google wants to continue operating in China. But he said the company didn't want to do so if it had to operate under China's censorship laws. To operate its Web site, in China, Google had to agree to censor its results.

"We would very much like to stay in China. We would very much like the censorship we oppose to improve in China," Mr. Schmidt replied.

Li Keqiang, China's vice premier, didn't address the issue in his speech, but apparently insisted in private that foreign companies must follow Chinese laws.


Did Russia try to destroy the U.S. economy?

Via FP contributor Ashby Monk, here's an interesting story from Bloomberg News that hasn't gotten much attention. It seems that Russia tried to use its vast financial holdings and conspire with China to create "economic disruptions" in the United States in 2008. An astonishing scoop, if true.

The source of the tale is Hank Paulson, the former U.S. Treasury secretary whose memoir, On the Brink, is coming out soon. 

Says Bloomberg:

The Russians made a “top-level approach” to the Chinese “that together they might sell big chunks of their GSE holdings to force the U.S. to use its emergency authorities to prop up these companies,” Paulson said, referring to the acronym for government sponsored entities.

China rejected the idea, according to Paulson, and the Russians are denying the story. Monk, an expert on sovereign wealth funds, comments:

If true, it would appear that Russia was plotting economic warfare against the US during the summer of 2008; I don’t really know what else to call it. Their intention was to use their sovereign wealth to purposely weaken and damage the US economy. The fact that all this apparently occurred around the same time that Russia was engaged in a traditional war with Georgia, a US ally, lends some credibility to the idea.