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Political Theater at the G 20: Dancing on Water

The Chinese have put on a spectacular entertainment at the G 20 summit in Hangzhou.

Amid the latest government policy urging Chinese to turn away from Western culture, the producers show Chinese ballet dancers in pink tututs and specially designed toe shoes, for dancing on the waters.

Having worked on cultural exchange in music, painting and dance two decades ago, I can tell you that the Chinese take the training of their classical ballet dancers quite seriously. They send young dancers abroad to learn. Western companies and Western ballet masters teach at Chinese academies. Ballet is classical art that is in the Western artistic tradition, in story, music and the use of the human body. It is different from music and dance traditions belonging to the most beloved of Chinese performance art forms, Peking opera.

More important than what is happening to the tutus amid the fountains, is the sidebar meetings between Obama and Putin, with a discussion of Syria.

The talk between Obama and Xi about cyber espionage and the South China sea and the theatrics of a Chinese security officer stopping Susan Rice, the national security advisor, on the tarmac.

All the world's a stage. As to the optics of the Obama-Putin two-shot, Mr. Cool meets Judo Guy. Mr. Maneuver meets Mr. Muscles.

As for Xi, the consummate strategist, his two-shot is the martial artist versus the man of good speech.

There is the botched political theater of the arrival of the American president and his leaving Air Force One by the back door. The journalist Christopher Buckley reminisces about the formal reception given Henry Kissinger when he arrived in China. It makes one wonder about the competence of the Obama advance team.

Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea has shot off three missiles as an in your face provocation to the American president. One devoutly wishes for a two shot of Obama and Kim. At least there, Obama would have the advantage of stature.

Obama has failed to delineate his Asian strategy for the American public and this is curious, given the fact that he is widely regarded to be the thinking president. Instead, he has shown himself reticent, conducting his policy behind closed doors and doling out abstract pronouncements as from the Olympian heights.

One only wishes that Obama had explained his pivot to Asia to the American people.

The U. S. China relationship is the most important foreign policy relationship of this country.

The TPP is the most important trade issue. If this is to be part of the Obama legacy, then Obama has failed to let the public in on his thinking about the U. S. relationship with the big new Asian common market.

Obama's remarks on the TPP have consisted of a few generalities in unsatisfying sound bites. The pivot to Asia remains a mystery.

The president, the Secretary of State has done a poor job of informing the American people.

The press, with few exceptions, such as the South China Morning Post and Bloomberg, has not got the depth of field to cover this properly.

The Obama administration's pivot to Asia is not like the graceful pivot of Michael Jordan, the basketball star, on the court. It is more like the ballet of dancing on water, an optical illusion created by putting a platform underneath the water.
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