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Talking Points: November 4 - 18, 2009

This week, the USC US-China Institute newsletter looks ahead to Obama's trip to China. As always, the newsletter offers information about China-related events across North America.
November 7, 2009

Talking Points

November 4 - 18, 2009

President Barack Obama is heading to China. He’ll be meeting Chinese President Hu Jintao and other Chinese leaders November 15-18. Three issues loom large: the uncertain economic situation, worries over nuclear weapons proliferation, and the need to act to stem global warming.

On the economic front, trade tensions have increased since Obama and Hu met in April. On Thursday, the US imposed tariffs ranging from 24% to 37% on China’s largest exporters of steel pipe. American authorities asserted the move was necessary to stop the firms from “dumping” their product on the market at prices below their cost of production. Chinese officials call the tariffs discriminatory and protectionist. The imposition of steel pipe tariffs follows the decision in September to levy 35% tariffs on Chinese-made tires. Chinese officials responded to that measure by launching an investigation into the export practices of US automakers. US-China trade totaled $226 billion through the first eight months of 2009, a drop of 15% from 2008.

As for weapons proliferation, Jeff Bader, Obama’s National Security Council advisor for Asia, said Friday that “[w]e're less interested in process than we are in outcome.” He said that if North Korea demonstrated a commitment to the six party (NK, S. Korea, China, US, Russia, and Japan) talks, then the US is open to meeting directly with North Korea in Pyongyang or elsewhere. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il expressed willingness to reenter the six party talks during a visit to Pyongyang by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao. An International Crisis Group report issued on Nov. 2 said “China prioritises stability over denuclearisation … It therefore continues to shield North Korea from more punitive measures, including stronger economic sanctions, for its provocative behaviour.” Bader, rejected this assessment, saying, “I have no doubt that the Chinese are serious when they say they will not tolerate a nuclear North Korea in the long run. That is their strategic objective.” Clearly, the Obama administration expects and appreciates Chinese cooperation in working to eradicating the threat posed by North Korea’s weapons program.

With regard to climate change, the two countries have made negligible progress towards an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The US has not agreed to a cap on its carbon emissions and won’t without a similar commitment from China. Todd Stern, the chief US negotiator asserts that developing nations will contribute the most to increases in emissions. Stern insists, "[n]o country holds the fate of the earth more in its hands than China. Not one." The Chinese respond that, given their pressing need to raise living standards, they shouldn’t be expected to match the US in capping or reducing emissions. Between them, the Chinese and Americans produce 40% of the world’s greenhouse gases, so cooperation from both is necessary if the challenge of global warming is to be adequately addressed. In Beijing, the task for Chinese and American leaders is to determine whether the other is likely to move far enough to permit both to sign on to an United Nations agreement in Copenhagen in December.

The USC US-China Institute has assembled video, text, and statistical resources to aid in understanding the issues Obama and Hu will address and on the positions the two sides have taken. Click here to see them.

It’s been a year since Barack Obama was elected president and there remains intense interest in him in Asia. A 2009 Pew survey taken before the recent trade frictions, showed that 47% of Chinese had a favorable attitude toward the US. In 2007, only 34% had such an attitude. In 2008, just 30% of Chinese told Pew they thought President George W. Bush “would do the right thing in world affairs.” In 2009, 62% of Chinese said they thought Obama “would do the right thing.”

Certainly, Asian marketers think Obama sells. Below are three examples of efforts to trade on Obama’s popularity.

  Candidate Obama was famous for his intense use of his BlackBerry cell phone. To the left, the Chinese maker of a knock-off, a BlockBerry, implies presidential endorsement. (Thanks to George Chen for alerting us to this ad.)

Bottom, Left: a Japanese company's Mr. Obama "Yes We Can" Halloween mask was for sale last week in Taipei.

Bottom, Right: Say It Like Obama is a best-seller on both sides of the Taiwan strait. This copy was for sale last week in Taipei.

Click on any of the images to see a larger version.


Even Obama’s normally low-profile half-brother Mark Obama Ndesandjo came forward this week with something to sell: his self-published autobiographical novel, Nairobi to Shenzhen. Educated at Brown, Stanford, and Emory, Ndesangjo has lived in China since 2002. He said he’s eager to see his brother in China and to introduce him to his Chinese wife, whom he says is Obama's biggest fan.





Later today, James Benn offers the annual Sammy Lee Lecture at UCLA on Buddhism and Chinese tea culture. On Monday, specialists from the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Defense Resources Council look at US-China climate change negotiations. At USC on Thursday, we feature a presentation by UC Irvine’s Dorothy Solinger on China’s urban poor and the government’s “minimum livelihood guarantee.” The following week Taiwan director Tsai Ming-liang comes to USC to screen Rebels of the Neon God and Martin Jacques will be here to discuss his controversial new book, When China Rules the World. Details about these and other events are below and in the calendar section of our website.

Finally, two reminders. First, the deadline to apply to serve as a student ambassador at the USA Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo is November 15. All materials, including letters of recommendation, must be submitted by then. Second, our student-driven web magazine, US-China Today, has several compelling slide shows and interactive graphics. The currently featured slide show looks at street life across China. Check it and earlier slide shows out at More recent shows can even be viewed full screen.

Thanks for reading and for sharing Talking Points with friends.

Best wishes,
The USC U.S.-China Institute
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11/12/2009: China's Urban Poorest and their Program: Anti-Emblem of Municipal Modernization
USC University Club, Pub Room, Los Angeles, CA 90089
Cost: Free
Time: 4:00PM - 5:30PM
USCI presents a talk with UC Irvine's Dorothy Solinger.

11/18/2009: "Rebels of the Neon God" Film Screening and Q&A
University of Southern California
Address: School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) 108
Cost: Free
Time: 5:15PM - 9:00PM
The USC East Asian Studies Center and School of Cinematic Arts present a screening of the movie "Rebels of the Neon God." 

11/19/2009: When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of Western Civilization
USC University Club, Banquet Room, Los Angeles, CA 90089
Cost: Free
Time: 4:00PM - 5:30PM
The US-China Institute presents a talk by Martin Jacques on his new book, which argues that the twenty-first century will be different with the rise of China and the end of Western dominance. 


11/05/2009: Introduction to the Asian Area and the Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden
UC Botanical Garden
Conference Center, Mirov Rm., Berkeley, CA
Cost: Free, registration required
Time: 2:00PM - 4:00PM
UC Berkeley presents a lecture and tour of the Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden. 

11/05/2009: Panel Discussion: Designing China
Orange County Museum of Art
Address: Lyon Auditorium
Cost: Free
Time: 7:00PM
The University of California Humanities Research Institute presents a panel discussion on Designing China, a seminar in experimental critical theory hosted in Shanghai this summer. 

11/07/2009: The Buddhist Arts of Tea in Medieval China
Lenart Auditorium, UCLA Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Cost: Free
Time: 2:00PM - 3:00PM
UCLA Fowler Museum presents a talk by James A. Benn on the role of Buddhism in the creation of Chinese tea culture.  

11/10/2009: Healing Without Harm: Traditional Chinese Medicine and Endangered Species in Asia
Fromm Hall, University of San Francisco, Parker St. (between Golden Gate & Fulton) San Francisco
Cost: Free
Phone: 415-422-6828
Time: 4:45PM - 7:30PM
Join Jill Robinson and Lixin Huang for a fascinating look at the use of endangered species products in traditional medicine. 
11/12/2009: Red-Headed Mummies and Indo-European Languages: The Archaeology and Linguistics of Migration in 'Chinese' Eurasia
UCLA Faculty Center, Sequoia Room
Cost: Free
Time: 4:00PM - 6:00PM
The Asia Institute presents a panel presentation with Elizabeth Barber and Melanie Malzahn on the discovery of red-haired mummies and an Indo-European language within the territory of modern China.

11/12/2009: The Elvera Kwang Siam Lim Memorial Lecture in Chinese Studies: Chinese Reforms in Historical and Comparative Perspective
UC Berkeley

Address: Heyns Room, Faculty Club, Berkeley, CA
Cost: Free
Time: 4:00PM - 6:00PM
UC Berkeley presents a talk by Prasenjit Duara on the last 30 years of reform in China. 

11/12/2009: Taiwan Culture in the New Millennium: A Conversation with Two Cultural Figures
10303 Bunche Hall, UCLA
Cost: Free
Time: 5:00PM - 6:30PM
The UCLA Center for Chinese Studies presents a roundtable with screenwriter and novelist Chu Tien-wen, and novelist, poet, and naturalist Liu Ke-shiang. 

11/13/2009: Wartime Culture and Economy
UC Berkeley
IEAS Conference Room, 2223 Fulton Street, 6th Floor, Berkeley, CA
Time: 9:00AM - 5:30PM
UC Berkeley presents a one-day conference on the various aspects of culture and economy that pertain to the daily lives of the Chinese people during times of war.  

11/17/2009: Chinese Play Reading of Adeline Yen Mah's "Falling Leaves"
Julianne Argyros Stage, South Coast Repertory, Segerstrom Center for the Arts
Phone: (714) 708-5555
Time: 7:30PM
South Coast Repertory presents a staged reading of Chinese American author Adeline Yen Mah’s best-selling book entitled Falling Leaves: The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter. 

11/18/2009: Superfusion: How China and America Became One Economy and Why the World's Prosperity Depends on It
Milken Institute
1250 Fourth Street, Santa Monica
Time: 4:30PM - 6:00PM
The Milken Insitute Forum presents a talk by Zachary Karabell on his book on US-China relations.

North America

11/05/2009: Traditional Chinese Music in the 21st Century
China Institute
125 East 65th Street, New York, New York 10065
Time: 6:00pm
The China Institute will hold a panel discussion focusing on the integration of Chinese and Western music. 

11/05/2009: Business Lobbying in China
Indiana University
Address: Ballantine Hall 006
Cost: Free
Time:6:00PM - 7:00PM
The Center for Chinese Language Pedagogy presents the second in its series of lectures presented entirely in Chinese.

11/06/2009: The Evolving Cultural Identity of Chinese American Artists
Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)
Address: 215 Centre Street, New York, New York 10013
Phone: 212-619-4785
$15 (general public); $12 (student and senior); $10 (MOCA member)
Advance registration required
Tony-award playwright David Henry Hwang will moderate a discussion on the changes of the cultural identity of Chinese-American artists.

11/06/2009: Dam Street
Freer Gallery of Art
Address: Jefferson Drive and 12th Street, SW Washington, DC
Cost: Free
Time: 7:00PM - 9:00PM
The Freer Gallery of Art presents a free screening of the film Dam Street. 
11/07/2009: Music and Theater: A Universal Language
The Paley Center for Media
Address: 25 West 52 Street (btwn 5th and 6th Aves.) , New York, NY 10019
The Paley Theater will present two screenings of the documentary, From Mao to Mozart.  
11/07/2009: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall , New York, NY
Time: 8pm
Carnegie Hall features a performance by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. 


11/09/2009: New Juilliard Ensemble
Alice Tully Hall
1941 Broadway, New York, New York
Time: 8pm
The New Julliard Ensemble will be performing at Alice Tulley Hall. 

11/09/2009: China, Law, and Copenhagen: CFR and NRDC Discuss
725 Park Avenue, New York, NY
Cost: $11 nonmembers; $7 Asia Society members and students
Time: 8:00AM - 9:30AM
Chinese legal expert Jerome Cohen brings together a panel of leading experts on U.S.-China climate policy to discuss the run-up to Copenhagen and the current state of U.S.-China environmental relations.

11/09/2009: CEO Forum with Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm
725 Park Avenue, New York, NY
Cost: $50 members and students, $75 nonmembers
Time: 12:00PM - 2:00PM
Gary Hirshberg will discuss the possibility in a change in the way China produces its food and the effect an organic China could have on world markets.

11/10/2009: Shanghai Symphony Orchestra
Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall 
New York, New York
Time: 8pm
The Carnegie Hall presents the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.

11/10/2009: Perspectives on China: The Perpetual Discovery
Folger Elizabethan Theatre
Address: 201 East Capitol Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003
Cost: $12
Phone: (202) 544-7077
Time: 7:30PM
The Folger Shakespeare Library presents a talk by Orville Schell and James Fallows on the converging histories of Europe and China. 

11/13/2009: Rebels of the Neon God
725 Park Avenue, New York, NY
Cost: $7 members/students/seniors; $11 nonmembers
Time: 6:45PM - 8:30PM
Part of the Citi Series on Asian Arts and Culture. 

11/15/2009: Face
725 Park Avenue, New York, NY
Cost: Free
Time: 2:00PM - 5:00PM
Part of the Citi Series on Asian Arts and Culture. 

11/15/2009: Conversation with Tsai Ming-Liang (with Special Guest Actor Lee Kang-Sheng)
725 Park Avenue, New York, NY
Cost: $7 members/students/seniors; $11 nonmembers
Time: 5:15PM - 6:30PM
Director Tsai Ming-Liang discusses his films and creative process. 
11/17/2009: Vive L'Amour
725 Park Avenue, New York, NY
Cost: $7 members/students/seniors; $11 nonmembers
Time: 6:45PM - 8:45PM
Part of the Citi Series on Asian Arts and Culture.


08/16/2009 - 11/29/2009: Steeped in History: The Art of Tea
Fowler Museum

Cost: Free
The Fowler Museum at UCLA presents an exhibition on the history of tea in Asia, Europe, and America through art. 

09/11/2009 - 12/05/2009: Pearl of the Snowlands: Buddhist Printing at the Derge Parkhang
The Center for Book and Paper Arts
1104 S. Wabash Avenue, 2nd Floor, Chicago, IL 60605
This exhibit will present photographs, interviews and artifacts collected in Derge Parkhang. 


09/18/2009 - 01/09/2010: Imagining China: The View from Europe, 1550-1700
Folger Great Hall

201 East Capitol Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003
Cost: Free
Phone: (202) 544-7077
Celebrate the opening of the latest exhibition at Folger Shakespeare Library.

09/17/2009 - 01/17/2010: Calligraffiti: Writing in Contemporary Chinese and Latino Art
Pacific Asia Museum
46 North Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena, California 91101
Phone: (626) 449-2742
Calligraffiti: Writing in Contemporary Chinese and Latino Art addresses issues of power, culture, and universality. 

11/03/2008 - 11/03/2009: Ancient Arts of China: A 5000 Year Legacy
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
Bowers Museum presents a collection that portrays the evolution of Chinese technology, art and culture. 

11/14/2008 - 11/14/2009: Chinese Art: A Seattle Perspective
Seatle Asian Art Museum
1400 East Prospect Street , Volunteer Park , Seattle, WA 98112–3303
The Seattle Asian Art Museum presents an opportunity to see a collection with representative works from each dynastic period. 

11/15/2008 - 11/15/2009: Masters of Adornment: The Miao People of China
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, California 92706
The Bowers Museum presents a collection of exquisite textiles and silver jewelry that highlights the beauty and wealth of the Miao peoples of southwest China. 

02/12/2009 - 02/12/2010: Art of Adornment: Tribal Beauty
Bowers Museum
2002 N. Main, Santa Ana, CA
Cost: $5
An exhibit featuring body adornments from indigenous peoples around the world 


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