Dalian Postscript: A Middle Kingdom Finger in the Eye

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I had been meaning to mention the session at Dalian WEF meeting that was by all accounts the most lively by far (which is actually not that great a challenge as there is an atmosphere of corporate caution about many of the discussions that makes them somewhat anodyne affairs, at least this time). Anyway, this one involved the ubiquitous Thomas Friedman, uber-commentator and pundit, and was hosted or chaired or whatever by my colleague from Fortune, Clay Chandler. I missed it, which is a shame because, as the excellent Rebecca Mackinnon of Global Voices Online and HK University notes in her blog, it got pretty dang lively (“Thomas Friedman gets the middle finger from the middle kingdom”). she has a link to the video, too, though a truncated version. It’s odd that of all things it was a refutation of Friedman’s call for China to behave more responsibly in Sudan and help prevent genocide in Darfur that got the most play. China’s U.N. Undersecretary-General Sha Zukang apparently said: “There is the impression that China is there for oil only – that is the biggest lie I’ve ever heard.” But of course China is largely in Sudan for oil and whatever other advantages it can gain from a mutually beneficial relationship. Like anybody else, China wants to build relationships with other nations that will benefit her. That’s what diplomacy is all about. As a 19th century Englishman once said, “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, only interests.”