A good one-stop shop for Palestinian-Israeli news

… is this info-packed and well-organized and portal page provided by Xinhua. Notice the tabs across the top, then scroll down to where the contents of these categories are also helpfully listed and linked to, in two asymmetrical columns, in reverse-chrono order.
The offerings include breaking news stories as well as some informative Backgrounders and News Analysis.
This Backgrounder, published January 4, presented some really pertinent and useful information about the extreme lethality of Israel’s various military ops against Gaza since the “withdrawal” in September 2005. Including that,

    More than 400 Palestinians, many of them civilians, were killed during operations Summer Rains and Autumn Clouds.
    From Feb. 27 to March 3, 2008, Israel launched Operation Hot Winter in Gaza, during which over 120 Palestinians were killed.

I didn’t see helpful background info like that made available in any US newspapers in recent months– or ever. There, the major meme that has been endlessly propagated has been that the siege of Gaza was the “only” hostile act Israel has undertaken against Gaza since it “generously” withdrew its forces and settlers from the Strip in 2005… And that then it was those “congenitally violence-prone” Palestinians who quite gratuitously started launching lethal rockets against southern Israel…
(Of course, the siege has itself also been responsible for hundreds of Palestinian deaths, and considerable amounts of other suffering. But the US MSM seldom mention that, either.)
This piece of news analysis on the whole Fayyad/PA-PM question, written for Xinhua by by Saud Abu Ramadan and published on the site today, is particularly informative and helpful.
He writes,

    Palestinian sources close to the dialogue said there are three candidates for the post of prime minister. They are the famous business man Monib el-Masri, the Hamas-supported independent lawmaker Jamal al-Khodari and resigning prime minister of the caretaker government Salam Fayyad.

I’ve been intrigued in recent months to see the considerable upgrading of Xinhua’s Middle East offerings in general. An increasing number of their stories seem to be directly reported by their own reporters, though they will also (as nearly everyone does) repackage significant stories from elsewhere. But either way, it looks to me that Xinhua is now establishing itself as a major player in the information-provision business in the Middle east.
What this also indicates is that the Chinese powers that be have devoted considerable budget, forethought and human resources to upgrading their country’s information-gathering capacities in the Middle East. Xinhua is a news agency, sure. But it a state-owned news agency, whose operations require real resources. So the involvement of the Chinese state/CCP in launching this info-gathering operation– which may well be running in parallel with other kinds of info-gathering operation– seems to signify a real commitment by Beijing to becoming, over time, a significant and above all sure-footed actor in the Middle East, who is no longer reliant on the information and analysis of other info-providers who are not so directly under their own supervision and standards of quality control.
But one further plea to the colleagues at Xinhua: Please, could you attach an RSS feed to your great Palestine-Israel page???

The Year of the Ox

The Chinese new year of the Ox began on January 26th, and it portends to be a year of change for China-Taiwan relations.

    The Ox is thought to be the sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work. The Ox is a power sign, like the Rat, Snake, Dragon, Tiger, and Monkey. They’re quite dependable and possess an innate ability to achieve great things. As one might guess, such people are dependable, calm, and modest. Like their animal namesake, the Ox is unswervingly patient, tireless in their work, and capable of enduring any amount of hardship without complaint.
    Ox people, according to tradition, need peace and quiet to work through their ideas, and when they have set their mind on something it is hard for them to be convinced otherwise. An Ox person has a very logical mind and is extremely systematic in whatever they do, though they have a tremendous imagination and an unparalleled appreciation for beauty. These people speak little but are extremely intelligent. When necessary, they are articulate and eloquent.

China’s premier and Taiwan’s president seem ready to make substantial changes in their longstnding bellicose relationship.

    March 5 (Bloomberg) — China will push for a comprehensive economic accord with Taiwan and wants to broaden discussions to involve military issues, Premier Wen Jiabao said.
    “We will accelerate normalization of cross-straits economic relations and promote the signing of a comprehensive agreement on economic cooperation,” Wen said in his annual report to the National People’s Congress in Beijing today. “We are also ready to hold talks on cross-straits political and military issues and create conditions for ending the state of hostility.”
    Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has stepped up economic exchanges with China since taking office in May, and direct daily flights, shipping and postal links started in December. China signed a comprehensive economic agreement with Hong Kong in June 2003, waiving tariffs for its imports and preferential market access for the city’s banks, brokerages and insurers.

Continue reading “The Year of the Ox”

Great blog posts on Afghanistan, China, from China Hand

I’m in Egypt, I really am, even though I haven’t blogged about it much yet. Let’s just say logistical challenges and other concerns have reduced my blogging productivity and immediacy somewhat..
Plus, I’m trying to reach the best possible judgment on how to weigh and report on the many, widely varying viewpoints I’ve heard here so far. Not the work of an hour or a day.
Meanwhile, a lot has been going on elsewhere in the world, and I’ve been a little out of touch. (Apart from looking at updates from the Gaza ceasefire talks and the Israeli elections. More on those topics, obviously, later.)
But this evening, I got some good time to catch up on my reading and discovered that China Hand has published some excellent blog posts on China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan over the past couple of weeks:
In this January 30 post, titled, “China to Obama: “Nice T-Bill Auction Ya Got There…Hate to See Anything Happen to It””, he unravels several key aspects of the current US-China economic relationship.
He looks at the controversy over the dollar exchange rate for China’s RMB (yuan) currency and concludes his post thus:

    As a matter of personal opinion, I do think that the RMB is undervalued.
    I think the Chinese government, as a matter of practicality, has maintained a dollar peg for its currency in order to provide a stable economic environment for its exporters (instead of making them to manage their forex risk through the complicated free-market frou-frou of currency futures markets, derivatives, etc.), and that’s a legitimate national economic goal;
    I think the peg was set on the high side, to give Chinese exporters a bit of a leg-up;
    I think the Chinese government believes that its forex structure—the dollar peg, enabled by sale of forex to the government bank and severe limits on cross-border flows of capital—has worked pretty well, especially in light of the financial disaster sweeping the open markets of the United States and Europe;
    And… I don’t see the Chinese government heeding international political pressure right now to make more than incremental adjustments to the exchange rate and the overall capital account regime.
    Having said that, I think that the Chinese government is desperate to revive the world economy and get its export factories humming again, so it will be prepared to do its bit to help matters along—like pissing away its government reserves buying more U.S. Treasury debt and hope that the Obama administration’s stimulus package jumpstarts the world economy.
    And I believe that the Obama administration will decide in the end that Chinese cooperation on the stimulus package will be more important than a political struggle over the exchange rate, especially as the recession causes imports from China to sag.
    … Despite the theoretical and practical obstacles, however, there will be continued across the board ideological enthusiasm for continuing to bash China.
    Right-wing commentators, it seems, don’t like the Chinese rubbing our noses in our recession because they consider the PRC an imperfect and dishonest exploiter of the magnificent capitalistic system the West has bequeathed to the world.
    Left-wing commentators, in my view, consider Chinese macroeconomic activity as an extension of the regime’s immoral policies, as the CCP tramples on the environment, Tibetans and Uighurs, Darfurians, and the world’s working poor with equal gusto in its headlong pursuit of profit.
    There is a certain amount of hoping and wishing that the Chinese economy would suffer a spectacular collapse as divine punishment for its government’s malfeasance.
    These expectations have been complicated and, perhaps, exacerbated by the fact that it was the advanced free market economy of the West that went into the tank first, and not the inferior Oriental model.
    … My bet is that the Chinese banking system, thanks to the recession and government intervention, manages to dodge the well-deserved fiscal bullet again.
    I think observers who anticipate that the Chinese Communist party is going to spend itself into oblivion as the Soviet Union did (gorging on the fatal apple of shopping malls instead of armaments) will be disappointed.
    Systemic financial failure–hyperinflation or the annihilation of people’s savings through the collapse of China’s state run banking system that terminally discredits the CCP regime and destroys the legitimacy of its rule–doesn’t appear likely.
    The recession—and millions of impoverished Chinese returning to their villages from shuttered factories along the coast—will certainly exacerbate the simmering resentment against the Party’s serial corruption, oppression, and arrogant incompetence, especially at the local level.
    However, the greatest threat to the Chinese Communist government has never been popular unrest provoked by economic suffering.
    It has been the threat of fissures within the ruling elite, of the kind that nearly destroyed the CCP during the Cultural Revolution, is typified by the assisted suicide of the CPSU under Gorbachev, and provoked Deng Xiaoping’s ferocious wrath against Zhao Ziyang during the 1989 democracy movement.
    Currently, the CCP ruling cadre in Beijing is riding high, coming off a decade of economic growth with a fair amount of money in the bank, reveling in its Olympic triumph, and enjoying the apparent vindication of its managed, nationalist economic model over the open-market nostrums peddled by the West. The United States, instead of representing a triumphant and destabilizing alternative, is mired in political and economic problems of its own.
    If and when popular unrest does occur as a result of the recession, the Party will confront it with an effective combination of ingenuity, unity, and brutality—and the sacrifice of as many flagrantly incompetent and corrupt local officials as it takes–unhindered by the example or effective condemnation of the West.
    I expect that, instead of threatening the existence of the CCP, the global financial crisis has enhanced the legitimacy and prolonged the life of the current Chinese Communist regime.
    That’s not an endorsement or a value judgment, by the way. It’s just how I see it—and how I think the Obama administration might weigh economics in its China equation.

Continue reading “Great blog posts on Afghanistan, China, from China Hand”

China and its ‘netizens’

I’ve been seeing quite a lot of references in the official Chinese media to what the reactions of Chinese “netizens” has been to one or another development. Most recent example: a report on the possibility of China sending a small naval task force to join the anti-piracy effort in the seas off Somalia.
It is evident that the Chinese Communist Party government pays a lot of attention to the views that Chinese citizens express on various web-based forums.
In fact, the policies Beijing pursues toward web-based discussions is much more nuanced than you’d believe if you read only the complaints of those organizations that criticize the kinds of political (as well as anti-porn) filters/shackles the authorities places on such discussions. According to the interesting discussion on media in Susan Shirk’s China: Fragile Superpower, many high-ranking CCP leaders actively seek out the views of “netizens”, as a way of supplementing or perhaps even replacing the mechanisms of internal, intra-party reporting that they often find provides only heavily politicized reporting of the views of citizens.
But here’s another interesting aspect of this: The term “netizens” itself, which I have only ever seen used by China-based media or those (like Shirk) who follow such media closely.
For example, I did a quick Google site search on Marc Lynch’s Abu Aardvark blog, which provides in-depth coverage of new-media developments in the Arab world. No mention of the term ‘netizen’ came up there. And I’ve never seen it in any other, non-China-related context, either.
Wikipedia tells us the term was coined by Columbia University’s Michael Hauben. In 1995, he co-wrote a book called Netizens: On the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet.
But even though I’ve been an active “netizen” for nearly six years now, it’s not a term that seems to be widely used in the real or cyberspace circles in which I move– except those related to China…. which seems to have been the country that has done the most to invest the term with some real content and meaning.

Somalia and an international community in disarray (again)

So here we are, sixteen years on, and we once again have a major crisis of governance, civil chaos, and human suffering in Somalia; an international “community” that’s completely incapable of responding effectively; and a presidential transition here in Washington DC that complicates matters even further.
Maybe Somalia and its woes should stand– alongside Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and various other deeply troubled US projects– as a tragic monument to the mistakes Washington made during the years it wielded unrivaled power in the international system.
Somalia can also stand alongside those other projects as testimony to the failure of the US’s reliance on military means to address what are all, at heart, deeply political problems.
So here we are, sixteen years on.
Time for some lesson-learning, perhaps?
… This time around, we have the rapid unraveling of the US-backed political system in Somalia that was put in place by the bayonets of the Ethiopian army units that invaded the country almost exactly two years ago, at the behest of (and with much support from) Washington.
I’d love to know more about the decisionmaking of the Ethiopian regime, which recently announced it would be ending its (US-backed) occupation of Somalia. That occupation did win some backing from the African Union, which also deployed some token forces alongside the Ethiopians. It’s not certain if, as the Ethiopians withdraw, the AU forces will remain there. That seems doubtful… Meanwhile, the Islamic Courts Union, which had extended some valuable forms of unified control over much of the country prior to the Ethiopian invasion but were dispersed and brutally repressed by the Ethiopians, have been largely replaced by a younger generation of Islamist “shabab” (young men) who seem to be more hardline than the ICU.
The chief Ethiopian/US proxy in Somalia has been “President” Abullahi Yusuf, installed after the Ethiopian invasion. He and his backers have always been adamant, until now, that they would not negotiate in any way at all with the Somali Islamists. But the Prime Minister, Nur Hassan Hussein, has been more inclined to negotiate with the Islamists and other opposition forces. He and parliament opened impeachment proceedings against Yusuf yesterday.
Yusuf’s base of support has also been considerably weakened by two other developments: Big neighbor Kenya yesterday withdrew its support, calling him an “obstacle to peace.” And big demonstrations were reported in favor of PM Nur in Mogadishu and neighboring areas.
So it definitely looks as if Yusuf’s days are numbered. I hope Nur Hassan Hussein has the political smarts that will be needed to negotiate an internal political settlement in the country, because it seems there is absolutely no outside force capable of doing so.
On Tuesday, Condi Rice asked UN Sec-Gen Ban Ki-Moon to send UN peacekeepers to Somalia. Ban responded (not unreasonably) that (1) there was no peace to keep, and (2) none of the 50 countries he had asked, had agreed to commit any troops to this. So he looks incapable of pulling Pres. Bush’s chestnuts out of the Somali fire on this occasion.
Meanwhile, the main way the chaos in Somalia has been impinging on the international community in recent weeks has been through the spreading of the lawlessness on the country’s land into– and sometimes far beyond– its coastal waters.
International cruise ships filled with fun-loving Australians have been threatened! Supertankers carrying Saudi crude to the gas-guzzlers of North America have been threatened!
Notice that those incidents of piracy– few of which have been fatal to the people on the targeted ships– have received a whole lot more attention in the western media than the continuing, mega-lethal agonies of the people of Somalia.
The Somali “pirates” say they started their actions against international shipping after they became fed up with international vessels using their country’s waters to engage in illegal fishing and illegal trash-dumping. Quite possibly so… since of course, Somalia has no governmental coastal protection force capable of policing its long and fish-rich coastline.
On Tuesday, the UN Security Council did finally get around to doing something regarding Somalia. It passed Resolution 1851, which authorizes nations to use force to engage in,

    (Article 2)… seizure and disposition of boats, vessels, arms and other related equipment used in the commission of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, or for which there are reasonable grounds for suspecting such use…

Once these “suspicious” boats and vessels have been seized, the resolution apparently allows the seizers, or other countries with which they have agreements, to hold and try the accused pirates, “provided that the advance consent of the [Somali Transitional federal Government] is obtained for the exercise of third state jurisdiction by shipriders in Somali territorial waters… ”
It all sounds like an organizational and jurisdictional nightmare. Not helped when the US State Department declared yesterday, that it considers that resolution 1851

    “authorizes states cooperating with the Somali Transitional Federal Government to extend counter-piracy efforts to include potential operations in Somali territorial land and air space, to suppress acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea.”

So can we now expect to see US airpower being deployed against Islamists or others in Somalia, under the (in practice, hard-to-investigate) pretext that these targets are somehow connected with “piracy”?
The next few weeks will be important ones for the people of Somalia. And for the international “system” as a whole. The power projection capabilities of the US military are still hopelessly over-stretched, so it seems unlikely that the Pentagon’s planners will have the stomach for any particularly sustained campaign of attack against Somalia, under any pretext. Ships from numerous national navies are meanwhile steaming toward the Gulf of Aden and the Somali coast, to contribute to the anti-piracy efforts. The contributing navies include various European navies, the Indian navy, the Russian navy and probably also– playing for the first time ever a potentially combat-ready role in these waters– China’s navy.
Xinahua reported yesterday that,

    Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei confirmed that the government is “seriously considering sending naval ships” to the waters in the near future when speaking at a ministerial meeting of the UN Security Council on Somali piracy in New York on Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, btw, a Chinese shipping boat that came under threat from the Somali pirates was rescued by members of other unidentified navies in the Gulf of Aden. That was, I think the fifth or sixth Chinese boat to have been targeted there.
A Chinese anti-pirate naval deployment to the East African coast will be the first deployment of a combat-ready force to the continent since the truly massive armadas the Chinese Muslim admiral Zheng He took to Africa in the 1420s. As I said, interesting times we’re living in.

Paulson fails to melt Chinese hearts

Time was, when there was a problem of any size in the global economy, the countries affected would send their finance ministers running to Washington to get help from the two big Washington-based financial institutions, the World Bank and the IMF. No longer. Today, it is US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson whose country is in deep, deep trouble. And he’s gone cap-in-hand to the only place that can throw a lifeline to him (and all the rest of us in the western world): Beijing.
Paulson’s mission has not, thus far, been going very well.
This is a huge, truly world-defining story. I don’t know why the WaPo hasn’t given it a lot more prominence.
The Daily Telegraph‘s Malcolm Moore reports from Shanghai today that Lou Jiwei, the chairman and chief executive of China’s biggest sovereign wealth fund, the $200 billion China Investment Corporation, said that China

    had no intention of “saving” the West from the financial crisis. “Right now we do not have the courage to invest in financial institutions because we do not know what problems they may have,” said Mr Lou.

Continue reading “Paulson fails to melt Chinese hearts”

US-China: A good Bush record

Thomas Christensen, who was deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs in Condi Rice’s State Department from 2006-08, has an informative little piece in today’s WaPo lauding the improvements the Bush administration has made in the relationship with China.
He writes,

    U.S.-China diplomacy has moved beyond managing problems between the two sides to focus on coordinating responses to problems around the world. That was an important and innovative step for both countries to take. The U.S.-China Senior Dialogue on political and security affairs, led by Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte, addresses such global issues. Our regional assistant secretaries of state and their Chinese counterparts also hold intensive discussions. Ten years ago, officials in these positions probably wouldn’t even have known each other’s names.

I think this is really good news, and I commend Sec. Rice and the President on having brought about an improvement in this literally world-defining relationship.
Christensen notes the contribution this Washington-Beijing track made to defusing the tensions over North Korea, in particular.
However, he seems a little over-laudatory when he writes that Washington has been working continuously on tamping down Taiwan-China relations by “demanding that the two sides settle their differences peacefully.”
How was that compatible with the $6.5 billion arms sale to Taiwan that Washington announced in early October?
Christensen omitted to mention, too, that the early months of the Bush administration were notably not marked by an eirenic approach to China. (See under “Hainan Island Incident.”) It was only after that incident got resolved through diplomacy that Bush started adopting a stance toward Beijing that was markedly more cooperative than confrontational.
(Or did that shift happen more evidently after 9/11? Help, anyone?)
Actually, I have a niggling concern that Obama might feel the need to shift back some toward a more shrill and accusatory stance towards China. There are lots of longterm human-rights activists in and associated with his emerging administration. But these are overwhelmingly the kind of activists whose (extremely occidocentric) definition of “rights” focuses much more on civil and political rights than on social and economic rights, and who might for this and a number of other reasons judge it a good idea to start getting accusatory towards China…

First big global challenges for Obama

While Ahmadinejad and Hamas are making nicey-nice in their first overtures to President-elect Barack Obama, leaders in Russia and China have sent their first rhetorical “shots” across his bows.
The “shot” (challenge) from Moscow came in the fairly familiar language of military threats and escalation: Yesterday President Dmitry Medvedev said he would station surface-to-surface missiles next to Poland if the US stationed an anti-missile system inside Poland.
(Today, there have apparently been moves by both Medvedev and the Bush administration to tamp down tensions over the issue. This is not surprising. Despite the rhetoric and the needs both leaderships have to play to their domestic constituencies, I still think that neither Medvedev nor the Bushites want any very serious tensions in their relations.)
The challenge from China, however, came in a very different form of language: the language of expressing a tough negotiating position, on the issue of climate change.
I have been arguing for some time that climate change is set to become an increasingly big issue in international politics, and this seems now to be happening. Today in Beijing, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao told the UN’s chief climate change official, Yvo de Boer, that,

    rich nations [should] transfer greenhouse gas emissions-curbing technology to China and other developing countries, and address climate change responsibly by changing their unsustainable lifestyles.

The position spelled out by Wen has the twin advantages of (a) having a lot of moral validity, and (b) being very popular among the 88% of the world’s population that does not belong to the “rich” western bloc.
On moral validity, we need remember only two important points: (1) Though China’s total annual CO2 emissions are now roughly the same as those of the United, its population is four times greater; therefore the per-capita emissions rate is only one-fourth that of the US; and (2) Historically, the US and the other long-rich countries have contributed considerably more to the “fund” of toxic greenhouses gases that has been accumulating in the earth’s atmosphere over the past 150 years than have China and other long-poor countries.
China’s Communist Party leadership made some extremely wise judgments over 30 years ago, and they seem to have stuck to them ever since. They have maintained a steadfast policy of seeking ever fuller integration into the world’s numerous economic and political networks, and of sticking as much as possible by the rules of these networks to enhance their effectiveness within them. And they apparently also made a strategic judgment a long time ago that seeking to “compete” on the global stage against the US (or anyone else) in terms of externally directed military power projection capabilities was not a fruitful way to proceed. Hence, China has not engaged in nuclear or non-nuclear arms-racing with the US. It maintains only a “minimum deterrent” nuclear arsenal. And it has won positions of real political influence with all the countries around its periphery– and in some areas considerably further afield– not through military domination but through extensive economic and diplomatic/political cooperation.
These judgments and policies have proved to be well chosen. After all, during the past 30 years, the actual utility of military power in international relations has been declining rapidly– a decline that has been in almost direct proportion to the explosion in the efficiency and reach of global communications.
But I, for one, am not surprised that, when China seeks to send a “hey, don’t stomp on me” message to President-elect Obama, it does so in a way that is (a) quite discreet, and (b) absolutely unrelated to the military realm.
It’s an interesting world we live in…

Differential effects of the financial crisis

I’ve been arguing for a while now that the present crisis of the western world’s “casino capitalism” will have much less of a total impact on China, India, and other big economies that have not yet taken the (as we now see) extremely risky step of deregulating their financial systems and thereby allowing/encouraging the growth of highly leveraged and often quite non-transparent derivatives markets.
On Friday, the NYT had a fascinating graphic that seemed to illustrate this point excellently. (Sorry I can’t embed it right now. I’ve forgotten how to do the resizing that would be needed.) It’s a scatter-chart produced by the London-based investment bankers Dresdner Kleinwort, plotting various “emerging market” countries according to DK’s estimation of their “financial vulnerability”, along the x-axis, and their “macroeconomic vulnerability”, along the y-axis.
Anyway, even a cursory glance at the graphic shows that DK’s analysts judge that Brazil, China, India, and Russia all have low “macroeconomic vulnerability” to the crisis. Those judged to have a lot are Mexico, Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia (at the very top of the chart), Latvia, and Iceland.
Regarding financial vulnerability, Russia and India have notably more than China or Brazil.
I wanted to find out more about the methodology the DK analysts used in composing this chart– and I hoped they also had one that gauged the MV and the FV of the world’s big developed markets, too.
Actually, DK itself has fallen prey to the financial vulnerability of both Germany and the UK, where it has significant operations. Back in early September it got taken over by Germany’s largest bank, Commerzbank, which immediately fired DK’s chief exec and announced that 1,000 more of its 2,000 London-based employees would soon also be facing the chop.
I noodled around DK’s website a bit more, looking for some more open-source research products. I found none at all. The press page still contained links to many slightly outdated, very self-congratulatory plaudits about how deeply DK had been involved in various sectors of the derivatives markets. The press page is headed by a fashionably cropped image of a tulip.
Tulip, huh? Prescient or what?
And regarding another item in the “rise of China” file, I see that in 2012 China is set to overtake the US in the number of patents filed annually.

China’s condition to bail out the US: Taiwan?

China’s President Hu Jintao has now explicitly linked his country’s readiness to show good cooperation in resolving the US financial crisis to the question of Taiwan.
Beijing’s official Xinhua news agency reported today that Hu and Pres. Bush conferred thusly about the crisis yesterday evening (Washington time):

    Bush briefed Hu on the latest development of the U.S. financial market, saying his government was well aware of the scope of the problem, and had taken and would continue to take necessary measures to stabilize the domestic and world financial markets.
    Hu [said he] hoped the measures would soon take effect and lead to a gradual recovery of the financial market, which he said not only serves the interests of the United States, but also those of China, and benefits the stability of the world financial market and the sound development of the world economy.
    … He said China is ready to work with the U.S. side to intensify dialogue, exchanges and cooperation, and properly handle issues concerning mutual interests and of major concern, particularly the Taiwan question, in a bid to push forward the sustained and steady development of the Sino-U.S. constructive and cooperative ties.

A big, Renaissance-style flourish of the chapeau to Bernhard of MoA for picking up this very significant news item. Bernhard, not unreasonably, compared the prospect of a this deal-in-the-possible-making to the 1803 Louisiana Purchase (and thereby also, perhaps less plausibly, Bush to Napoleon. But oh yes, Napoleon did launch that mad, very destructive military adventure into Russia, didn’t he.)
I see no mention of this crucial phone call at the White House’s website. I wonder why not? All the WH has on the financial crisis today is this extremely contentless little statement.
On Saturday, I noted that China’s current investment in/exposure to the US markets includes around $900 billion held in T-bills and Fannie and Freddie stock. They also have substantial holdings in privately owned US financial entities.
Over at Bernhard’s blog, I commented that:

    Along with Taiwan [the Chinese] will probably over time request and may end up with the whole of the US military’s obligations on the Asian side of the Pacific Rim, along with the big naval platforms used to service those… Japan-China relations will become very important. What will Japan and S. Korea do? Go along with their big continental trading partner, I expect.
    But these things will not happen overnight. After the UK’s big end-of-empire overstretch (Suez, 1956) was “called” by Eisenhower the Brits, French and Israelis withdrew from Sinai fairly rapidly but it took a further 14 years for Britain to wind down its permanent naval presence “East of Suez.” This time, it might happen somewhat faster, but the inter-great-power readjustment of security forces and obligations in East Asia will probably still take the best part of a decade?

When I read Bernhard’s post, I was just sitting down to start composing a post on the dangers of the US public getting whipped up into a very unhelpful form of economic nationalism. I still believe that’s a real and present danger.
I can understand, certainly, the very reasonable fears and concerns of US citizens worried about losing “control” of big portions of the country’s economy to non-Americans who are not accountable to them in any way.
On the other hand, for decades now, the making of US national economic policy has been in the hands of shady and irresponsible financial institutions and the many legislators they’ve kept handily on their payroll, who have abandoned many or most of their obligations to remain accountable to the citizenry. So the change wouldn’t be as big as it might seem, anyway?
But as the bailout proposals get discussed in Congress this week, we need to see an outpouring of concern from Americans for the interests of the most vulnerable people who will be affected by the continuing economic downturn, both at home and abroad. As I wrote here recently, we really do have a chance to “Re-imagine America” at this time. But none of that will happen if our legislators aren’t kept strictly to the path of putting the people’s interests first, well before those of the Wall Street speculators who got the American (and world) financial systems into this mess in the first place.