Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Positive Chutzpah from an Unlikely Agent

The Bush Administration, collectively, has made quite a name for itself in the Chutzpah of the Week award archives; but the connotation of chutzpah in those awards has always been negative. Thus, it is with a bit of surprise that I can acknowledge Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson for pulling one off with a positive connotation. The justification is right there in the lead paragraph in the report that Glenn Somerville filed from Beijing for Reuters this morning:

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson raised the sensitive topic of unrest in Tibet during a visit to Beijing on Wednesday, urging a resolution to the issue through dialogue.

Present at the meeting were President Hu Jintao, Vice Premier Wang Qishan, and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi; so Paulson clearly did not raise the topic in an offhand remark to the press. There would be enough chutzpah in talking about something that your hosts clearly do not want to talk about and regard as none of your business, but the chutzpah is all the greater when you consider how much of our debt China owns.

It is hard to tell just what Paulson's motives were for such a bold gesture. Perhaps he was just upset over the cool reception he was getting back at home towards his attempts to repair our economy, figuring that, if he cannot get any attention on his own turf, he may as well try to get some in China. There may even be the possibility that this was a gesture of sincere patriotism, saying to the Chinese something like, "Our country may be on the ropes right now, but there are still some values that we take seriously and are not afraid to talk about them." He even could have been grandstanding with a gesture he knew would be futile, following the conventional wisdom that the Chinese really do not pay attention to us when we make such proclamations. Nevertheless, when we consider the many impediments Tibetans encounter in making their voices heard, as I observed yesterday, this is a step in the right direction significant enough to get a positive-connotation Chutzpah of the Week award.

No comments: