Manchurian Base Camp, Part III: The DPRK’s Northeastern Strategy

Manchurian Base Camp, Part I: In the 1930s Kim Il Song regarded Manchuria, or Northeast China, as an immense area into which to project anti-Japanese struggle and wherein he could hammer out the personal foundations for what would become the North Korean state.  

Manchurian Base Camp, Part II: During the Korean War, North Korean elites moved back into Manchuria to escape from the horrific bombing of Pyongyang (and virtually every other major and minor city in the DPRK), populating special schools in cities like Tonghua, Jilin, and Changchun.  In his recent visit to Jilin, Kim Jong Il admitted that he had spent nearly three years in Jilin province as an elementary school student, safe from American air raids.  (While this put the lie to the many stories North Korean propagandists had already spun about the Young General accompanying his (rather young) father at the front, braving bombs and giving on-the-spot-guidance at the tender age of eight or nine, his comments were meant for a Chinese audience anyway, and have been widely reported in the PRC without a great deal of editorializing. 

Manchurian Base Camp, Part II.5 is the unacknowledged symmetry that began with what Andrew Nastios calls “The Great North Korean Famine” in the 1990s; the symmetry involves hungry North Koreans who saw the Chinese northeast as their lifeline much as Kim Il Song’s arduous marches in the 1930s acknowledged that the difficult survival in Manchuria was survival nevertheless.  

And finally to today:  

Manchurian Base Camp, Part III: Today the North Korean leadership is pushing again towards Northeast China, but in a different fashion, opening the gates in obvious fashion to reinterpret the meaning of Manchuria in the North Korean propaganda topos.  Take, for instance, the summary of a new North Korean editorial, published in the Rodong Sinmun (Workers’ Daily) in Pyongyang and relayed to us via the Chinese news bureau in that city (translation by Adam Cathcart):

 朝鲜《劳动新闻》16日发表文章称赞中国东北地区在中国共产党的领导下面貌一新。这篇题为《日新月异的中国东北地区》的文章说,中国东北是朝鲜已故国家主席金日成进行革命活动、生活并战斗过的地方,在朝中友谊史上具有重要意义。朝鲜最高领导人金正日今年5月和8月又两次到访东北,追寻金日成的足迹重访了当年革命活动的史迹地。

文章介绍了东北三省在地理、经济、文化等各方面的发展情况,称赞在中国共产党的关怀和该地区人民具有献身精神的奋斗与努力下,东北三省在政治、经济、文化等许多领域的发展都取得了巨大成果。文章说,东北工业和农业得到壮大,科技飞速发展,人民福利大幅提高。东北人民为有中国特色的和谐社会主义建设作出了巨大贡献。 文章最后对东北的明天抱以美好的展望,称东北地区将在社会主义现代化建设的道路上不断向前发展。

An article published in the September 16 “Workers’ Daily’ in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea states that, under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese Northeast has taken on a whole new appearance.  The article, entitled “Daily Renewal and Change in the Chinese Northeastern Region,” states that Northeast China was the area of former national Chairman Kim Il Song’s revolutionary activities, was where he lived and struggled, and is the important and significant site of historical Korean-Chinese friendship.  The DPRK’s highest leader Kim Jong Il went twice to the Northeast [this past year], in May and in August, pursuing (追寻) Kim Il Song’s footsteps and historical relics from his revolutionary activities.  [Translator's note: There were precious few of these relics available for DPRK scholars who went in pursuit of Marshal Kim's footsteps in 1953; some of my archival work on this issue will be coming out in the next year in Harvard's Journal of Cold War Studies.  But here the important point is the pursuing of the "footsteps," an important succession theme, and Kim Jong Il was never really all that interested in historical veracity in the first place.]    

The article introduces the geography, economy, culture and other aspects of Northeast China’s situation of development, stating that under the solicitous care of the Chinese Communist Party, the people of the region have taken a collective spirit of effort and struggle, making huge achievements in all spheres in the three Northeastern provinces, including politics, economics, and culture.  The article goes on to state that industry and agriculture in the Northeast are expanding and strengthening, that science is helping to speed development and substantially raise the welfare of the people.  The Northeastern people are producing huge contributions to the establishment of harmonious socialism with Chinese characteristics.   The article ends by stating that the Northeast holds great hopes for a beautiful tomorrow, moving continuously forward on the road of modern, socialist construction and development. 

 In another sense, the North Korean state is finally stating something which has become completely obvious to residents of the border areas, and no doubt by word of mouth to residents in the population centers closer to the southern border like Hamhung and Pyongyang: Northeast China is developing rapidly.  In and of itself, such a statement does not consist of “news” to a deadened North Korean population, but its bullish statement by KCNA, the North Korean propaganda agency, is of course “newsworthy.”

Kim Jong Il’s recent visits to North Korean border regions, replacing of top party officials in border provinces, and the primacy assigned to North Pyong’an and Ryanggang (northwestern border) provinces in the rhetoric and speculation about Kim Jong Un would all seem to further indicate the northward focus of the DPRK leadership at the moment.   

In English, the DPRK makes its Northeastern strategy further apparent in this KCNA piece describing Kim Il Song’s [mostly real] contributions to the Chinese revolution in the era of China’s “War of Liberation”/Civil War.  A second, much more extensive piece, moves the argument ahead even further, placing China in the position of being in a kind of moral debt to the Kim family due to aid rendered during the civil war.  One might want to note, however, that describing these so prominently in DPRK media isn’t so much as a new move as a return to the ethos of 1949, when the North Korean media was rather outspoken in its support for Mao and the Chinese communist war effort, something which can be further explored in an article I published a couple of years back with Chuck Kraus entitled “North Korean Internationalism, 1945-1950″ in the Review of Korean Studies. 

In another post, I’ll endeavor to describe how North Korea began telegraphing the “Northeastern strategy” with great clarity before Kim Jong Il went on his impulse-tour of the Northeast, via slogans long in preparation for an Arirang for Chinese tourists in August, 2010.  I got an eyeful of these, fresh from the cameras of Chinese tourists returning into Dandong when I was at the border there on August 21.  Lots and lots of references to Kim Il Song’s footsteps in Manchuria…

"Construct a Harmonious Socialist Society" -- Arirang caption for PRC Premier Wen Jiabao in Pyongyang, October 2009; click image for photo gallery

Merkel in the Middle Kingdom//German State Reports on China//经济合作,人权批评:近日的中德关系

If Sino-German relations cross your radar screen as a topic of significance, then it is certainly worth your time to read JustRecently’s link-rich roundup of the recent state visit to China by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  I would only add to his comprehensive rush of sources that this Spiegel investigative piece on alleged espionage by China in Germany got quite a bit of play in the month before the visit, including a front-page piece in the Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung on June 21.  Fortunately for the PRC’s trade representatives and diplomats, Germans seemed to be much more engrossed in the World Cup at the time.  But the idea of “economic espionage” (which is admittedly not something I understand a great deal about) has the potential to grab a hold of certain sections of German public opinion which are engaged in the China trade.

Incidentally, along the lines of adding even a small grain of value to the discussion, I went to the Chinese Embassy in (old East) Berlin earlier this month and was impressed (but not surprised) at the number of bilingual copies (English-Chinese) they had about the March 2008 events in Tibet as well as of the 2009 report on Human Rights in the USA.  The People’s Daily overseas addition was, of course, still wrapped in plastic.

The Falun Gong protesters were outside the Embassy, as they have seemingly been outside of every Chinese consulate or embassy I have ever visited since the year 2000, in fact, handing out literature across the bridge.  It appears clear from the Spiegel report, referenced in this summary Epoch Times piece, that Falun Gong practitioners in Germany have played an important role in the recent China controversies in Germany.   Please note that the link contains some rather familiar attacks on China’s anti-Falun Gong apparatus and a particularly heavy-handed description of a Chinese state security organ as “Gestapo-like”.   Really, Epoch Times?  Is that adjective necessary?

Primarily the previously referenced article is useful for its link to Germany’s newly released report from the Department for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutzbericht), whose English-language site is here. China has been taking some hits in Germany, and this is one of the more overt ones.

Since the report probably won’t be translated into English (or Chinese) anytime soon, here are some excerpts and my summaries of the hot spots in the annual report for 2009 which relate to Chinese intelligence gathering in Germany to at least give you a vague idea of its contents, particularly the stuff on pages 294-300.  I’ll start with the headers, and please excuse the translation:

Entwicklung in der Volksrepublik China [Development in the PRC / 中华人民共和国的发展]

Diktatur und wirtschaftliche Stabilität [独裁制度和经济坚固性]

Die von der Kommunistischen Partei Chinas (KPCh) diktatorisch regierte Volksrepublik ist ein kommunistischer Staat, der jedoch seit zwei Jahrzehnten seine Wirtschaft zunehmend nach marktwirtschaftlichen Prinzipien entwickelt und einen steilen Aufschwung verzeichnet. Chinas Ökonomie zeigt sich in der globalen Finanzkrise relativstabil, was seine stetig wachsende Bedeutung für den Welthandel belegt. [Although the People's Republic ruled by the dictatorship of the Communist Party of China is a communist state, for the last twenty years the Party has developed the economy along market principles and marked a style of growth.  China's economy has remained relatively stable in the global financial crisis, which has testifies to its importance for world trade.]

From here forward, I’ll mostly just do headers, as time is of the essence…

Aufrüstung und Machtdemonstration [Armaments and Demonstrations of Power / 升级和力量表达]

Unterdrückung und Aufruhr in Xinjiang [Suppression and Revolt in Xinjiang / 镇压和动乱在新疆 ed: note the sequencing/cause and effect!]

The report then describes the function of Public Security Bureau in China and other organizations…Then it hits the heavy stuff.

Wirtschaftsspionage [Economic Espionage / 经济间谍活动]

Bekämpfung der „Fünf Gifte“ [Struggle Against the "Five Poisons" / 反对‘五毒‘的斗争]

Die chinesische Regierung diffamiert die als größte Gefahren für die eigene Macht bewerteten Personengruppen als so genannte Fünf Gifte. Sie bekämpft diese nicht nur in der Heimat, sondern späht auch die in Deutschland lebenden Anhänger aus. Betroffen sind vor allem die von China des Separatismus verdächtigten Uiguren und Tibeter sowie die Angehörigen der Meditationsbewegung Falun Gong. Darüber hinaus betrachtet die KPCh auch Mitglieder der Demokratiebewegung und Befürworter einer Eigenstaatlichkeit Taiwans als Staatsfeinde. [The Chinese regime defames these groups of people as the greatest dangers for the maintenance of their power, the so-called "Five Poisons."  They struggle against these not only in their homeland, but also conduct surveillance of members of these groups living in Germany, among whom in particular those suspected of separatism: Uighurs and Tibetans, as well as members of the meditation movement Falun Gong, and beyond those, the CCP also watches members of the (presumably Chinese) democracy movement and advocates of Taiwanese independence, treating them as enemies of the state.]

The report goes on to note the special interest taken by Chinese intelligence agencies in the Frankfurt Book Fair, the control over the internet, the surveillance of foreign visitors in China (particularly their internet usage in hotels) and the role of non-diplomatic in the Chinese embassy to collect economic intelligence.

Perhaps in response to the criticism, although it’s a bit hard to believe, the Huanqiu Shibao put out a 56-photo gallery of Hitler enjoying time with children the day after Angela Merkel arrived in Beijing.  Isn’t that a bit much, Huanqiu editors?  And why not Erich Honecker instead?

But Merkel is finally enjoying a bit of respect from the newspapers in her home country, particularly this article in Suddeutscher Zeitung, which notes that the Chancellor didn’t hold back from criticizing China for its stance toward the Dalai Lama, human rights questions, and the cases of specific dissidents.

Merkel with "the neat Wen Jiabao"; courtesy Suddeutsche Zeitung -- click on image for link to Heinrik Bork's article overviewing Merkel's visit within the long view of Sino-German relations after 1989

Japanese Departures

Thanks to the clarion calls of the immortal James Brown, it has become clear: I’m back, and Yukio Hatoyama has indeed “gotten up off of that thing,” relieving pressure by resigning.  More importantly, the U.S.-Japan alliance is again, as NPR reports, “in limbo.”  You could see the writing on the wall, clearly, when Obama visited Japan last year — the tentative nature of the interaction and particularly the vascillating language by both sides on the Okinawa base issue presaged Hatoyama’s collapse on the issue.  Can a future politician tame the tempest?  It may very well be that Koizumi, reviled though he was by many, will end up being the longest-serving Japanese Prime Minister in my adult lifetime!

Given that discussion of the Hatoyama collapse in the U.S. just might center around the health of the Japanese economy, it’s worth noting a two other things: 1) the question mark over American forces in Okinawa doesn’t strengthen the U.S. hand in threatening North Korea (the Marine Expeditionary Force on the island being the presumptive occupying force in the advent of a DPRK collapse) and, probably more importantly, 2) this presents a challenge and opportunity for China to reach out to Japan.

The CCP leaders seemed quite fond of Hatoyama and were reprising Zhou Enlai’s attitude toward Japan (led by Hatoyama’s grandfather, fittingly enough at the time) during the mid-1950s: Downplay disagreements, seek economic cooperation for mutual benefit and, ultimately, to displace American influence from Japan.

I don’t believe that the CCP thinks that the Americans can be so easily dislodged from Japan, or that Japan can just fit neatly into the Chinese tributary orbit, but, the night before Hatoyama’s resignation and on the cusp of the aftermath of Wen Jiabao’s visit there, China Daily put the matter rather nakedly.  I’ll quote the editorial in full:

It is time for Japan to Re-engage with Asia [China Daily, June 1, 2010]

Japan must turn around, shed off its Western image and be more Japanese. It needs to be proud again but not as before like having a samurai mentality. Most importantly, Japan must see itself independent of the USA and its stranglehold. Japan must determine its own path and future.

Japan’s future? Japan has a future and that is with Asia and China, not with the USA. As things look, the USA is holding back Japan’s future. With Japan’s ‘inborn’ innovation and creative ability, Japan should have been a top country, much better than its present position.

China and Japan have much in common but because of politics, the relationship could not move faster and better. Historical matters, territorial disputes, suspicions and fear are the obstacles to better ties.

Both countries see the need to improve ties, trade and political relations. Trade and politics go hand in hand. One cannot realistically have good trade relations without good political relations. Good political relations can only be possible when mistrust and disputes are removed while understanding and respect are enhanced. So when negatives are already in place, it takes great efforts on the part of leaders to meet regularly and try to reach agreement.

Today, China, ROK and Japan are meeting. It will be fruitful when leaders show maturity, frankness, good faith and other positive attributes in their talk.

I wish all our leaders’ success and that Asia will one day find unity and peace.

Asia for Asians, unite for true peace and growth.

How about them apples?  And ending with Japan’s old slogan of the East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere gives it a particularly nice touch.

In one of the more intelligent and far-sighted online commentaries I’ve read in the past few weeks, Peter Lee writes:

The DPJ [Democratic Party of Japan] government is now in full retreat from its original non-aligned strategy. It aroused Chinese ire by tweaking Beijing on the issue of its nuclear arsenal, then leaked the news of Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi’s rage to the international press to gain desperately needed political and diplomatic capital.

Instead of moving the US Marine air base off Okinawa, Hatoyama clumsily and without reference to his cabinet reaffirmed the pro-US deal negotiated by the previous Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government that keeps it on the island, to the dismay of Hatoyama’s coalition partners and the disgust of the Japanese electorate.

It appears inevitable that the successor to the Hatoyama government will remain committed to the US alliance.

The Obama administration may be somewhat beguiled by the vision of Korea rising, but it remains committed to the Japanese alliance and is doubtless wary of Seoul’s growing desire to assert itself militarily – a recapitulation of threats by previous LDP governments in Japan to unleash the Self-Defense Forces.

And, just in time, Huanqiu Shibao arrives to pull us back into cultural diplomac, in fact, what it calls “cartoon diplomacy” via translation/summary of an Agence France-Presse dispatch:

法新社5月31日文章,原题:中日发起“卡通”外交 撇开外交较量,日本和中国周一同意联合举行动漫和电视剧节以推动民间文化交流。日本外务省官员说,中国国务院总理温家宝星期天抵达东京开始为期三天的访问,和他的日本对手鸠山由纪夫在会议上达成上述协议。这名官员说,两国初步计划将在下年相互专门举办节日或者活动周来介绍各自的荧屏文化,比如动漫或者电视剧。该官员说,“我们接受中国的提议,因为它将为我们提供促进文化交流的机会。” 作为努力增进文化理解的一部分,中国总理温家宝说,自己喜欢观看日本获奖影片《入殓师》(Departures),是由鸠山推荐给他的。(冯丽译)

Of course, now that Hatoyama has signaled his retreat, there’s sweet, sweet irony in the fact that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said how much he loved the gift given to him by the Japanese P.M.: the Japanese film “Departures [《入殓师》].”

All I can say is “Thank God,” because after all, nothing says “Sino-Japanese Friendship” quite like a visionary cellist.  Or, as these Chinese netizens argue, getting the next Japanese P.M. to Nanjing for the ultimate apology.

人多没办法! Viewing Chinese Power thro the Lens of Spring Festival Chaos

As pundits both knowledgeable and sketchy proclaim a new era in Chinese global assertiveness, it’s helpful to recall one thing: the Chinese people are an immense force, a force whose collective and chaotic power is never more evident to Chinese leaders than in the Spring Festival travel season.

For this reason, I have to recommend scrolling through this Huanqiu BBS photo-montage of the craziness of 2009 Spring Festival (featuring, among other things, a classic photo combining an open train window with something that babies do really well).  It’s hard to imagine that the same Wen Jiabao who so coolly strode into Pyongyang with billions in hand this past October 2009 was, a year ago, bullhorning assurances to the masses in Changsha’s cracked edifice to railway travel (and probably hoping not to be torn limb from limb).

2009年1月29日,温家宝在湖南长沙火车站看望滞留车站的旅客。 Wen Jiabao encourages passengers stranded in Changsha -- click image for gallery

The first netizen comment on the story both gave the government a pass and spoke a kind of eternal truth about China: “人多没办法 (Too many people; nothing you can do)!“

Yet thinking about the travel season leads me to wonder: Did the Chinese government want to make a bit of a show of strength before families get together for Spring Festival, when some assessments of the nation’s progress — and the effectiveness of the CCP — are inevitably made?  Certainly they were given that opportunity in spades.  This year, the United States somehow managed to bunch up the one winning issue (Google and free speech/the right not to be hacked) with three losing ones (cybersecurity cooperation with India/arms sales to Taiwan/Obama meeting with Dalai Lama) right in the same frame. Why did Obama wait to see the Dalai Lama anyway?   Now Chinese anxieties about the man get lumped in with fears of Taiwan independence, and we’re back to the 1950s.

I wonder if the period leading up to Spring Festival is, then, sort of like late spring: predictable chaos in predictable sectors.  Chinese universities, for instance, in April and May tend to become pressure-cookers for any number of issues that somehow correspond with upcoming exams.  And the gao kao, or university entrance examination, is another period when youth are feeling extreme pressure; last year, the Dalai Lama made a very stupid move by meeting with Paris mayor on the same day as the exam, making His Holiness a kind of Wailing Wall or proxy for all manner of complaints, the very projection of an enemy when anxieties among youth were high.

Finally, along the lines of understanding China’s internal dynamics and the fury that the CCP is eager to dissipate or channel: when was the last time someone mentioned China’s unemployment rate among recent college graduates?  Next time Obama is in Shanghai, let’s hope he can give Chinese youth some hope for more MBA degrees in the United States, and, for heaven’s sake, shoot some hoops.  That is, if he can muscle his way first to the front of the line to get some of this Spring Festival bling:

Note the paddy wagon with bullhorns in the background

Excellent Resource: DPRK TV on YouTube

I have had the signal pleasure of running across a few YouTube snippets from Korean Central Television before on that Zeitgeist-friendly medium of YouTube, but the site maintained by this particular North Korea fan in Mexico (or so it appears) is particularly rich and frequently updated.

Here is the 5-minute coverage of Wen Jiabao’s welcome at the Pyongyang airport:

 The above film really does much better justice than photographic sources of how North Koreans are encouraged to perceive the visit.  Note the dwelling, at length, of the major (or whatever his rank may be) huffing out his welcome at Wen Jiabao as the military sword quivers at his side.  For a Chinese audience used to associated sabers with Japanese imperialism (and a quick perusal through commemorative magazine covers from summer 2005 ought to do the trick), this is potentially intimidating stuff.  Which is why the KCNA editors left it in, and Xinhua/CCTV leaves it out.

Similarly, the cuts of the national anthems are interesting, if predictable.  The wind band plays the opening salvo of the PRC national anthem (“March of the Volunteers,” the Nie Er War of Resistance original) which is clipped immedately into the DPRK national anthem and the five-pointed star set in red.  No sight of the Chinese flag, symbol of the old Minsaengdan incident!

Here, by contrast, is how CCTV depicted Wen Jiabao’s trip to the Martyr’s Cemetary outside of Pyongyang, which I covered more extensively here  (in a link endorsed by Danwei.org) and here:

[Video forthcoming....trouve trouve trouve]

And, since it’s YouTube, I begin to wonder how this particular attack of North Korean soccer goalies against international referees while Chinese fans scream, win, and wave their red flags at the wailing DPRK defense played out at the time among Chinese newspaper readers and netizens.  Life is always so calm on that blue No. 2 subway from Guloudajie to Chaoyang (my summer morning bureaucratic and beautiful commute) that it’s hard to imagine someone snorting aloud at the news, but I wouldn’t put it past the Chinese press to emphasize.  Wait a minute — depicting North Koreans as wild and out of control?   I thought that was something of which only “Western media” was capable!     

Finally, here, via  is a lovely bit of song from the DPRK, also carried via that prolific Mexican fan of Juche: 

Call me easily manipulated, but you just can’t argue with the orchestration, the melody, or the voice.  This is lovely stuff which might even surpass Rimsky-Korsakov, the original orchestrator-genius (after the Frenchman Hector Berlioz, that is) whose work trickled down into socialist manuals.  Everyone always, always rips on the North Koreans for being all extra Soviet, when in some ways they are more deeply connected in their arts and literature to the Russian romantic tradition, not to mention the pop trends of Japan in the late 1970s. 

Finally, mentioning this here, although it could just as well arrive in a Sino-Japanese post, as the man straddles the line of nationality:  Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa [小澤征爾], born in Manchuria in the 1930s and one of the great musicians of our time, has been diagnosed with cancer and is cancelling all performances for the next six months.  Time to mount up some intense positive thoughts/prayers for this man and, if you can, amp up your own musical performances.  The world is going to lose a bit of expressiveness and intensity for a spell, so let’s connect to cleave the deficit and hurdle the divides. 

Seiji Ozawa, via Xinhua -- click image for story

Gratuitous Citations, or, “How Non-Interactive yet potentially Toxically (or intoxicating in a lockbox) Erudite Print Scholarship with Zero Exciting Hyperlinks Finds its way onto the S.V. Blog”: 

If you desire analysis of a more academic vintage of the musical competition and provenance of the respective national anthems within the matrix of der Aufbau des Sozialismus [era of building socialism: 1945-1950], see :

Adam Cathcart, “Song of Youth: North Korean Music from Liberation to War,” North Korean Review Vol. 4, No. 1 (Fall 2008), 93-104.

Adam Cathcart, “Japanese Devils and American Wolves: Chinese Communist Songs from the War of Liberation and the Korean War,” forthcoming in Popular Music and Society, Vol. 33, no. 2 (May 2010).

China-Iran-Russia: Geopolitics and Soft Power

Via Professor Juan Cole’s groundbreaking Informed Comment website, an illustrated commentary on Sino-Iranian relations by Pepe Escobar in France (in English):

Then, via Al Jezeera’s English service, a short report on China’s Iran moves in October:

The best look at the deep structure of Sino-Iran relations today is probably my colleague John Garver’s work, Ancient Partners in a Post-Imperial World, published here in Seattle at the University of Washington Press in 2006.

Finally, the Politics by Other Means Eurasian blog has a thought-provoking post on “the personalization of power” in Russia and Iran:

[Putin's method] is remarkably similar to the situation in Iran, where Mahmoud Ahmadinejad collects millions of hand-written letters throughout his trips around the country and promises to personally solve every problem.  It is a type of paternalistic populism that is endemic in countries without functioning institutions.  Unfortunately, it only perpetuates corruption and lack of faith in governance.

This prompts me to marvel at how bureaucratic and impersonal the Chinese leadership has become, and impressively so.  Wen Jiabao may occasionally preen for the cameras, but no Chinese leader appears to want the appearance that they are able to fix everything — can you imagine the number of petitioners who would flock to the gates of Zhongnanhai then?

But then again, Wen Jiabao can’t do this:

In this light, Barack Obama seems strangely unable to marshal his own hip-hip potential internationally or find time for a pickup game of hoops in Beijing.  Apparently he leaves his Jay-Z at the water’s edge.  The President’s inability to tap into the best and the deepest currents of globalized American / African-American culture functions to the detriment of U.S. soft power!  In other words, Mr. President, please don’t be afraid to seize the mic or shoot a layup next time you’re in Shanghai or talking tough to Tehran.  Because America should always be young, and mp3s and images rock the chains better than bunker-busters ever could.