Obama-Xi summit: Less piety, more realism?

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama at Sunnylands, California (7 June)

One of my pet hates is when journalists claim that a meeting has been "overshadowed" by something or other.

What they usually mean is that they have decided to ignore the event in favour of a better story. It is rarely true that the participants in the summit of whatever find their attention wandering in the same direction as the journalists. What annoys me is the suggestion that this is an act of God that really changes the nature of the event, rather than a conscious editorial decision to put different story on TV or in the newspapers.

So it is with the summit in the desert and the series of leaks about the USA's national security. But they may have a curious effect.

They may embarrass President Obama enough to make the summit a little less pious, and a bit more realistic. The revelations about widespread mining of phone data, serious as they are, are neither here nor there in this context, although at least one report suggests Chinese activists are a bit taken aback.

But the latest leak in the Guardian may have an impact. It suggests President Obama asked his intelligence team to prepare for cyber attacks on unnamed targets. This may make American preaching on alleged Chinese cyber-attacks look a little hypocritical.

Of course there are differences. If the revelations are true, it would mean President Obama was making sure America could carry out what would amount to an act of war, taking out unnamed infrastructure and capabilities. What the Chinese are accused of is basically either spying or theft - taking information using sophisticated computer techniques.

But it suggests the two men have something real to talk about. President Obama made the point that this is uncharted territory - there are no international rules, similar to those that govern nuclear weapons or war. So if they are serious about forging a new global order, a blueprint for a better relationship, this is a pretty good place to start.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    87 Gar

    "The United States,the UK and others should get tough with China on human rights, North Korea, Taiwan!"

    You couldn't make it up. Poachers turned gamekeepers?

    I don't believe anyone has appointed us as official overseers of other countries' affairs. Would you let, say, India or Italy, pass judgment on you?

    Or are you a supremacist who regards himself above the rest of mankind?

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    I love the US,I do worry about its massive debt & I`m not pointing the finger as I know,with UK I`ll have three fingers pointing back.But this debt along with massive arm`s spend,things are out of kilter.The US broke the USSR by creating an arms race,that imploded the Soviets.Now the US is doing this to its self.Swallow pride & cut back.Just one Poseidon is needed to spoil any opponents whole day

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    90 Magic

    "In 1924 the law barred further entries of Chinese; those already in the United States had been ineligible for citizenship. Also by 1924, all Asian immigrants were utterly excluded by law, denied citizenship and naturalization, and prevented from marrying Caucasians or owning land"

    I suppose you will be telling us next how well the African slaves were really treated

  • Comment number 92.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    72 Jaker

    "you must be travelling so fast that you're not anywhere for too long to see the crime & a lot of it is State run crime by police & town officials"

    Have you actually been there or you just repeating the usual propaganda? Homicide and gun crime in America is among the highest in the world.

    74 cat

    "the Americans are petrified"

    Too big to bully and invade?

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    ref #66
    American infrastructure was practicallly built by Chinese coolies in the 19/20th cent on slave wages and serfdom conditions

    What is amusing is your lack of knowledge of American history. the chinese has a minor part in building some of the west coast infastructure and wer piad a very high wage for that time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    63 Jean

    I'm not surprised you are being down arrowed.

    Spouting propaganda on these pages is far more satisfying for one's ego than listening to eyewitness accounts like yours.

    66 Magic's Chinese slave wages remarks are particularly amusing as the American infrastructure was practicallly built by Chinese coolies in the 19/20th cent on slave wages and serfdom conditions

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Purpose, at least, mutual help in population & business reassurance, not necessarily of 'great strides' to peace & prosperity, rather of 'going on with usual hopes', courses 'as of supertankers' rather than 'as to be re-programmed' (Mex wave-like)

    Trouble is, neglecting the individual (our need of equal partnership), we remain hostage in supertankers, on collision courses

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    This summit has produced more promises. The West is overdependent on the Chinese economy. The growth of the Chinese middle class is greatly exaggerated. Most Chinese are really quite poor.The PRC is a Communist tyranny that wants to dominate other countries with evil intentions. The United States,the UK and others should get tough with China on human rights, North Korea, Taiwan,..etc.!

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    ref #74

    I think you are exagerating 2-3 times?

    It just exceeded Japans? And Japan is a very small country in terms of population.

    As I stated in an earlier China thread, China is not an innovative country. That is the key.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    For 'cyber-crime', financial crime & violent crime, we can't wait for peace on reform of 'last criminal', or genetic engineering of a replacing race, incapable of 'crime'. The wait in vain, Earth to be wasted with no planetesimal help

    Let us hope Xi & Obama have plans to forgive past cycles of fear - the acts of patriots and of mercenaries - and to discuss the context for peace, equal partnership

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    To all good people who read about China in magazines: yes, you were right until 3 years ago - yes, people were earning small salaries, yes ghost towns were built.... But guess what: things are changing at lightspeed. And I can post a comment right now on this respectable BBC HYS, on the free wifi provided by beautiful Chengdu airport!

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    What's particularly damning is that the US press is covering this with the obvious emphasis on cybersecurity - but done so in a way to make US the victim, China the guilty party. No mention of PRISM, hypocrisy, or the fact that the US are in a better position (and doing so) in spying on non Americans - Chinese - rather than vice versa. Of course the American people believe their press.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Mark, I have a great idea.
    What if one day a week, people had to post what they like about Americans (USA) and Americans post what they like about the British
    No sarcasm.
    People will really have to think. Instead of writing hateful petty things, they find the good.
    I think it would be a smash hit and a good thing to do for all. How unique. All would stand tall, rise above all others. Yes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    This may make American preaching on alleged Chinese cyber-attacks look a little hypocritical.
    Just a little? Phone records, PRISM, cyber attack list. Unlike with Chinese net services, no-one outside China uses them. But everyone - Chinese included - use services from US tech companies. Just how many Chinese people are the US spying on through Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft?

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Mark..please. Do you really think the White house could be upbeat about anything???? They are in the middle of scandals that they are not going to get out of. They are guilty. He and his staff are Chicago thugs.
    Most of the people here in the US want this man gone! He has brought shame and was never qualified to lead anything!

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    How do you know they are not selling?
    Yes, there are so-called ghost cities, but not many. And the reason of appreance of ghost cities is beacuse too many properties VS not enough people. In big cities, even though the price is sky high , there are still people who have to buy and they are called Rigid Demand.
    however, the problems you wrote actually happen somewhere, but still not everywhere

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    @76:The countries you mention are still growing strongly. If relative Chinese GDP ever matches those countries, then the comments made in #74 will be even more valid.

    Technological development is a function of economic clout. The emerging Chinese multinationals, combined with increased spend on education, will see the Chinese close whatever tech. gap exists. If not, they can just steal it ;)

  • Comment number 77.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Re 74--China is a 3rd World Country with good economic growth like Taiwan , SKorea,Singapore saw in earlier years.It lasts a while and then fizzles out.
    China is light years behind USA and EU in technology, no much how many secrets it tries to steal.Sooner or later the bubble will burst and the ordinary people may turn once again to TianSquare and risk being massacred again in order to gain hope!


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