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, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Interesting piece on BBC about shortages of cheap labor in major coastal Chinese cities.High cost of living is increasing, wages are low, other opportunities inland, families want migrant labor children to come home.Is the demographic ticking time bomb in China starting to bite the way it is in Japan, will in Italy and Russia?Fewer young having to support more aging people.One more minus for China

  • Comment number 134.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 133.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    marieinausten @130
    "psychology" of & as of children
    Adam & Eve: craving temptation that we might prove virtue?
    Questions not so "obscure", I'm sure, for Xi & Obama

    Many the courses of individual 'evolution'. What 'survives' is as much or more a reflection of culture as of genes, both contributing to capacity & drive, reason & care. Shall we try for the positive, or throw faith in 'the deep-end'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    "Stay tuned"
    Obama or Xi in Darkness at Noon?

    The joke has a kernel of reason, affording resonance in those who fear peace: loss of opportunity for aggression, loss of place in a suspect hierarchy ( accreted legacy of deeds fair & foul, martial & mercantile, hardly of 'merit'). That resonance can allow Man to be represented as beyond salvation, EXCEPT though 'these ordained tests'...!


Comments 5 of 135



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