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Dead Sea, Jordan - 23 May 2005

When I was younger I occasionally tagged along with my father at conferences in Europe where East-West security issues were discussed. Dad taught me two especially important lessons during this time: 1) find a seat on an aisle near the back, that way you can slip out quietly if things get really boring; and 2) all the really interesting stuff happens during the coffee breaks, at meal times and (especially) in the bar.

We are being told how very "personal" communication is to become, with carefully-coiffed 60-second video messages containing content just for you or me, downloaded to our picture cell phones, or personal digital assistants, PDAs -- the instruments, not the individuals.

One might wonder where U.S. public diplomacy fits into all this? Right now, it doesn't appear to be a good fit overall.

When I was new to Washington and interviewing for a job way back when, I asked a friend on the Hill to be a reference.

"Sure," he said. "I'll be for you or against you, whichever does you the most good."

It was an attempt at humor, of course, but humor is often a spoof on reality.

For example, when the Nixon administration complained about Dan Rather's reporting to his bosses at CBS News, Rather's career took off. He was controversial and high profile, a newsmaker himself, and a good candidate for news anchor to generate ratings and advertising dollars.

The other night an email flashed across my screen with a catchy subject line: "BBC: Oye." It could only mean one thing: the BBC had shot itself in the foot, again.

Two recent developments in China point to the tools of media and public opinion control available to the Chinese government and how they are used.

Most recently, Japan-China relations have deteriorated on the heels of an old dilemma: How Japan handles history.


In China there’s been a year’s worth of growth in the few months since my last dispatch.

You name it, and it has grown in China. Some examples: the Chinese trade surplus, the Chinese trade surplus with the U.S., and the Chinese trade balance with the rest of Asia, which has gone from deficit to surplus.

Business was brisk this month at the annual MIP international TV program festival in Cannes, France - the best of such fests.

MIP-TV is the global TV marketplace where the rage last week was "made-for-mobile" content for picture cell phones, so that kids can watch shows like Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine while strapped in their car seats or walking along the sidewalk.

Whether by divine providence or a quirk of fate, the most charismatic Pope ever, who was made for television, came along just at the right time, when technology would finally make him available to all of the people all of the time.



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