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.
Four families of fallen servicemembers received next-day UPS letters from President Trump after a turbulent week in which Trump falsely claimed he had called “virtually all” of the families.
Updated on October 22, 2017.
The Trump administration is scrambling to defend the president’s characterization of his communications with grieving military families, including rush-delivering letters from the president to the families of servicemembers killed months ago. Donald Trump falsely claimed this week that he had called “virtually” all fallen servicemembers’ families since his time in office.
Timothy Eckels Sr. hadn’t heard anything from President Trump since his son Timothy Eckels Jr. was killed after a collision involving the USS John S. McCain on August 21. But then, on October 20, two days into the controversy over the president’s handling of a condolence call with an American soldier’s widow, Eckels Sr. received a United Parcel Service package dated October 18 with a letter from the White House.
Senator John McCain and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly offered starkly different visions of service—and of America.
It was a week of powerful speeches. The least memorable, oddly, was delivered by the most naturally gifted speaker, former President Barack Obama at a campaign rally in Virginia. “Our democracy is at stake,” he said, before harking back to the trope of his 2008 campaign: “Yes, we can.” Compelling in the setting, but not special.
Far more powerful was former President George W. Bush’s indictment of Donald Trump that didn’t mention the 45th president by name. It was a cry for freedom as a theme in American policy, a denunciation of “casual cruelty” in American discourse, of “nationalism distorted into nativism,” of isolationism, of attempts to turn American identity away from American ideals and into something darker, driven by “geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood.” In itself it would have been noteworthy.
Emma Perrier was deceived by an older man on the internet—a hoax that turned into an unbelievable love story.
Emma Perrier spent the summer of 2015 mending a broken heart, after a recent breakup. By September, the restaurant manager had grown tired of watching The Notebook alone in her apartment in Twickenham, a leafy suburb southwest of London, and decided it was time to get back out there. Despite the horror stories she’d heard about online dating, Emma, 33, downloaded a matchmaking app called Zoosk. The second “o” in the Zoosk logo looks like a diamond engagement ring, which suggested that its 38 million members were seeking more than the one-night stands offered by apps like Tinder.
She snapped the three selfies the app required to “verify her identity.” Emma, who is from a volcanic city near the French Alps, not far from the source of Perrier mineral water, is petite, and brunette. She found it difficult to meet men, especially as she avoided pubs and nightclubs, and worked such long hours at a coffee shop in the city’s financial district that she met only stockbrokers, who were mostly looking for cappuccinos, not love.
A stunning new speculative-fiction book by Naomi Alderman couldn’t be more timely.
One of the most succinct definitions of sexual harassment I’ve read over the past few weeks goes like this: For men, it’s anything they might say to a woman that would make them uncomfortable if it were said to them, but in prison. It’s glib, sure. But it gets at the fundamental imbalance of power that characterizes relationships between men and women. To understand what it’s like for a woman to be catcalled, or harassed, or propositioned, it isn’t enough for men to simply put themselves in that woman’s place. They also have to imagine what it’s like to sense the imminent danger in those interactions—to be weaker than their aggressor in every way, and to have that weakness woven into the fabric of society itself. As the adage often attributed to Margaret Atwood goes, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.
One day last summer, around noon, I called Athena, a 13-year-old who lives in Houston, Texas. She answered her phone—she’s had an iPhone since she was 11—sounding as if she’d just woken up. We chatted about her favorite songs and TV shows, and I asked her what she likes to do with her friends. “We go to the mall,” she said. “Do your parents drop you off?,” I asked, recalling my own middle-school days, in the 1980s, when I’d enjoy a few parent-free hours shopping with my friends. “No—I go with my family,” she replied. “We’ll go with my mom and brothers and walk a little behind them. I just have to tell my mom where we’re going. I have to check in every hour or every 30 minutes.”
Those mall trips are infrequent—about once a month. More often, Athena and her friends spend time together on their phones, unchaperoned. Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, they talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear. They make sure to keep up their Snapstreaks, which show how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with each other. Sometimes they save screenshots of particularly ridiculous pictures of friends. “It’s good blackmail,” Athena said. (Because she’s a minor, I’m not using her real name.) She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”
A neuroscientist on how we came to be aware of ourselves.
Ever since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, evolution has been the grand unifying theory of biology. Yet one of our most important biological traits, consciousness, is rarely studied in the context of evolution. Theories of consciousness come from religion, from philosophy, from cognitive science, but not so much from evolutionary biology. Maybe that’s why so few theories have been able to tackle basic questions such as: What is the adaptive value of consciousness? When did it evolve and what animals have it?
The Attention Schema Theory (AST), developed over the past five years, may be able to answer those questions. The theory suggests that consciousness arises as a solution to one of the most fundamental problems facing any nervous system: Too much information constantly flows in to be fully processed. The brain evolved increasingly sophisticated mechanisms for deeply processing a few select signals at the expense of others, and in the AST, consciousness is the ultimate result of that evolutionary sequence. If the theory is right—and that has yet to be determined—then consciousness evolved gradually over the past half billion years and is present in a range of vertebrate species.
And there could be far-reaching consequences for the national economy too.
Four floors above a dull cinder-block lobby in a nondescript building at the Ohio State University, the doors of a slow-moving elevator open on an unexpectedly futuristic 10,000-square-foot laboratory bristling with technology. It’s a reveal reminiscent of a James Bond movie. In fact, the researchers who run this year-old, $750,000 lab at OSU’s Spine Research Institute resort often to Hollywood comparisons.
Thin beams of blue light shoot from 36 of the same kind of infrared motion cameras used to create lifelike characters for films like Avatar. In this case, the researchers are studying the movements of a volunteer fitted with sensors that track his skeleton and muscles as he bends and lifts. Among other things, they say, their work could lead to the kind of robotic exoskeletons imagined in the movie Aliens.
Donald Trump’s recent tweet about long-secret JFK files is a way for the president to try to reclaim a status that has repeatedly helped him.
One of the stranger aspects of having a conspiracy theorist in the Oval Office is that it goes against the way conspiracy theorizing usually works.
Conspiracy theories are a way to stand up, through disbelief, against the powerful. Those who spread conspiracy theories in earnest are, whether they mean to or not, partaking in an act of defiance against established institutions as much as they are questioning accepted truths. Usually, then, a refusal to believe the widely accepted explanation of how something happened originates from outside of official channels like government. A president might be the one accused of the conspiracy; rarely is he the one spreading rumors.
DeepMind’s new self-taught Go-playing program is making moves that other players describe as “alien” and “from an alternate dimension.”
It was a tense summer day in 1835 Japan. The country’s reigning Go player, Honinbo Jowa, took his seat across a board from a 25-year-old prodigy by the name of Akaboshi Intetsu. Both men had spent their lives mastering the two-player strategy game that’s long been popular in East Asia. Their face-off, that day, was high-stakes: Honinbo and Akaboshi represented two Go houses fighting for power, and the rivalry between the two camps had lately exploded into accusations of foul play.
Little did they know that the match—now remembered by Go historians as the “blood-vomiting game”—would last for several grueling days. Or that it would lead to a grisly end.
Early on, the young Akaboshi took a lead. But then, according to lore, “ghosts” appeared and showed Honinbo three crucial moves. His comeback was so overwhelming that, as the story goes, his junior opponent keeled over and began coughing up blood. Weeks later, Akaboshi was found dead. Historians have speculated that he might have had an undiagnosed respiratory disease.
Monday afternoon, President Trump delivered a press conference from an alternative reality, or perhaps a slightly-less-dark timeline. His relationship with Mitch McConnell is great! They have the votes for Obamacare repeal! The hurricane relief effort in Puerto Rico is a smashing success! Democrats are to blame for GOP divisions on Capitol Hill! These claims range from the highly dubious to the patently false.