Created April 9, 2021
taken by Robert Brett
When they finally turned in, Joe, Vlad and Jinping had slept well, dreaming of better days ahead.
A limo brought them down to Pfeiffer Beach just before sunrise. Although the air was brisk and the water cold, the three went for morning swims. By the time they were in beach chairs swaddled in terrycloth robes, Secret Service men and women brought them Ramos Gin Fizzes helicoptered down from the Buena Vista bar in San Francisco, Joe’s without the alcohol.
To the sandpiper looking at them from the water’s edge, they somehow looked like FDR, Churchill and Stalin at Yalta, Joe sitting in the middle as FDR had done at Yalta. But the sandpiper knew nothing of such things.
Joe made sure his hands were dry before picking up his tablet.
“I want to read you something,” he said with a mischievous smile, “See if you can tell who said these things.” They looked back with amusement.
“We should foster a new type of international relations featuring ‘win-win cooperation’,” Joe read, “and we should forge a partnership of dialogue with no confrontation, and a partnership of friendship rather than alliance. All countries should respect each other’s sovereignty, dignity and territorial integrity; respect each other’s development path and its social systems, and respect each other’s core interests and major concerns… What we hope to create is a big family of harmonious coexistence.”
Joe looked at them expectantly. Vlad just shook his head. “Obama?” he guessed.
“I said that,” Jinping recalled clearly, “in 2017 at the Belt and Road Forum.”
“Very much the spirit of what we discussed yesterday,” Joe observed, and both men cautiously nodded.
The sun appeared over the mountains. They watched it rise.
“Hexagram 35,” Joe said, referring to the I Ching. Hexagram 35 is Progress, the rapid easy progress of the sun rising in the sky, symbolizing ever widening expansion and clarity.
Jinping nodded. “A lot of wisdom in it. The culmination of Chinese learning over millennia.”
“What did you mean by ‘a partnership of friendship rather than alliance’?” Vlad asked Jinping.
“Alliance is generally a defensive maneuver,” Jinping posited. “NATO formed in fear of Russia, for example. Alliance means we will stand by you if you are attacked. If we create the right world, alliances will be unnecessary.”
“That will require trust,” Joe pointed out. “We three are self-disciplined and can therefore adapt faster than the average person. Most people will be cynical when they read about this meeting, and will take a lot of convincing over time. They will judge by our actions. Events will conspire to make it as hard as possible for us to stick to what we have been discussing.”
“That sounds very realistic,” Vlad murmured.
“When you said ‘All countries should respect each other’s sovereignty, dignity and territorial integrity’, how would you relate that to Taiwan?” Joe asked politely.
“We are one people,” Jinping said. “The island you call Taiwan is occupied by the losers of the Chinese Civil War. Imagine if the Confederacy fled to an island close to the American mainland. What would you do?”
“But those people do not want to be reunited, they like being sovereign, as all people do,” Joe pointed out. “Your own words seem to confirm that you agree with this principle.”
“The real world is very messy,” Vlad commented. “Principles are fine in abstract philosophizing, but every situation in life is unique, and cannot be solved by a simple set of pre-established rules.”
“If your Most Favored Nation offer requires us to not secure our territorial integrity, it’s not going to last very long, and then we’re back where we were before yesterday’s unusual meeting,” Jinping said darkly.
“The way to feel secure is to have ‘friendship rather than alliance partnerships’ with all your neighbors, isn’t that your point?” Joe suggested.
“Although I can’t imagine you lose sleep worrying that anyone is going to invade China,” Vlad teased Jinping.
“My recommendation is that you just put on hold your recent initiatives in the South China Sea, Hong Kong, and so on, and give us a chance to work together to solve the universal problems threatening our entire species,” Joe said. “You can resume them at any point you decide that they are more important than conquering mutating viruses, environmental collapse, world debt, suffering, fear, hate, and all of the crises we’ve brought on ourselves, and can most swiftly solve by our ‘partnership of friendship’.”
“I make no promises here and now,” Jinping said slowly, “but will consider carefully what you’ve said. I think we have made some real progress toward the ability to communicate clearly with each other.”
“Yesterday you enunciated four things your scenario planners say are the keys to working together,” Vlad began, addressing Joe. “Elbow room, offending the sensibilities of other nations, not making aggressive moves against each other, and how we the superpowers deal with everyone else.” Joe nodded, and Vlad went on. “What’s your definition of ‘aggressive moves’?”
“Fooling with each other’s media, stirring up troublemakers in each other’s country, having them enlist in the military in order to gain training and combat experience, reinforcing their authoritarian notions, outright attacks of course,” Joe paused, thinking if he had missed anything.
“Give all that up… I can’t work under those conditions,” Vlad said sternly and then smiled, admitting he was merely joking. “You know I don’t believe we have been doing any of those things, and in any case am happy to promise you that we will abide by these limitations going forward. But what about spying on each other? Is that going to be classified as an ‘aggressive move’?”
“No,” Joe said, “my advisors talked me out of that. Spying has been considered okay for the entire history of the human race. I would hope that once our actions have led to real trust in the world – God knows how long that will take us, but we must go there – our motivation to spy on one another will go way down.”
“What did you mean by ‘elbow room’?” Jinping asked.
“Expansionist moves usually come from the sense that one does not have enough land to contain one’s growing population,” Joe replied. Both men shook their heads. They both control enormous land masses, and see themselves as having population growth pretty much under control. “I see your point gentlemen, that one need not trouble us. I think we’ve discussed all of the points now except the one about everyone else in the world,” Joe said.
“What would you have us do about them?” Vlad asked.
“They of course deserve the same treatment we are promising each other,” Joe said, and the two men reluctantly nodded. “And they need help more than we do. We have to make sure they get the vaccines as soon as possible. That will prove that the three of us are serious and will begin the healing back of trust in the world.” They seemed to accept that notion but said nothing.
“Let’s go back to the elbow room thing,” Vlad said. “Most of the population growth is coming from everybody else, and eventually it’s going to get to be a very crowded world. For that reason, as well as a hedge against failure to cure the environment, and need for more natural resources, not to mention the positive effect on science and technology, we must continue our exploration of space.”
“I urge us to do that, together,” Joe agreed. “By combining forces, we can drive our science and technology much faster. We should not be in a space race against each other, nor should we picture colonizing planets in the name of one country who got there first. If the planet does not have a sentient race, we should feel free to live there without harming any species or the environment itself, as one humanity, not as countries.”
The other two men merely gaped at these ideas, taking them in, not prepared to argue against them, but reserving severe doubts.
“You know,” Joe said, “these apparent spacecraft that have been observing us, have far more advanced technology than we do.” Their eyes widened. Talking about UFOs had been tabu for years. “They may be concerned about us coming into space. We may appear to them to be warlike and immature. We don’t know if they represent a threat to us. One way or the other, we have to start thinking of ourselves as one humanity, for a long list of good reasons, real threats like mutating viruses and carbon dioxide, as well as possible threats that have not yet shown themselves.”
“Can’t rule anything out,” Jinping murmured. “But I for one am more concerned about corrupt people, terrorists foreign and domestic, and suggest we focus on the known problems.” Joe and Vlad nodded.
“You know the ‘bad guys’ among us are so very numerous,” Joe said, “Trying to violently exterminate them would make the world a far more horrible place than it is now. We have to uplift them out of their wrongheaded ideas.”
“That is very consistent with Chinese philosophy, as you have recently studied I believe,” Jinping observed, addressing Joe, who smiled agreement.
“Russian philosophy has always been multicolored,” Vlad said, “and leans toward integration with science and religion. We are very practical, we want to embody our philosophy directly into our daily lives. I was impressed yesterday with your ideas about training the most lost of our people. Turning that into real world experiments is an interesting challenge to tackle together, among the three of us, and with everyone else.”
There was a moment of soft silence and a feeling of momentary harmony. Joe stood up. “One last swim before we go back?” he proposed, and the two men stood up eagerly.
Our story does not end here. You can follow the story as it evolves in the real world.
Best to all,