A Moral Foreign Policy? Get Serious.
July 21, 2010

My last post, suggesting it might be morally problematic for a commander-in-chief to persist in waging a war to which he is less than fully committed, drew this response from Andrew Exum of the Center for a New American Security: Bacevich wants us to consider foreign policy decisions black-and-white moral affairs. Bush, he argues, reliably chose the wrong option out of two available but was at least guided by a flawed moral compass. Obama, Bacevich argues, is amoral. This is absurd. In matters of war, leaders at all levels make hard moral choices involving sin and virtue.

Corporate America Turns Against China
July 19, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, Jeffrey Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric, complained indignantly about China’s current and bitter hostility toward multinational corporations. According to the Financial Times, Immelt groused at a private dinner in Rome that the Chinese government was becoming ever more protectionist. “I am not sure that in the end, they want any of us to win, or any of us to be successful,” he said. Immelt’s remarks point to a noteworthy shift in the dynamic that moves American policy toward China, one tinged with irony.

Krugman’s Tales from the Crypt
July 10, 2010

If repetition doesn’t improve the argument, try escalation. Paul Krugman, Princeton’s Nobel laureate-turned-columnist, has been haranguing the Europeans, and the Germans in particular, to drop their fiscal tightwad act: Don’t cut government spending, keep the deficits rolling.

Is China Headed for a Crash?
June 22, 2010

Anyone who doubts the role of “Black Swans” in shaping the course of human events should pause to reflect on the decade just past.

Nice Wind Farm, But So What?
June 01, 2010

Dunhuang, China—Is there more to China's low-carbon efforts than renewable power? Well, yes, of course. A lot more. Yet that's all people here ever seem to want to talk about. Maybe that shouldn't come as a shock: The country gets a ton of warm, fuzzy press for its enormous new wind and solar farms, and it's true that the scale of construction out deserves an impressed whistle or two.

Who Needs Time Zones?
May 29, 2010

Out in Dunhuang in western China, it's still fairly bright out at 10 o'clock at night, thanks to the fact that there's only one time zone in the entire country—everyone is synched to Beijing time. No one I've talked to here seems to mind; freakishly late sunsets are just a fact of life. (The one exception is in the autonomous Xinjiang region in the far west, where people wake up for work two hours later.) And when I try to explain the logic behind multiple time zones, I realize I have no real idea why, say, the U.S.

China Journal: An Eco-Utopia In The Desert?
May 28, 2010

Jiayuguan, China—My first question to the mayor, naturally, is about the porpoise. On the outskirts of Jiayuguan, an industrial city of about 300,000 smack in the middle of the Gobi Desert, there's a 15-story-tall steel dolphin, standing erect, balancing a giant ball on its nose. After dusk, the structure is set ablaze in bright neon, its flashing flippers visible from miles away. "That's not a, uh, native species around these parts, is it?" Nope.

China Journal: Can 1,300 Coal Plants Be Wrong?
May 25, 2010

Shanghai, China—This week, I'm traveling around China trying to get a better sense for the country's energy and environmental policies (the trip is being sponsored by the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation). On a very broad level, there are two big, contradictory facts about the country to consider. One is that China is working far more frantically than we are to rein in its greenhouse-gas pollution and promote cleaner energy sources.

Turkey Slaps Obama In The Face … Again. And He Takes It.
May 18, 2010

You may remember that during the president’s first trip abroad he spent two days in Turkey. A little much, I thought. After all, a presidential visit is something of a gift to the host country’s government. And why did Ankara deserve such a gift? Well, it didn’t. First of all, in 2003, it had barred American troop movement through Iraq from the north. I don’t know exactly how many U.S. deaths accrued because of this ban. But sober estimates tell us that as many as 500 soldiers may have been killed because of the restriction.

China Takes Drastic Measures
May 05, 2010

A few years ago, I wrote about China's struggles to implement its own (often ambitious) clean-energy and emissions plans. Usually the pattern went like this: The central government in Beijing would make lots of nice-sounding promulgations—clean up the coal plants, make the buildings more efficient, build some wind turbines—but provincial officials, who have gained a lot of autonomy over the years, wouldn't always carry them out. Well, it seems that's still very much a problem. China, recall, has pledged to reduce its carbon intensity—the amount of carbon per unit of GDP—by 45 percent by 2020.