Montana Politics US Politics

Baucus in Beijing

It’s really a non-story — more of a House and Garden’s piece done by a Financial Times correspondent. But so little has been written about the U.S. Ambassador to China, Max Baucus, that it’s worth a link.

Since President Obama wants to “pivot” U.S. foreign policy to Asia, I’d like to see pithier reporting. Not much out there on Max, though, except a story or two on disputes in the South China Sea.

This exchange between Max and his wife, Melodee Hanes, is a bit disconcerting:

“When Max was offered this position, one of the things he said was: ‘Mel, this is not Paris and it’s not gonna be London’,” Hanes adds.

“It’s not Rome,” interjects Baucus. “But we like to camp out in Montana in summer so Mel had a great response: ‘We’ll just pretend like we’re camping.’”

Surprise, surprise, Beijing isn’t Paris, London or Rome. So they’re camping out? Maybe in Tiananmen Square?

The article is headlined, “We can’t let the Chinese bully us” but it’s a fluff piece. What little news that can be gleaned from the story is buried about a dozen paragraphs in:

“I say to the Chinese over and over, OK, your defence spending [is increasing] 10 to 12 per cent a year,” Baucus says. “What are we to think? What are your intentions and more than that, you can’t just tell us what your intentions are. You gotta show by deeds. Show that you want to work with us, otherwise there’s going to be a collision?.?.?.?I think the South China Sea is a good example.”

Republican hawks in congress want to ramp up defense spending, too, but that isn’t mentioned in the article. Here’s a bit more from diplomat Baucus:

After a 40-year career in electoral politics, representing Montana first in the House of Representatives and later in the Senate, Baucus doesn’t have much time for diplomatic niceties and says he regularly interrupts exchanges of official “talking points” in an attempt to cut to the chase. “I speak to [Chinese government officials] very candidly. Maybe it’s because I’m a westerner,” he says. “We have to exercise self-respect. We can’t let them bully us.”

There are some excellent photos of the ambassador’s Beijing home (hardly camping out) and there’s mention of all the security involved.

It is grey and heavily fortified with a perimeter fence, a second inner wall, barbed wire and vehicle barricades. Half a dozen People’s Armed Police officers, with bayonet-tipped rifles, sit in an armoured van parked outside the main gate, ready to swarm out at the first sign of trouble.

This security, the writer acknowledges, “is all a rather grim reminder that the Sino-US relationship is the most consequential one in the world.”

It remains to be seen if Baucus will continue on as ambassador when the next administration takes office in less than six months. With all the turmoil in the Middle East, Turkey and Western Europe, China isn’t in the news much. Rest assured, though, it will be. Let’s hope there are better, more insightful news stories on “the most consequential (relationship) in the world” and the role of Ambassador Baucus.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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  • Max screwed up badly and forgot ‘politics 101’ and should have stayed in the game and surely would have been re-elected, and THEN skip off the China, NOT screw up Montana’s Senate opportunities and thus we have ‘Shutdown’ Daines and Zinke

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Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

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