In the weeks that led up to Chinese President Hu Jintao's first, and likely last, official state visit to Washington today, numerous pensées on the world's most important bilateral relationship splashed across various media. They've included senior statesmen and well-known China hands like Brzezinski and Kissinger (also see Shambaugh and Hachigian and CSIS video). Of course, U.S. officials have also taken turns discussing what's at stake, notably from Tim Geithner, Hillary Clinton, and Bob Gates. Much of the official-speak contrasts with a mainstream U.S. media that seems to have run away with the "China Story" (OK, did Glenn Beck really dedicate an entire show to China?), breathlessly proclaiming Chinese economic superiority -- "our banker, so much money and technology!" -- and lately military prowess -- "oh no, they tested a single stealth fighter!" I would echo my colleague James Fallows that it may not be the best idea to persistently refract our own self-doubts about the state of America through the "Chinese juggernaut" prism.
For China's part, President Hu answered a Wall Street JournalQ&A from the Chinese perspective, while Vice Premier Li Keqiang recently penned an op-ed for the Financial Times. And, importantly, State Councilor Dai Bingguo, who basically runs China's foreign policy, published a piece that seems to reinforce Beijing's collective toning-down of rhetoric on the eve of Hu's visit. The reassertion of the concept of "peaceful development," which has been the guiding principle of Chinese foreign policy for at least a decade or more, indicates mainstream moderate voices may be wresting control again. All in all, the message from Beijing is pretty clear: Do not be afraid of a growing China.
Well it sure sounds like many are invested in what is expected to be a crucial meeting. Indeed, on protocol alone, it is important. While both sides have touted the fact that Obama and Hu have already met one-on-one on seven or eight different occasions, those were far different from a state visit. Even when Hu visited in 2006 under the Bush administration, it was a "semi-official" state visit, with the Chinese president only getting a state lunch. This time, the White House is pulling all the stops, with the requisite pomp, 21-gun salute on the White House lawn, and a lavish state dinner. Word has it that Hu will also visit with key congressional members as well as travel to Chicago to meet with business leaders.
For the Chinese officials -- who are ever so meticulous about each and every detail of the event protocol -- this kind of treatment immediately telegraphs to Beijing the importance of the bilateral relationship. Their particular care on how events proceed is not without reason. Unlike Obama's China visit in 2009, where China could stage-manage and control media, Hu and his delegation realize that they are powerless in the hands of U.S. media and the freedom of protesters. I suspect the memory of that Chinese Falun Gong heckler in front of the White House during Hu's 2006 speech has not been completely erased. Perhaps this is why China plans to run ads that portray the country in a positive light during the visit. Hooray soft power?
But what will be expected of the substance of the meeting, now that it has been imbued with such significance? Without rehashing what many have said, one recurring item on the U.S.-China "wish-list" is the idea of drafting a new joint communique/blueprint that shapes the next 20-30 years of the bilateral relationship. It would aim to recognize that the dynamics between the two major powers and in the global environment have changed and shape how to re-calibrate that relationship appropriately for the 21st century. This isn't going to be a "G2," largely because the Chinese won't go for it. Rather, the aim may be to set some new parameters to guide the behavior of the two largest economies in the world, not only toward each other but their respective roles in the world order.
Whether such an aspirational document materializes is impossible to say at this point. But even without it, an instructive model to follow is the 2009 U.S.-China joint statement. Many may have forgotten that far-ranging document, agreed on by the two presidents, so I would urge you to refer to it again. Much of the substance or "deliverables" of this meeting could potentially emanate from executing on the type of issues raised in that older statement. Certainly, on lower-hanging fruit like clean energy collaboration, investment, and joint research, the chances for deliverables are good. In fact, Hu and his delegation will almost certainly engage in a buying mission as a way to show that China supports US export strategy. Recall that in 2006, Hu visited Seattle first, during which Chinese computer maker Lenovo pledged to buy $1.2 billion worth of legitimate copies of Windows for its machines. On security issues like North Korea, it is difficult to envision significant breakthroughs over a mere four days. Even if progress is made, it will remain behind closed doors and will only be known through a series of actions after the fact.
This brings up a larger point about the current state of the bilateral relationship. It has simply become so multifaceted and pluralistic, with each country's interests extending globally, that friction over diverging interests are unavoidable. But nor are they unmanageable. Tension and common interests are proliferating across virtually every dimension, and depending on which end of the spectrum is chosen for emphasis, a different view of the relationship emerges. It might seem a fairly prosaic observation, but it is ever more pressing to not allow the pendulum to reside at either end of the spectrum (the Chinese are guilty of the same); instead, to inject the necessary nuance required of a more sophisticated and interconnected relationship. Fundamentally, each seems to abide by the notion that neither can afford NOT to get the relationship right.
In fact, citizens in both countries seem to agree. A recent Pew poll showed that nearly 60 percent of respondents believe that it is "very important" to strengthen the US-China relationship. Similarly, a Chinese poll conducted by respected Horizon Research Consultancy jointly with China Daily found that about 55 percent of respondents believe the bilateral relationship is very important (90% say it is "important").
I, too, remain cautiously optimistic. Stay tuned for a wrap-up of Hu's visit.
Damien Ma is a fellow at the Paulson Institute, where he focuses on investment and policy programs, and on the Institute's research and think-tank activities. Previously, he was a lead China analyst at Eurasia Group, a political risk research and advisory firm.
The Democrat’s command and poise left her rival looking frustrated, peevish, and out of sorts.
Monday brought the first debate of the presidential season, but it often felt like two separate debates. One, from Hillary Clinton, was wonky, crisp, and polished; if not always inspiring, it was professional and careful. The other, from Donald Trump, was freewheeling, aggressive, and meandering, occasionally landing a hard blow but often substance-less and hard to follow. But the two debates intersected at times, sometimes raucously, as Trump repeatedly broke in to interrupt Clinton.
It was a commanding performance from the Democratic nominee. Clinton delivered a series of detailed answers on subjects ranging from race to the Middle East to tax policy. Meanwhile, she delivered a string of attacks on Trump, assailing him for stiffing contractors, refusing to release his tax returns, fomenting birtherism, and caricaturing black America. She stumbled only occasionally, but left few openings for Trump. She remained calm and often smiling as Trump repeatedly attacked her and interrupted her answers—doing it so often that moderator Lester Holt, often a spectral presence at the debate, finally cut in twice in short order to chide him. (Vox counted 40 instances; Clinton made some of her own interruptions, but fewer.) Clinton displayed a sort of swagger perhaps not seen since her hearing before Congress on Benghazi.
If undecided voters were looking for an excuse to come around to Clinton’s corner, they may have found it on Monday night.
Donald Trump sniffled and sucked down water. He bragged about not paying federal taxes—“That makes me smarter.” He bragged about bragging about profiting from the housing crisis—“That’s called business, by the way.” He lost his cool and maybe the race, taking bait coolly served by Hillary Clinton.
If her objective was to tweak Trump’s temper, avoid a major mistake, and calmly cloak herself in the presidency, Clinton checked all three boxes in the first 30 minutes of their first debate.
It may not matter: Trump is the candidate of change and disruption at a time when voters crave the freshly shaken. But the former secretary of state made the strongest case possible for the status quo, arguing that while voters want change in the worst way, Trump’s way would be the worst.
In a unique, home-spun experiment, researchers found that centripetal force could help people pass kidney stones—before they become a serious health-care cost.
East Lansing, Michigan, becomes a ghost town during spring break. Families head south, often to the theme parks in Orlando. A week later, the Midwesterners return sunburned and bereft of disposable income, and, urological surgeon David Wartinger noticed, some also come home with fewer kidney stones.
Wartinger is a professor emeritus at Michigan State, where he has dealt for decades with the scourge of kidney stones, which affect around one in 10 people at some point in life. Most are small, and they pass through us without issue. But many linger in our kidneys and grow, sending hundreds of thousands of people to emergency rooms and costing around $3.8 billion every year in treatment and extraction. The pain of passing a larger stone is often compared to child birth.
For decades, the candidate has willfully inflicted pain and humiliation.
Donald J. Trump has a cruel streak. He willfully causes pain and distress to others. And he repeats this public behavior so frequently that it’s fair to call it a character trait. Any single example would be off-putting but forgivable. Being shown many examples across many years should make any decent person recoil in disgust.
Judge for yourself if these examples qualify.
* * *
In national politics, harsh attacks are to be expected. I certainly don’t fault Trump for calling Hillary Clinton dishonest, or wrongheaded, or possessed of bad judgment, even if it’s a jarring departure from the glowing compliments that he used to pay her.
But even in a realm where the harshest critiques are part of the civic process, Trump crossed a line this week when he declared his intention to invite Gennifer Flowers to today’s presidential debate. What kind of man invites a husband’s former mistress to an event to taunt his wife? Trump managed to launch an attack that couldn’t be less relevant to his opponent’s qualifications or more personally cruel. His campaign and his running-mate later said that it was all a big joke. No matter. Whether in earnest or in jest, Trump showed his tendency to humiliate others.
Details later, because I start very early tomorrow morning, but: in the history of debates I’ve been watching through my conscious lifetime, this was the most one-sided slam since Al Gore took on Dan Quayle and (the very admirable, but ill-placed) Admiral James B. Stockdale (“Who am I? Why am I here?”) in the vice presidential debate of 1992.
Donald Trump rose to every little bit of bait, and fell into every trap, that Hillary Clinton set for him. And she, in stark contrast to him, made (almost) every point she could have hoped to make, and carried herself in full awareness that she was on high-def split-screen every second. He was constantly mugging, grimacing, rolling his eyes—and sniffing. She looked alternately attentive and amused.
Communal living is hardly a departure from tradition—it's a return to how humans have been making their homes for thousands of years.
For most of human history, people were hunter-gatherers. They lived in large camps, depending on one another for food, childcare, and everything else—all without walls, doors, or picket fences. In comparison, the number of people living in most households in today’s developed countries is quite small. According to the Census Bureau, fewer than three people lived in the average American household in 2010. The members of most American households can be counted on one hand, or even, increasingly, one finger: Single-person households only made up about 13 percent of all American households in 1960. Now, that figure is about 28 percent.
Belonging to a relatively small household has become the norm even though it can make daily life more difficult in many ways. Privacy may be nice, but cooking and doing chores become much less time-consuming when shared with an additional person, or even several people. Water, electric, and internet bills also become more bearable when divided among multiple residents. There are social downsides to living alone, too. Many elderly people, young professionals, stay-at-home parents, and single people routinely spend long stretches of time at home alone, no matter how lonely they may feel; more distressingly, many single parents face the catch-22 of working and paying for childcare. Living in smaller numbers can be a drain on money, time, and feelings of community, and the rise of the two-parent dual-earning household only compounds the problems of being time-poor.
During the debate, the Republican nominee seemed to confirm an accusation that he hadn’t paid any income tax, then reversed himself later.
In the absence of facts, speculation will flourish. For example, as long as Donald Trump declines to release his tax returns, his opponents will offer theories for why he has failed to do so.
Trump has claimed that he cannot release his returns because he’s being audited by the IRS. (He complained Monday that he is audited every year.) He repeated that claim during the debate, even though the IRS has said that Trump is free to release his returns even if he is being audited.
Harry Reid, the Democratic senator from Nevada who in 2012 claimed (falsely, it turned out) that Mitt Romney paid no income taxes, has speculated that Trump is not as wealthy as he claims and is a “welfare king.” Romney himself has gotten in on the act, writing on Facebook, “There is only one logical explanation for Mr. Trump's refusal to release his returns: there is a bombshell in them. Given Mr. Trump's equanimity with other flaws in his history, we can only assume it's a bombshell of unusual size.”
Who will win the debates? Trump’s approach was an important part of his strength in the primaries. But will it work when he faces Clinton onstage?
The most famous story about modern presidential campaigning now has a quaint old-world tone. It’s about the showdown between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in the first debate of their 1960 campaign, which was also the very first nationally televised general-election debate in the United States.
The story is that Kennedy looked great, which is true, and Nixon looked terrible, which is also true—and that this visual difference had an unexpected electoral effect. As Theodore H. White described it in his hugely influential book The Making of the President 1960, which has set the model for campaign coverage ever since, “sample surveys” after the debate found that people who had only heard Kennedy and Nixon talking, over the radio, thought that the debate had been a tie. But those who saw the two men on television were much more likely to think that Kennedy—handsome, tanned, non-sweaty, poised—had won.
Even in big cities like Tokyo, small children take the subway and run errands by themselves. The reason has a lot to do with group dynamics.
It’s a common sight on Japanese mass transit: Children troop through train cars, singly or in small groups, looking for seats.
They wear knee socks, polished patent-leather shoes, and plaid jumpers, with wide-brimmed hats fastened under the chin and train passes pinned to their backpacks. The kids are as young as 6 or 7, on their way to and from school, and there is nary a guardian in sight.
A popular television show called Hajimete no Otsukai, or My First Errand, features children as young as two or three being sent out to do a task for their family. As they tentatively make their way to the greengrocer or bakery, their progress is secretly filmed by a camera crew. The show has been running for more than 25 years.
One man conducted hundreds of interviews to understand the motivation and morality of those in the finance industry.
How can bankers live with themselves after the destruction wrought by their industry? That’s in part what the Dutch journalist Joris Luyendijk sets out to uncover in his new book, Among the Bankers: A Journey Into the Heart of Finance, which was published overseas last year under the title Swimming with Sharks. The book attempts to lay bare not the technical workings of a very opaque industry, but the emotional and moral considerations of those who operate within it.
Luyendijk, a reporter at The Guardian who has a background in anthropology, poses that question of conscience over and over again. To answer it, he conducted hundreds of interviews with people who work in the City, London’s version of Wall Street.