Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Is China too big to negotiate? by Rowan Callick

(6) Is China too big to negotiate?

Rowan Callick, Asia-Pacific editor The Australian December 24, 2009 12:00AM

MANY of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's fellow leaders at Copenhagen last weekend were convinced that he was behaving like an impressively deadpan shopper at Beijing's Silk Market.

The classic play for the experienced shopper in China is to bargain down as far as you can, then walk away, shaking your head in sorrow that you cannot afford the seller's exorbitant price.

Then if the stallkeeper remains confident of still being able to chalk up a profitable sale, they will send an acolyte to summon you back for a further round.

But Wen was never going to return once he left the room at the climate change conference, regardless of the loud appeals from Europeans and many developing countries for China to sign up to a different deal.

What Wen took going in to the conference was not an offer or a negotiating position. It was a commitment, which had taken a long time inside Beijing's complex, faction-ridden governing machinery to nut out. ...

Beijing, whose priorities are invariably domestic, does not tolerate ceding ground to multilateral pressure. Germany has finally moved on from the effect of the Versailles peace treaty after World War I, but Beijing has never forgotten that the great powers gathered there handed over the German ports in China to the Japanese rather than returning them to Chinese control.

It's not so hard, really, to work out what Chinese leaders mean in their statements. They mean what they say.

Beijing insists that China's prospect of catching up with its Japanese and South Korean neighbours' living standards is not negotiable, even over global warming. Its Global Times editorialised: "The majority cannot sacrifice their life to build a greener world for the few."

The global financial crisis that laid the Western world low has reinforced Chinese leaders' sense that they are at the centre of international affairs and do not need to play Western negotiating games. Engineers and other technological experts have recently dominated public life in China. Wen himself is a geologist. Bridges are properly built or they collapse. You don't negotiate their feasibility.

Mao Zedong said: "The revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery."

Nor is the revolution a multilateral agreement.

What are the game rules for the Western negotiators? MahJongg? Chess? Game Theory?


overtheedge said...

The game is poker. You either have the hand worthy of the bet or you bluff. The problem arises when the opponent knows how much money you can bet. China knows.

So here sets the US: broke, bad hand and hoping China won't call in the markers. If China calls in the markers, the size of the bill is so high, someone is gonna get their legs broke.

In the words of Kenny Rogers, "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold them. Know when to walk away, know when to run." China knows, but the US is so arrogant from past winnings that it refuses to believe it can lose.

The US problem is trying to play multi-year game theory at a week-long poker game.

Sean said...

Blindman's bluff. Last I checked.

the tent lady said...

Poker with blindfolds?

%Don't ya know it's been raining in the mountains and the river's on the rise, we cannot hardly reach the other side.

%The Devil he's in trouble you can see it in his eyes, if you don't give him shelter, he'll have no place to hide.

%Some you win and some you lose, and the winners all grin and the losers say.... deal the cards again, oh won't you deal the cards agggggaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiaiaiaiain!?

Hoyt Axton, one of "them"