Tom Friedman imagines a Chinese WikiLeaker

What if China had a WikiLeaker and we could see what its embassy in Washington was reporting about America? I suspect the cable would read like this….

Here’s an excerpt of what NYT columnist Tom Friedman imagines the Chinese are thinking about us:

Americans just had what they call an “election.” Best we could tell it involved one congressman trying to raise more money than the other (all from businesses they are supposed to be regulating) so he could tell bigger lies on TV more often about the other guy before the other guy could do it to him. This leaves us relieved. It means America will do nothing serious to fix its structural problems: a ballooning deficit, declining educational performance, crumbling infrastructure and diminished immigration of new talent.

The ambassador recently took what the Americans call a fast train “” the Acela “” from Washington to New York City. Our bullet train from Beijing to Tianjin would have made the trip in 90 minutes. His took three hours “” and it was on time! Along the way the ambassador used his cellphone to call his embassy office, and in one hour he experienced 12 dropped calls “” again, we are not making this up. We have a joke in the embassy: “When someone calls you from China today it sounds like they are next door. And when someone calls you from next door in America, it sounds like they are calling from China!” Those of us who worked in China’s embassy in Zambia often note that Africa’s cellphone service was better than America’s.

But the Americans are oblivious. They travel abroad so rarely that they don’t see how far they are falling behind. Which is why we at the embassy find it funny that Americans are now fighting over how “exceptional” they are. Once again, we are not making this up. On the front page of The Washington Post on Monday there was an article noting that Republicans Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee are denouncing Obama for denying “American exceptionalism.” The Americans have replaced working to be exceptional with talking about how exceptional they still are. They don’t seem to understand that you can’t declare yourself “exceptional,” only others can bestow that adjective upon you….

Most of the Republicans just elected to Congress do not believe what their scientists tell them about man-made climate change. America’s politicians are mostly lawyers “” not engineers or scientists like ours “” so they’ll just say crazy things about science and nobody calls them on it. It’s good. It means they will not support any bill to spur clean energy innovation, which is central to our next five-year plan. And this ensures that our efforts to dominate the wind, solar, nuclear and electric car industries will not be challenged by America….

Thank goodness the Americans can’t read our diplomatic cables.

Since the right wing is determined to make exceptionalism a cornerstone of their 2012 campaign against Obama, I will have more to say about their efforts to ensure that this country is not exceptional in future posts.

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23 Responses to Tom Friedman imagines a Chinese WikiLeaker

  1. Prokaryotes says:

    Julian Assange has done more to ensure the success of democracy and freedom that most of us (though there are many that do much more than I, I do not wish to denigrate anyone’s service) that get paid to serve our country.
    When you sign on the dotted line you will give up your own claim to the constitution (you’re now governed by the UCMJ), Julian Assange may very well sacrifice he’s freedom and he’s not even a US citizen.
    The sacrifice that he’s making is pretty incredible to me and while I don’t necessarily agree with everything his site has done and released I appreciate that someone has the balls to do it.

    Why The Wikileaks Document Release Is Key To A Functioning Democracy

    So far i did not read a single disturbing thing about anything from wikileaks, which surprised me or was shocking. It’s much more disturbing to read about operations from infos freely available.

  2. Prokaryotes says:

    Nigeria to Charge Dick Cheney in Pipeline Bribery Case
    Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) — Nigeria will file charges against former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and officials from five foreign companies including Halliburton Co. over a $180 million bribery scandal, a prosecutor at the anti-graft agency said.

  3. Colorado Bob says:

    Cancun –

    Ghassam Asrar, Director of the Climate Research Centre at WMO, said that the last decade has confirmed predictions by scientists from 20 years ago that temperatures around the world will rise and storms will become more intense, and that these trends are likely to continue. According to WMO, the global temperatures over the last decade have been the warmest ever recorded. Extreme heat events were experienced around the world killing thousands, including the heat wave Europe suffered under in 2003 and the brutal heat event earlier this year in Russia, with temperatures in Siberia recorded above 30 degrees Celsius. Asrar believes these heat waves will end up forming ‘average’ summer weather conditions rather than being unusual events.,cancun-climate-conference-hears-that-extreme-heat-events-are-likely.html
    The “New Normal”.

  4. Colorado Bob says:

    Effects Of El Nino Land South Pacific Reef Fish In Hot Water

    They found that the El Nino event caused a sudden collapse in the plankton community and this led to a near absence of the young fish that are required to replenish adult stocks.

  5. Jeff Huggins says:

    Socrates and Plato (on the matter)

    A question that this (and everything else) raises is, how to change the situation if “half” of us have jettisoned basic facts and reasoning? What does one do when many people are flagrantly and unashamedly uninterested in facts and reason if those conflict with their ideologies and fairy tales?

    In the opening passages of Plato’s “The Republic”, Socrates is confronted by a request from a friend who isn’t interested in any reasons that Socrates might have for not accommodating his request, and it’s quite a fun opening situation, thanks to Plato’s writing.

    So what do you do when someone isn’t interested in facts and reasoning?

    A hint is this: You have to do something more than, other than, or in addition to just giving them facts and reasoning.

    ACTION is important — and people pay more attention to it — and every second the clock ticks that we don’t adopt action (as part of our communications approach) is another second lost and deeper in (environmental) debt.



  6. dp says:

    “And this ensures that our efforts to dominate the wind, solar, nuclear and electric transportation industries will not be challenged by America”

    fixed that for him

  7. Colorado Bob says:

    Let the witch hunts begin –
    Republicans Call for Public Scrutiny of NSF grants

  8. Paul Klemencic says:

    I think Tom Friedman has this cable wrong… He still thinks and writes from an American centric point of view. From my discussions with Chinese engineers working on energy solutions, they don’t think like this cable at all.

    There is a famous story of a strategic planning session at a company operating around the world. The bulk of the business managers were Americans, and the term “international” kept popping up in the strategy session. Finally, one of the non-American managers spoke up, and said he was uncomfortable with the terminology and the proposed strategies that were coming out of the session. When challenged, he drew two diagrams on the white board. The first showed America as a circle in the center, surrounded by other circles labeled as other nations, and connected by lines, mostly to the center – this picture was labeled “International”. The second diagram showed each country circle arranged regionally around an empty center, with lines connecting all the countries to each other; the sketch was labeled “Global”.

    This is how the Chinese see themselves. They already assume that they will become the largest economic power globally, and see themselves connected regionally, and to countries around the world; the United States is simply one of the countries. They really don’t view themselves as in a competition with America, and certainly beating America is not their foremost goal.. They have much higher aspirations, and if anything, view America simply as one more country to sell to, and eventually own business operations in America. They have a plan, and clearly America is not in the center of their plan.

    So Friedman has underestimated the power of the China, and overestimated the strength of America… if anything his criticism of the current performance of our archaic governmental system is too mild, and clearly not strong enough. China has a much more global view of the world than America.

  9. Rice Dog says:

    If there were such a person as a “Chinese WikiLeaker” his organs would soon be for sale on the world market.

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    The Metric is moving again –

    Areas of New South Wales, Australia’s biggest wheat-growing state, were under flood warnings as rain fell today, after the country’s wettest September-to-November period on record, the government’s Bureau of Meteorology said. Floods in Thailand, the world’s largest rice exporter, have damaged crops, which may spur more global demand for wheat as a food substitute, said Darrell Holaday, the president of Advanced Market Concepts.

    “Weather is the issue,” Holaday said from Manhattan, Kansas. “If Australia wasn’t enough, and if the middle U.S. Plains wasn’t enough, let’s throw the Thailand rice issues with weather in there, too. Weather is playing a big role.” …………… Thailand has suffered from the worst floods in five decades, which may trigger a 7 percent drop in rice production, the Agriculture and Cooperative Ministry has said. Rice prices may triple in 18 months as supplies dwindle and demand increases, Ed Peter, the chief executive officer of Duxton Asset Management Pte., said this week.

    ” 7 percent drop in rice production, ”

    Like the reports on the grain losses in Russia, this number is moving up . First reports from the Thai’s was a 3 % drop in production.

    ” The price of 100 percent grade-B white rice rose to $567 a metric ton from $551 the previous week, said Pisanu Sangyoo, an official at the association.”

  11. Colorado Bob says:

    I updated my list of 2010 extreme rain events last night ….. Some of the numbers coming from Australia are mind boggling. They are in the comments section of the thread.

    The Extreme Rain Events of 2010

  12. Michael Tucker says:

    Do more Chinese travel abroad than do Americans? I think that is fascinating if true.

    Nothing in this piece is insulting. I saw the news this morning and all this information is presented for the world to see. We all know we have crap trains and crap leaders. We all know Republicans do not care about higher education, retaining American jobs, or being competitive with China in green energy. They simply DO NOT CARE!

    Americans make fun of Republican ignorance so I doubt a Chinese email would make a difference. And Tom, it is not just the newly elected Republicans as I’m sure you know.

    You could have written about how the Republicans care more about employed millionaires than they do for unemployed Americans. You could have written about how Republicans are happy to allow American jobs to go overseas while they refuse to vote for domestic job investment. You would rather discuss lame, unsubstantiated claims made by Fox pundits instead of factual issues. THAT is why the level of discussion is so piss poor in our country.

  13. fj3 says:

    Is Random Hacks of Kindness new from the climate hawk class?

    Gov 2.0 events: Civic hackivists gather globally via @radar Random hacks of kindness RHoK

  14. David Smith says:

    I’m with Jeff @ #5 – The line of “truth” needs to be maintained but only action will change things on the ground (or in the atmosphere). I created the following list of levels of action for something else I was working on. It covers the range between the two extremes. Somewhere between #7 & #8 a line is crossed, legally. Maybe others will find it interesting or useful. Participating in Blog conversations is covered under #3.

    1. Do nothing,
    2. Educate yourself,
    3. Participating in the dialogue & bring others into it as well,
    4. Support change by acting to influence the political process to change laws,
    5. Change personal habits to become a part of the solution, not the part of the problem.
    6. Participate in public acts of civil disobedience,
    7. Aggressive acts to discredit and disrupt the strategies of skeptics and deniers,
    8. Acts that disrupt the flow of energy in production or transmission,
    9. Widespread strategic destruction of property in support of the cause.
    10. Revolution, bring the system down by any means necessary.

    I find that the difficulty in taking meaningful action lies in identifying which action would be effective to accomplish what goal & getting large numbers of people to agree to participate. Ideas are cheap. 4, 5, 6 & 7 above are available for law abiding citizens. #7 is particularly popular with our opponents.

  15. fj3 says:

    A transformative issue which has life-and-death consequences – ABC Online Politically inevitable!

    The real climate change challenge, Ian Dunlop

  16. Prokaryotes says:

    Today the lead climate negotiators from the United States and China are meeting behind closed doors to see how they can create positive momentum at the COP16 United Nations climate talks. Considering that the U.S and China are the two largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions in the world — responsible for almost 50 percent of global emissions — it’s about time!

    The meeting today is not happening in isolation; these two countries have been meeting periodically over the past year to discuss environmental issues. However, here in Cancun, the need for joint leadership and commitments by these countries is especially clear. The U.N. process for these negotiations is based on consensus; reaching agreement can be difficult enough when dealing with just two countries, and the challenge expands exponentially with discussions between 196 member parties.

  17. Prokaryotes says:

    Kennedy on why WikiLeaks matters

  18. David Smith says:

    fj3 @ #15 The page you linked to has a sort of bubble screen making it difficult to read. Is that the normal graphic?

  19. Roger says:

    I basically agree with Jeff (@ 5) and David (@14). It is time for more action, in the streets, and on the roads, by concerned citizens. What are we waiting for? Leadership?

    In fact, IMHO, patriotic Americans who want to help prevent our once-proud country from going further ‘down the tubes’ owe some more aggressive ‘action’ to those who sacrificed so much to make America the great country she was a generation ago.

    For those who weren’t around a generation ago, it was a time when most things in the system worked. It was a time when most politicians put their country’s interests first, rather than their own—a time, in short, when one could really proud to be an American, on an intellectual, as well as on a gut level. Sadly, I can’t honestly say that anymore.

    So, I’ve become a reluctant ‘climate activist.’ Reluctant because, like others, I’d rather be able to simply ease back on the career throttle, kick back with a beer and a boat, and go fishing in a clear New England lake, watching the orange sun settle behind the pines.

    That’s not an option for me because, as a scientist, I know that climate change is real, human caused, leading to dire consequences, requiring urgent action due to approaching tipping points, solvable if we all work together, and NOT necessarily (if we act together and soon) the end of civilization as we know it.

    Inaction is not an option for me because, right or wrong, I still care about my country. I want my country to do its share, and more, to mitigate climate change. I also care about my kids (and other peoples’ kids). I care about my young grandkids, and others’. I care about people in general, young and old, far and wide. Yes, I admit, I even care about other, non-human things–animal, vegetable, mineral–all being part of a whole Earth.

    Hence, I want to suggest an idea that falls somewhere around David’s Number 5: A change of personal habits to become part of the solution. But I want to suggest a very specific change that has the potential for relatively small numbers of people to have a large impact on the direction of our country. (Just as is the case with super-rich folks.)

    It grows late, and this idea needs more framing than time allows just now, since the messaging that goes with it will be critical to any success achieved. For now, let me just mention that “Plan C,” as we’re calling it, will involve climate-concerned citizens forming CAPs at appropriate times and places. These CAPs will have the express purpose of raising climate change awareness, and encouraging strong, immediate government action to mitigate the current and future negative impacts of climate change.

    I am discussing elements of Plan C with other groups and individuals during the Cancun climate talks, and hope to provide more details here on CP, and elsewhere, in the days ahead. If all goes as planned, Plan C implementation could begin on a small scale within the next month or so, then be rolled out in 2011—the year in which President Obama has also promised to devote more aggressive attention to energy and climate change.

    With warm holiday wishes,


  20. Chris Winter says:

    Colorado Bob wrote: (#7): “Republicans Call for Public Scrutiny of NSF grants.”

    It’s a good idea — when the public possesses enough scientific literacy to make reasonable judegments. The U.S public does not. More importantly, the U.S. Congress does not.

    From LiveScience:

    “Republican Majority Leader-Elect Eric Cantor (R-VA) is asking citizens to choose their own cuts to federal spending — and he’s started with the National Science Foundation.”

    Perhaps he could revive the late Senator William Proxmire’s “Golden Fleece Awards.”

    That at least would be consistent: Consistently dumb.

  21. spiritkas says:


    There isn’t anything to be surprised about here. The US will loose power to other countries and NGO’s. The power base of the world is heading back to China where it was for a long time. All during the dark ages in europe, amazing things were happening in C/S America, in China, the near east and India as well.

    China is graduating more english speaking engineers than the US does, they have more political will and money behind their words to invoate and surpass the US. It has already happened in a lot of ways.

    We just get to sit back and watch it happen and be glad innovation and deployment of superior technologies is happening somewhere in the human world. It is inevitable the US’s share of wealth and power will decline in comparison to the total global picture, but that doesn’t mean the US will decline. It simply can’t grow fast enough. The grass might spring up faster than the tree, but it will never reach the same heights. The potential for China and India and a lot of other places is greater than the US’s. The real growth and real potential going foward isn’t here. It isn’t a surprise then that this is all happening.



  22. Prokaryotes says:

    Rice Dog, exactly you would expect it from the commies not from a so called free country with free speech.

    Ron Paul: “Wikileaks- In a free society, we are supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, we are in big trouble.”!/repronpaul/status/10716266021003264

  23. Prokaryotes says:

    To Tell the Truth
    Maybe the government would earn more of our trust if it leveled with us more and invaded our privacy less.

    As I was sitting with my three grown sons over the post-Thanksgiving weekend watching football at their place (where they have lived together for nearly a year without a major fight, the place burning down, or the police showing up), my oldest son, who served in the Army for five years and was deployed in Iraq for nearly a year and half, turned to me and asked, “When as a country did we become a place where the government gets upset when its secrets are revealed but has no problem knowing all our secrets and invading our privacy?”
    Hmm, interesting question.
    In Washington’s polarized political environment, Republicans and Democrats seem to agree on a few things: That the government, in the name of fighting terrorism, has the right to listen in on all of our phone conversations and read our e-mails, even if it has no compelling reason for doing so. That the government can use machines at the airport that basically conduct the equivalent of strip searches of every passenger. That the government, for as long as it wants, can withhold any information from the public that it decides is in the national interest and is classified. And that when someone reveals this information, they are reviled on all sides, with the press corps staying silent.

    Matthew John Dowd (born May 29, 1961, Detroit, Michigan) is an American political consultant who was the chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney ’04 presidential campaign.