Weekly Letter to the President
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INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
February 12, 2021
Mr. President: This week the Chinese began New Year celebrations and a fifteen-day
holiday. The year of the Ox commenced on February 12 and ends on January 30,
2022. The ox is a hard-working animal, thus the year portends less stasis and
While on the subject of zodiac signs, it is worth mentioning that Chinese leader Xi
Jinping was born in 1953, which was the year of the snake. Yes, it sounds bad but it's
not. People born in the year of the snake are said to be calm, thoughtful, reticent and
act on their own judgment.
Checking out President Joe Biden who was born in 1942, it turns out to be the year of
the horse. Expected personality traits for this birth year are warmth, abundant energy
Whether one believes in astrology or not, it seems to have hit a bulls-eye in the case
of these two leaders. The question is which personality is likely to negotiate better
when the two leaders inevitably meet. If Mr. Biden raised concerns over human rights
abuses in Xinjiang in his letter to Mr. Xi, a reasonable guess would be that the
importance of such issues would wane over time against the imperatives of trade, the
economy and big business.
In the meantime, China has reacted to the BBC investigative report on the
maltreatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang. It barred BBC World News from appearing on its
television networks, and Hong Kong's public broadcast service announced it would
stop relaying BBC World Service radio -- the latter severing an association going
back to colonial days when the UK ruled Hong Kong. BBC reports on China, said
China's National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) "seriously violated" the
"true and impartial" requirements and "undermined China's national interests and
ethnic solidarity." So reported Xinhua, the state news agency. The Chinese news
agency in London charged the BBC with "relentless fabrication." NRTA also said it will
not accept the BBC's application to broadcast in the new year.
On the opposing side, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) said that
China seemed to be attempting to force foreign media to toe the government line.
And Britain has already revoked the UK broadcast license of the Chinese state TV's
During Mr. Biden's phone call subsequent to his letter to the Chinese president, he
again raised human rights concerns particularly with respect to the Uighurs. Sensitive
to deteriorating relations with respect to the Uighurs. Sensitive to deteriorating
relations with western democracies, Mr. Xi kept reminding the US president how
important it was to the world, and to both their countries, for China and the United
States to work together.
If Plato's preferred form of government was an aristocracy with a philosopher king at
its head (The Republic), it is China's government that comes closer to the model.
Efficient decision making is not a characteristic of democracies; it seems, we pay for
the freedoms we enjoy.
So will China outmaneuver the US in the coming contest? We have to wait and see.