As a possible US Government shutdown looms, a writer (Hint: James Fallows) recounts what he provocatively calls a “tiny little anecdote of impending Third World-ism in Washington”, involving a (presumably) Chinese diplomatic visit:
Yesterday I met a senior diplomat from a very large and important country. (Hint: I write about it a lot, and used to live there. Also, it has pandas.) A very senior delegation from that country is scheduled to meet this coming week with a very senior U.S. official. (Hint: her husband used to be president.) This meeting has been in the works for months, and involves areas of cooperation, as in energy research or policy toward Iran and North Korea, and of disagreement as well. These are talks that should be held and business that needs to be done.
But if the U.S. government is shut down, the meeting can’t happen, because the State Department will be officially “closed” except for emergency functions. The delegation is set to leave from this other country’s capital at just about the same time as the shutdown deadline. If they don’t take off — and the shutdown’s averted, they’ll miss their meetings. If they do take off and the shutdown occurs, the trip will be an (embarrassing) waste. The diplomat was sweating bullets: would he have to call them on the runway and say: Sorry, this government has been up and running since 1787, but it’s out of business now?
In my travels lately, I’ve been trying to explain to Libyans, Egyptians, Bahrainis, Chinese and others the benefits of a democratic system. But if Congressional Republicans actually shut down the government this weekend, they will be making a powerful argument for autocracy. Chinese television will be all over the story.