Something you don't see every day (Chinese leadership dept)

It's not posted at the CNN archives site yet, but in a day or two look for and watch Fareed Zakaria's TV interview today with China's premier, or #2 leader, Wen Jiabao. (In the meantime, printed transcript is here. Update: video clips are now available.) Interview appearances by Wen or president Hu Jintao are so rare, let alone with the foreign media, that this session is noteworthy simply for its existence.

It's interesting beyond that for Wen's relative openness and non-defensiveness on a variety of issues, including the Dalai Lama and China's role in Darfur. (I am grading on the curve.) I have an article coming out pretty soon in the Atlantic about how very closed and defensive official Chinese spokesmen usually are when dealing with the outside world. This is an intriguing exception.

Given China's new role as America's banker, U.S. citizens should also pay attention to passages like this:

ZAKARIA: There is another sense in which we are interdependent. China is the largest holder of U.S. Treasury bills. By some accounts, you hold almost $1 trillion of it. It makes Americans - some Americans - uneasy. Can you reassure them that China would never use this status as a weapon in some form?

WEN (voice of interpreter): As I said, we believe that the U.S. real economy is still solidly based, particularly in the high-tech industries and the basic industries.

Now, something has gone wrong in the virtual economy. But if this problem is properly addressed, then it is still possible to stabilize the economy in this country....

Of course, we are concerned about the safety and security of Chinese money here. But we believe that the United States is a credible country, and particularly at such difficult times, China has reached out to the United States.

I am not sure I buy the claim that Wen has read the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius 100 times. Still, that he can talk about it at all is impressive. Also, the small-d democrat in me wishes that Zakaria had not wrapped up the interview by addressing Wen as "Your Excellency." (I didn't hear the way the interpreter rendered that to Wen in Chinese.) That's my only cavil with a very impressive and useful interview.