A Husky Diplomacy

I just got back from Yokohama, Japan, where this intrepid reporter attended the APEC forum of Asian and Pacific nations.

As you might expect, a gathering of this sort usually devolves into arguing, lapel-stabbing and slap-fights.  At last tally, there were no fatalities, but the phrase “you scabrous cur” was used fourteen times, “you lying scoundrel” was used seven times and this correspondent heard “why you dirty…” at least nineteen times.  Good thing swords had to be checked at the door.

While the main thrust of the forum was the discussion of economic and trade issues, some concerns burning on the diplomatic stove were a bunch of tiny islands disputed by multiple sides, with China claiming all of them, and going so far as to claim all territories between San Francisco and Paris.

The Russians are quarreling over some of these islands with the Chinese, the Japanese are quarreling over some even smaller islands with the Chinese, the Koreans are… hmm, might as well save my breath and say that everybody is ticked at China.  Recent trade success combined with higher military spending has led to the dragon on the continent to throw its weight around more lately.  Everyone agreed but no one wanted to go on record as saying that they would like to see the leaders of the Chinese Peoples Bullying Party get doused with a big bucket of ice water.

(Perhaps the Chinese leaders ought to read Sir John Floyer’s timeless 18th Century classic, “The History of Cold Bathing: Both Ancient & Modern”.)

When I pointed out to Chinese officials that these tiny islands — more desolate rocks than anything of real interest – aren’t worth all this fuss, they responded with Stony Face #3.  If you had studied Chinese movies as long as I have, you would know that this is a classic Chinese bargaining visage, meant to convey a complete disregard for human life, especially if that is a Western life.

Then I suggested that China is expressing interest in these islands just to annoy its neighbors, and the Chinese contingent then responded with Stony Face #7, a clear escalation.  It was time to push my chips into the pot, so I said the only reason why Beijing was pressing the territorial claim is because they want to see how much they can get away with, like a playground bully, and that if Japan or some other country doesn’t blink, China would have to realize that a different approach would be needed.

At that point I was surrounded by large Asian men in dark suits, who manhandled me into a limousine and drove me to the airport.  On the flight home, Chinese President Hu Jintao announced that he regretted having only one face to lose for his country.

I will return soon with a longer, deeper analysis of the forum, and you had better get out your dictionaries, because I’m going to use big words like “economics” and “diplomacy,” and will explore such complex topics as “marking one’s territory like a Alaskan husky.”

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