The passion of Liu Xiaobo

Perry Link writes: In the late 1960s Mao Zedong, China’s Great Helmsman, encouraged children and adolescents to confront their teachers and parents, root out “cow ghosts and snake spirits,” and otherwise “make revolution.” In practice, this meant closing China’s schools. In the decades since, many have decried a generation’s loss of education.

Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was sentenced to eleven years for “inciting subversion” of China’s government, and who died of liver cancer on Thursday, illustrates a different pattern. Liu, born in 1955, was eleven when the schools closed, but he read books anyway, wherever he could find them. With no teachers to tell him what the government wanted him to think about what he read, he began to think for himself—and he loved it. Mao had inadvertently taught him a lesson that ran directly counter to Mao’s own goal of converting children into “little red soldiers.”

But this experience only partly explains Liu’s stout independence. It also seems to have been an inborn trait. If there is a gene for bluntness, Liu likely had it. In the 1980s, while still a graduate student in Chinese literature, he was already known as a “black horse” for denouncing nearly every contemporary Chinese writer: the literary star Wang Meng was politically slippery; “roots-seeking” writers like Han Shaogong were excessively romantic about the value of China’s traditions; even speak-for-the-people heroes like Liu Binyan were too ready to pin hopes on “liberal” Communist leaders like Hu Yaobang. No one was independent enough. “I can sum up what’s wrong with Chinese writers in one sentence,” Liu Xiaobo wrote in 1986. “They can’t write creatively themselves—they simply don’t have the ability—because their very lives don’t belong to them.” [Continue reading…]

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Liu Xiaobo’s fate reflects fading pressure on China over human rights

The New York Times reports: Liu Xiaobo, China’s only Nobel Peace Prize laureate, catapulted to fame in 1989, when the Communist Party’s violent crackdown on protests in Tiananmen Square created an international uproar.

Now, nearly three decades later, Mr. Liu has died of cancer while in state custody, a bedridden and silenced example of Western governments’ inability, or reluctance, to push back against China’s resurgent authoritarians.

Mr. Liu’s fate reflects how human rights issues have receded in Western diplomacy with China. And it shows how Chinese Communist Party leaders, running a strong state bristling with security powers, can disdain foreign pleas, even for a man near death.

“It’s certainly become more difficult,” said John Kamm, an American businessman and founder of the Dui Hua Foundation, who for decades has quietly lobbied China to free or improve the treatment of political prisoners. He said his attempts to win approval for Mr. Liu to leave China for treatment, as Mr. Liu and his wife requested, got nowhere.

“I tried my best. I did everything I could,” he said before Mr. Liu died. “Things are pretty difficult right now. It’s hard for me to get the kinds of responses I need.” [Continue reading…]

Nicholas Kristof writes: The Mandela of our age is dead, and Liu Xiaobo will at least now find peace after decades of suffering outrageous mistreatment by the Chinese authorities.

Liu, 61, is the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in custody since the Nazi era, and his death is an indictment of China’s brutal treatment of one of the great figures of modern times.

Even as Liu was dying of cancer, China refused to allow Liu to travel for treatment that might have saved his life. In a move that felt crass and disgusting, the Chinese authorities filmed the dying Liu without his consent to make propaganda films falsely depicting merciful treatment of him.

In the coming weeks, China will probably try to dispose of Liu’s remains in a way that will prevent his grave from becoming a democratic pilgrimage spot. The authorities no doubt will attempt to bully and threaten Liu’s brave widow, Liu Xia, and perhaps confine her indefinitely under house arrest to keep her silent.

Will Western leaders speak up for her? I fear not, any more than they forcefully spoke up for Liu Xiaobo himself. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s plan to work with Putin on cybersecurity makes no sense. Here’s why

Henry Farrell writes: During the Obama administration, the United States and China reached an agreement on how to deal with contentious issues in cybersecurity. Both the United States and China hack into each other’s systems on a regular basis. The agreement was not intended to stop this but to prevent it from getting out of control in ways that might damage bilateral arrangements. Thus, the agreement created a kind of hotline for communication and information sharing about potentially problematic behavior, as well as a continuing dialogue on cyber issues. It also ruled out efforts by state actors to steal intellectual property (the United States had persistently complained that Chinese state hackers stole U.S. companies’ secrets and passed them on to Chinese competitor firms). To the surprise of many in the United States, the agreement seems to have helped moderate Chinese efforts to steal commercial secrets, although there is disagreement over whether this was because China was shamed and wanted to preserve honor, or alternatively used the agreement to impose control over unruly hackers.

Either way, this deal worked — to the extent it did work — because both states had roughly convergent interests over a very limited set of issues. It did not involve the exchange of truly sensitive information — China does not trust the United States with details of its defenses against cyberattacks, and the United States does not trust China. Instead, the two sides have looked to manage their disagreement, rather than engage in deep and extensive cooperation.

That doesn’t appear to be what Trump wants

As Trump has described his discussions with Putin, both want something much more far-reaching than the deal that Obama reached with China. Instead of setting up dialogue, Trump wants to engage in true cooperation. He wants to set up a joint “unit” that would handle election security issues so as to prevent hacking. This unit would, furthermore, be “impenetrable.”

Critics in the United States have unsurprisingly interpreted this proposal as a transparent ploy by Trump to sideline accusations that Russian hackers helped him win the presidential election. However, even if Trump’s proposal is taken at face value, it doesn’t make much sense.

U.S. officials don’t trust the Russians

If the proposed cybersecurity unit were to work effectively, the United States would need to share extensive information with Russia on how U.S. officials defend elections against foreign tampering. The problem is, however, that information that is valuable for defending U.S. systems is, almost by definition, information that is valuable for attacking them, too. This is one reason U.S. officials have not previously proposed any far-reaching arrangement with Russia on cybersecurity. Providing such information would almost certainly give the Russians a map of vulnerabilities and insecurities in the system that they could then exploit for their own purposes.

It would not only provide the fox with a map of the henhouse, but give him the security code, the backdoor key, and a wheelbarrow to make off with the carcasses. [Continue reading…]

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Graham Allison’s trap

Michael Vlahos writes: How do you turn a metaphor into an axiom? Try: “Strategist appropriation.” When writing on politics and war, this means lardering your first few graphs with maxims from so-called “masters of war,” preferably Sun Tzu or Clausewitz. Their unassailable wisdom gives your argument the burnish of authority.

Graham Allison, an academic with plenty of his own Harvard authority, goes a step further. He suggests that the great historian (and not so great general), Thucydides, like Clausewitz and Sun Tzu, offers not just quotable truths but also a fundamental law about how wars often happen: The Thucydides Trap.

Allison argues that when rising powers threaten the position of established powers, the inevitable competition can lead to conflict and, eventually, war. Twenty-five hundred years ago, top dog Sparta became fearful and envious of Athens’ rising wealth and arrogant pride. Two towering city-states became trapped in a thirty-year war whose consequences were tragic. Thucydides tells their story.

Allison insists history bears Thucydides out: Head-butting between rising and established powers leads to war 75 percent of the time. Terrible wars happen because powers get ensnared into tragedy. Today, he warns, China and the United States are caught in yet another such historic trap.

But we need to see that Thucydides was not writing history. In fact, he sought to transform the experience of his life into a story of such heroic pathos that it would stand high on the ridgeline, right alongside the Greco-Roman Ur-gospel and ultimate “fall of the city” tragedy—the Iliad. Having failed as an Athenian general, Thucydides, as the Bard himself, wrote an epic that, like the immortal Iliad, would live for the ages:

“In fine, I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time.”

He pretty much succeeded. Thucydides’ history of the Peloponnesian War is incontestably great writing and superb storytellling. But rather than history, it might better be termed, “non-fictive literature.” It sings like grand opera. It is staged as high tragedy. Only a story “bigger than life” could be a “possession for all time,” because it had to speak across time, to all mankind.

If this were Hollywood, the movie would begin with the splash title: “Based on a true story.”

Allison forces this story of Athens’ pride and Sparta’s envy into his law about how great-power wars happen. Yet this is a sleight-of-hand. Allison presents the Trap as though it were Thucydides’ creation, rather than Allison’s appropriation of Thucydides. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s lack of a North Korea strategy is drawing China and Russia closer

Isaac Stone Fish writes: In a dramatic change, the most shocking response to North Korea’s 3 July missile test – which some analysts think demonstrates Pyongyang’s ability to strike Alaska or Hawaii with a ballistic missile – came not from Donald Trump, but from Beijing and Moscow.

Trump’s Twitter response to the launch contained his typical combination of bluster, insult and prodding. “Does this guy have anything better to do with his life,” Trump said on 3 July, probably referring to the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, adding, “perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”

By a happy coincidence for the two countries, the launch occurred during Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow. Hours before the launch, the Chinese Communist party secretary told Russian media that Sino-Russian strategic ties “are at the best point in history”, and the launch offered the two sides an occasion to demonstrate their closeness.

In a joint statement, China and Russia’s foreign ministries warned the situation on the Korean peninsula was so tense “it could lead to an armed conflict”. And it chastised the “relevant parties” – Trump, as well as Kim – to “refrain from provocative actions and warlike remarks”.

The striking thing about their statement is not only the language – mild when compared with Trump’s tweets, but surprisingly strident from China’s normally staid foreign ministry – but that Moscow and Beijing took the unusual step of issuing one together. [Continue reading…]

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Kim Jong Un has nukes, now he has an ICBM, and he will use them to threaten the U.S.

Jeffrey Lewis writes: North Korea wanted a nuclear weapon that could reach the United States for a very simple reason: Kim Jong Un and his cronies in Pyongyang watched as the United States assembled a massive invasion force against Saddam Hussein in Iraq, then used airpower to aid the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. The latter was especially frightening for the North Koreans, because Gaddafi had abandoned his WMD programs in a disarmament deal and was then offered up by the Bush Administration as an intermediary who would vouch to North Korea that the U.S. keeps its promises.

The deal ended with Gaddafi’s gruesome death on camera. North Korea doesn’t plan to wait around like Saddam or Gaddafi. Instead, once a war starts, North Korea plans to hit U.S. forces in South Korea and Japan with everything it has, including nuclear weapons, hoping to shock the United States and blunt an invasion. U.S. officials often dismiss that possibility by saying it would be suicide for Kim. But Kim is counting on nuclear-armed ICBMs that can target the United States to ensure that Trump realizes that suicide would be mutual.

Trump doesn’t have the slightest idea what to do about this. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, having said we are done talking about North Korea, said nothing. But then again, I am yet to be convinced Tillerson is actually alive and this isn’t some reboot of the Weekend at Bernie’s franchise set at the State Department. Nope, there is no plan.

To the extent that there is any coherent Trump approach, one might infer from his tweets that he believes his new friend, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, will bail him out like his Korea policy was an underwater condo development. But Xi’s interest is transactional and it isn’t clear to me that China is worse off if North Korea can threaten the United States with nuclear weapons. Moreover, if Beijing had so much sway over North Korea, Kim wouldn’t have sent to two assassins to rub VX in the face of his half-brother living under Chinese protection.

It’s not just Trump, though—the Obama Administration didn’t know what to do, either. The idea that the United States could work through China or use cyber-attacks to halt North Korea’s missile program was just a collective exercise in denial that our effort to prevent a nuclear-armed North Korea was an abject failure. For eight damned years, I kept hearing about strategic patience in one form or another.

While I think we did have a chance to pick some different outcome in the mid-1990s, the window for denuclearization closed a long time ago. If Kim Il Sung once calculated that he could trade nuclear weapons he had not built for international recognition of his bizarre little dictatorship, his grandson has clearly decided that real nuclear weapons are a lot better than promises on paper. That is our new reality. [Continue reading…]

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Tensions with North Korea could get ‘out of control’, China tells UN

AFP reports: China’s ambassador to the United Nations has warned of “disastrous” consequences if world powers fail to find a way to ease tensions with North Korea which he said could “get out of control”.

Ambassador Liu Jieyi made the remarks a day after US president Donald Trump spoke by phone with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the threat posed by North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests.

“Currently tensions are high and we certainly would like to see a de-escalation,” Liu told a news conference at UN headquarters as China takes over the security council presidency in July.

“If tension only goes up … then sooner or later it will get out of control and the consequences would be disastrous,” he said. [Continue reading…]

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North Korea launches missile that could strike Alaska; Trump launches more tweets

 

In January, Donald Trump said “it won’t happen,” but now it’s happened:

Quartz reports: For years, North Korea has been doggedly working toward fielding an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the US. Today (July 4), it says it achieved that goal.

North Korea said in a television broadcast that it fired an ICBM called the Hwasong-14 late morning local time from its western region. The missile traveled some 930 km (580 miles) at a maximum altitude of 2,802 km for about 40 minutes, before landing in the Sea of Japan. David Wright, co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that if the missile had been sent on a standard trajectory, it would likely have been able to hit any target in Alaska. But with a maximum range of about 6,700 km (4,163 miles), it would not be able to hit the US mainland or the bigger islands of Hawaii.

News of North Korea’s ICBM success could kick off a serious escalation between the nation and its neighbors plus the US, which have been pressuring Pyongyang over its weapons programs.

This marks North Korea’s 13th missile test in 2017, and its fourth since president Moon Jae-in took power in South Korea in May, according to Shea Cotton, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California. [Continue reading…]

Last month, Jeffrey Lewis wrote: North Korea’s test of an ICBM will complete the development of a nuclear arsenal with a defined strategic role. It is the final step in building an arsenal that can deter and, to use another term of art, repel an American invasion. If deterrence were to fail, and an invasion were underway, North Korea already plans the widespread use of nuclear weapons against U.S. forces in South Korea and Japan. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: As news of the test broke, but before North Korea claimed it was an ICBM, Trump took to Twitter, calling out North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and appearing to once again urge China to do more to pressure him. “North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?” Trump wrote.

“Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer,” he continued. “Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared to share Trump’s frustration, if not his tone. In remarks to the press, he vowed to work closely with the United States and South Korea, but called on China and Russia to do more.

“I’d like to strongly urge international society’s cooperation on the North Korea issue and urge China’s chairman, Xi Jinping, and Russia’s President Putin to take more constructive measures.”

In a daily press conference, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, condemned the test but countered that Beijing had “spared no effort” in its fight. [Continue reading…]

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Trump is handing the world to China, says UN secretary-general

Politico reports: Can António Guterres scare Donald Trump into taking the United Nations seriously?

Since taking office in January, the United Nations secretary-general has done his level best to build a decent working relationship with the new administration. He has kept criticisms of the White House’s nationalist agenda to a bare minimum. While pleading with Washington to refrain from deep cuts to the U.N. budget, he has worked assiduously to build a rapport with U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley. Testifying in Congress on Tuesday, Haley noted that Guterres had agreed that the U.S. could safely make some cuts to its funding of blue-helmet peace operations – a message likely to rile up other U.N. members who may have to make up the difference.

But there are limits to even the most discreet international civil servant’s patience. Over the last month, Guterres has been trying out a new message: Trump is handing the world to China.

The secretary-general, who is also visiting Washington this week for consultations on Capitol Hill, tried out this line for the first time in late May. Speaking on the eve of President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement, he warned that if the U.S. created a “geostrategic vacuum” by giving up its global role, “I guarantee that someone else will occupy it.” He clearly implied this would be Beijing.

Guterres, who was once a professional physicist, summoned up the vacuum metaphor in a mid-year press conference last week, but with more of a pro-American twist. “I don’t think this is good for the United States,” he said of other powers’ potential power grab, “and I don’t think this is good for the world.”

Many pundits have highlighted how China is benefiting from Trump’s foreign policy mess in far starker terms. But it is striking that a U.N. secretary-general is talking even this frankly about geostrategic power shifts. Whatever the U.N.’s conservative foes say about the organization, international officials hate criticizing America in public. The U.S. remains the organization’s predominant funder. Washington has been brutal with previous secretaries-general who have criticized its policies, as Kofi Annan did over Iraq.

So Guterres will not have played the China card lightly. He is not the sort of politician who picks unnecessary fights. A former Portuguese prime minister with decades of experience in top-level political wheeling and dealing, the secretary-general prefers to work quietly behind closed doors. [Continue reading…]

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China breaks ground on first ‘Forest City’ that fights air pollution

inhabitat reports: A pollution-fighting green city unlike any before is springing to life in China. Designed by Stefano Boeri Architetti, the first “Forest City” is now under construction Liuzhou, Guangxi Province. The futuristic city will use renewable energy for self sufficiency and be blanketed in almost 1 million plants and 40,000 trees—a sea of greenery capable of absorbing nearly 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide and 57 tons of pollutants annually.

Commissioned by Liuzhou Municipality Urban Planning for the north of Liuzhou along the Liujiang river, the 175-hectare Liuzhou Forest City will be the first of its kind that, if successful, may raise the bar for urban design worldwide. This first Chinese Forest City will host 30,000 people in a community where all buildings are entirely covered in nearly a million plants of over 100 species, as well as 40,000 trees, that produce approximately 900 tons of oxygen. The use of greenery-covered facades builds on Stefano Boeri’s previous works, including the Vertical Forest residential building in Milan. [Continue reading…]

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China makes leap toward ‘unhackable’ quantum network

The Wall Street Journal reports: Chinese scientists have succeeded in sending specially linked pairs of light particles from space to Earth, an achievement experts in the field say gives China a leg up in using quantum technology to build an “unhackable” global communications network.

The result is an important breakthrough that establishes China as a pioneer in efforts to harness the enigmatic properties of matter and energy at the subatomic level, the experts said.

In an experiment described in the latest issue of Science, a team of Chinese researchers used light particles, or photons, sent from the country’s recently launched quantum-communications satellite to establish an instantaneous connection between two ground stations more than 1,200 kilometers (744 miles) apart.

Using the quantum properties of tiny particles to create a secure communications network is scientifically and technically demanding, according to security researchers, and China is years away from being able to build one.

If China ultimately succeeds, such a system could undermine U.S. advantages in penetrating computer networks.

The Pentagon, in an annual report on China’s military delivered to Congress last week, described the quantum satellite launch in August as a “notable advance in cryptography research.”

While the U.S. is also pursuing quantum communications, it has concentrated more attention and resources on research into quantum computing. European physicists have developed many of the theories and basic practices underlying quantum encryption, but their Chinese counterparts are better-funded with government resources.

Disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 about U.S. spying on Chinese networks rattled Beijing, and have pushed the country to bolster cybersecurity measures in a variety of ways.

“The Snowden revelations undoubtedly played a part in the drive towards quantum technologies, as it revealed the degree of sophisticated threat Chinese counterespionage and cyberdefenses were facing,” said John Costello, a fellow specializing in China and cybersecurity at the nonpartisan Washington-based think tank New America. [Continue reading…]

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China rethinks its global role in the age of Trump

David Shambaugh writes: In his short time in office, President Donald Trump has done a good job of making China great again. His isolationist rhetoric and unilateral actions — such as pulling out of the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership — have made it much easier for China to advance its claim to global leadership, as dismayed U.S. allies and partners proclaim that the U.S. can no longer be “completely depended on,” as German Chancellor Angela Merkel put it. In stark contrast to Trump, China has reaffirmed its commitments to free trade, globalization and the battle against climate change.

China’s case is made more plausible by its markedly increased involvement in what is known as “global governance.” China is no longer the free-rider on the Western-built global system that it had long been. President Xi Jinping has received numerous expert briefings and has convened Politburo meetings on global governance. As a result, China has substantially increased involvement in areas such as climate change, global health, international peacekeeping, anti-piracy, anti-corruption, disaster relief, economic governance, development aid, energy security and multilateralism.

In part, this reflects Xi’s own “China Dream” for his nation’s place in the world. Xi expertly staked out China’s leadership potential at the World Economic Forum in Davos in February in a speech that attracted much international attention. China’s new activism is also due to its sensitivity to foreign criticism for not acting like a true great power (it has a psychological obsession with being seen as one), as well as China’s huge financial wherewithal and the increased professionalism of Chinese bureaucracies. [Continue reading…]

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On climate change, Jerry Brown acts as a world leader (because Trump can’t) in talks with China

The New York Times reports: Gov. Jerry Brown of California should be fading quietly into the final days of his career. After 40 years in public life, Mr. Brown, 79, a Democrat, is in the final stretch as the state’s chief executive. He has been talking about the Colusa County family ranch where he wants to retire. And a battery of younger politicians is already battling to succeed him.

But instead, Mr. Brown was in China on Tuesday, emerging as a de facto envoy from the United States on climate change at a time when President Trump has renounced efforts to battle global emissions. In a meeting packed with symbolism — and one that seemed at once to elevate the California governor and rebuke Mr. Trump — President Xi Jinping of China met with Mr. Brown, at the governor’s request, at the very moment China prepares to take a more commanding role in fighting climate change.

“California’s leading, China’s leading,” Mr. Brown said at a wide-ranging and at times feisty news conference after he met with Mr. Xi. “It’s true I didn’t come to Washington, I came to Beijing. Well, someday I’m going to go to Washington, but not this week.”

Mr. Brown has long used his platform as governor to advocate emission reduction policies, both in his state and globally. But the decision by Mr. Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, on the eve of Mr. Brown’s trip here, gave an already planned visit new visibility. [Continue reading…]

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Senior diplomat in Beijing embassy resigns over Trump’s climate change decision

The Washington Post reports: The No. 2 diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing resigned Monday, telling staff his conscience would not permit him to formally notify the Chinese that the United States is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord.

David H. Rank, a career Foreign Service officer of 27 years, had been acting ambassador until former Iowa governor Terry Branstad (R) was confirmed as the new ambassador last month. Rank held a town meeting with embassy employees to explain he had offered his resignation and it had been accepted.

As the head of the embassy until Branstad arrives, it was Rank’s responsibility to deliver a formal notification of the U.S. intention to withdraw from the climate pact.

According to a State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be more candid, Rank was unwilling to deliver the demarche.

He told his staff that as “a parent, a patriot and a Christian,” he could not in good conscience play a role in implementing President Trump’s decision to withdraw, according to a colleague familiar with Rank’s comments. [Continue reading…]

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Donald Trump’s triumph of stupidity

Der Spiegel reports: Until the very end, they tried behind closed doors to get him to change his mind. For the umpteenth time, they presented all the arguments — the humanitarian ones, the geopolitical ones and, of course, the economic ones. They listed the advantages for the economy and for American companies. They explained how limited the hardships would be.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the last one to speak, according to the secret minutes taken last Friday afternoon in the luxurious conference hotel in the Sicilian town of Taormina — meeting notes that DER SPIEGEL has been given access to. Leaders of the world’s seven most powerful economies were gathered around the table and the issues under discussion were the global economy and sustainable development.

The newly elected French president, Emmanuel Macron, went first. It makes sense that the Frenchman would defend the international treaty that bears the name of France’s capital: The Paris Agreement. “Climate change is real and it affects the poorest countries,” Macron said.

Then, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reminded the U.S. president how successful the fight against the ozone hole had been and how it had been possible to convince industry leaders to reduce emissions of the harmful gas.

Finally, it was Merkel’s turn. Renewable energies, said the chancellor, present significant economic opportunities. “If the world’s largest economic power were to pull out, the field would be left to the Chinese,” she warned. Xi Jinping is clever, she added, and would take advantage of the vacuum it created. Even the Saudis were preparing for the post-oil era, she continued, and saving energy is also a worthwhile goal for the economy for many other reasons, not just because of climate change.

But Donald Trump remained unconvinced. No matter how trenchant the argument presented by the increasingly frustrated group of world leaders, none of them had an effect. “For me,” the U.S. president said, “it’s easier to stay in than step out.” But environmental constraints were costing the American economy jobs, he said. And that was the only thing that mattered. Jobs, jobs, jobs.

At that point, it was clear to the rest of those seated around the table that they had lost him. Resigned, Macron admitted defeat. “Now China leads,” he said.

Still, it is likely that none of the G-7 heads of state and government expected the primitive brutality Trump would stoop to when announcing his withdrawal from the international community. Surrounded by sycophants in the Rose Garden at the White House, he didn’t just proclaim his withdrawal from the climate agreement, he sowed the seeds of international conflict. His speech was a break from centuries of Enlightenment and rationality. The president presented his political statement as a nationalist manifesto of the most imbecilic variety. It couldn’t have been any worse. [Continue reading…]

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Following Donald Trump’s failure in leadership on climate change, Jerry Brown steps on world stage

Politico reports: For the past two years, California Gov. Jerry Brown has been aggressively recruiting other state and local governments to sign onto their own, sub-national climate pact.

But that campaign has taken new urgency under President Donald Trump, who announced Thursday that he’ll withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. It’s a reflection of the roiling conflict between the president and the nation’s most populous state, but also the ambition of a governor who, after a lifetime in politics, is seizing an unexpected opening on an international stage.

“I’m on the side of the angels,” the former Jesuit seminarian said in an interview before flying on Friday to China, where he will rally support for his climate policies next week. “I’m going to do everything I can, and people are going to join with me.”

Brown, now 79 and in his final term, has long championed environmental causes, promoting conservation and smog-related policies when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983, and overseeing a dramatic expansion of California’s greenhouse gas reduction standards since returning to office in 2011. Roughly 170 jurisdictions, including Canada and Mexico, have endorsed Brown’s non-binding agreement embracing efforts to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, the threshold beyond which many scientists predict catastrophic consequences.

But world leaders, not governors, sign international agreements with the force of law, and for years Brown was relegated to a supporting role. Only after the election of Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, did Brown’s climate diplomacy find new prominence as a counterweight to a Republican-held White House.

“If Obama was still in office, this phenomenon would not be occurring,” said former California Gov. Gray Davis, Brown’s one-time chief of staff. “But Jerry keeps pushing … People, when they think of climate change, see Jerry Brown as a legitimate alternative [to Washington]. It’s not make believe. It’s real.” [Continue reading…]

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Thinking the unthinkable with North Korea

Graham Allison writes: The United States intelligence community believes that American military strikes against North Korea would almost certainly trigger retaliation that would kill up to a million citizens in Seoul. The South Korean government would respond with a full-scale attack on the North. The United States is committed to support South Korea. But would Mr. Xi ever allow the Korean Peninsula to be reunified by a government allied with the United States?

And history is working against us. A Harvard study I led found 16 cases over the past 500 years when a rising power threatened to displace a ruling power. In 12 of them, the outcome was war. Today, as an unstoppable rising China rivals an immovable reigning United States, this dynamic — which I call Thucydides’s Trap — amplifies risks.

What we see unfolding now is a Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion. In the most dangerous moment in recorded history, to prevent the Soviet Union from placing nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba, John F. Kennedy was prepared to take what he confessed was a one-in-three chance of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. What risk will Mr. Trump run to prevent North Korea acquiring the ability to strike the United States?

As Kennedy approached the final hour in which he would have to attack, risking nuclear war, or acquiesce to a Soviet nuclear presence in America’s backyard, both he and Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, began to examine previously unthinkable options. In the popular American narrative, Khrushchev capitulated. But we now know that both sides blinked. Kennedy agreed secretly to remove American missiles from Turkey, an option he and his advisers had earlier rejected because of its impact on NATO — and because he would look weak.

Kennedy’s central lesson from the crisis still offers wise counsel for Mr. Trump. “Above all,” Kennedy said, “while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war.” [Continue reading…]

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What Xi Jinping wants: To make China the greatest nation in world history

Graham Allison writes: What does China’s President Xi Jinping want? Four years before Donald Trump became president, Xi became the leader of China and announced an epic vision to, in effect, “make China great again”—calling for “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

Xi is so convinced he will succeed in this quest that he has blatantly flouted a cardinal rule for political survival: Never state a target objective and a specific date in the same sentence. Within a month of becoming China’s leader in 2012, Xi specified deadlines for meeting each of his “Two Centennial Goals.” First, China will build a “moderately prosperous society” by doubling its 2010 per capita GDP to $10,000 by 2021, when it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. Second, it will become a “fully developed, rich, and powerful” nation by the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic in 2049. If China reaches the first goal— which it is on course to do—the IMF estimates that its economy will be 40 percent larger than that of the U.S. (measured in terms of purchasing power parity). If China meets the second target by 2049, its economy will be triple America’s.

What does China’s dramatic transformation mean for the United States and the global balance of power? Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, who before his death in 2015 was the world’s premier China-watcher, had a pointed answer about China’s stunning trajectory over the past 40 years: “The size of China’s displacement of the world balance is such that the world must find a new balance. It is not possible to pretend that this is just another big player. This is the biggest player in the history of the world.” [Continue reading…]

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Human rights workers investigating conditions at company producing Ivanka Trump brands arrested and missing

The Associated Press reports: A man investigating working conditions at a Chinese company that produces Ivanka Trump-brand shoes has been arrested and two others are missing, the arrested man’s wife and an advocacy group said Tuesday.

Hua Haifeng was accused of illegal surveillance, according to his wife, Deng Guilian, who said the police called her Tuesday afternoon. Deng said the caller told her she didn’t need to know the details, only that she would not be able to see, speak with or receive money from her husband, the family’s breadwinner.

China Labor Watch Executive Director Li Qiang said he lost contact with Hua Haifeng and the other two men, Li Zhao and Su Heng, over the weekend. By Tuesday, after dozens of unanswered calls, he had concluded: “They must be held either by the factory or the police to be unreachable.”

China Labor Watch, a New York-based nonprofit, was planning to publish a report next month alleging low pay, excessive overtime and the possible misuse of student interns. It is unclear whether the undercover investigative methods used by the advocacy group are legal in China. [Continue reading…]

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