Nov 17

Hu and Obama meeting, which issues are “core interests?”

Written by dewang on Tuesday, November 17th, 2009 at 10:05 pm
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Both NPR and Xinhua covered the meeting of the U.S. President Obama and Chinese President Hu. I thought the coverage were actually decent in that the issues they list were basically identical. Obviously, NPR did not give equal weight to how the Chinese see the issues. Likewise, Xinhua did not give equal weight to how the U.S. see the issues. Naturally they both are biased. (A disappointment for me obviously is there are enough “free” media preferring to stupefy the “West”, as DJ’s prior article shows, even on an important occasion such as this. “Ah, that tricky Chinese propaganda machine, how devious it is to deceive the foreign media!“)

Both the NPR and the Xinhua reports conveyed the importance of the China-U.S. partnership in solving our worlds problems and the need for continued on-going dialog. I think they are wise in doing that.

If we, as citizens of this planet are to weigh in, do we agree with the list of issues as the most important between the two countries? What’s the highest priority? Which ones on the list are “core interests” for either the U.S. or China? Which ones are not core interests? Why or why not? What do the citizens of this planet from other parts think?

1. Climate Change
2. Reduce Military Tensions
3. One-China Policy
4. Balanced Trade
5. Nuclear non-proliferation
6. Human Rights

(We all have varying views about what “core interest” means. The fact is that the U.S.-China relationship is important. I am just curious about peoples perspectives and opinions.)

[Edit 11/28/2009]
Kissinger was interviewed by Charlie Rose November 16, 2009 regarding Obama’s trip to China.

Kissinger: “A partnership is essential. A confrontation is inconclusive and will exhaust both countries. The Chinese have concluded they need a long period of cooperation with the U.S. for their own development. We (U.S.) have enough of our problems to take on without a confrontation with China.”

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27 Responses to “Hu and Obama meeting, which issues are “core interests?””

  1. Berlin Says:

    NPR also mentions this morning that Obama did not receive the “rock star” welcome as he was given in Europe. And already Chinese bloggers like Hecaitou is saying that Obama is not going to have any impact with this trip. Chinese leaders may actually like President Bush more as he has more clarity in his views. People don’t know what Obama is selling.

    China may say it is a socialist country, but the leaders may not dislike “rightists” or “conservatists” in the US. Chairmain Mao once commented to Nixson that he likes rightists (http://club.china.com/data/thread/1011/2665/52/05/5_1.html)

    Also, Obama’s protectionist trade policy is hurting some Chinese businesses in a very painful way.

  2. TonyP4 Says:

    Most topics we’ve pretty much discussed. I’m sure you can locate them at FM. I include my opinions from my blog that I also expressed here.

    1. Climate Change
    Pollution per capita is way low than US.

    2. Reduce Military Tensions
    What tension? China can only defend at best while US has carrier powered by two nuclear generators.

    3. One-China Policy
    What is the alternative? With the natural resources/farm land, China can only support half of today’s population.

    4. Balanced Trade
    Free trade!

    5. Nuclear non-proliferation
    China has some control over N. Korea (supplying them with fuel and food) and will not jeopardize the relationship with Iran, their #1 oil supplier.

    6. Human Rights

  3. pug_ster Says:

    The only thing the 2 countries agreed on is climate change where China is going to buy alot of ‘green technologies’ from the US. The only reason why the US seem so nice is that if US pisses off China for some reason, China can always buy them from some European country.

  4. Josef Says:

    To start with, I am not a fan of Mr. Obama.
    I think the U.S. desperately needs a balanced trade,- Mr. Obama wants to have the luxury of a social system without paying for it.
    Now China will not give that for free, so they want, and got commitments for their One-China Policy. Taiwan’s newspaper reports that Obama added only verbally the TRA, but emphasized the three Sino-US joint communiqués. I extract from China Daily what is written and what will be left afterwards:
    >>The Chinese side emphasized that the Taiwan issue concerns China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and expressed the hope that the US side will honor its relevant commitments and appreciate and support the Chinese side’s position on this issue. The US side stated that the United States follows its one-China policy and abides by the principles of the three Sino-US joint communiqués <<
    It is a kind of laissez-faire commitment, as he also "welcomes the peaceful development of cross-Straits ties". But in the meantime Taiwan already dropped in the house of freedom ranking but also for its free and independent press (even below Hong Kong). I am not sure if that works, but at least China got free hands to increase the pressure and influence on Taiwan.

  5. pug_ster Says:

    You know capitalism is always a double edged sword to the US or any other post-industrialized country. Look at the US, the companies are running the lobbies and these companies only care about their bottom line by exporting their labor force to China. Now those same lobbies are poking Obama to ask China nicely so that they can make goods here in the US so that we can ‘balance trade.’ Let’s hope that those same companies are not running China.

  6. justkeeper Says:

    Dear TonyP4: It’s One-China policy not one-child policy!

  7. TonyP4 Says:

    #6 justkeeper,

    Thanks! One China policy has been around since Nixon. I do not know why they have to discuss again.

  8. Raj Says:


    I think the list is fair, though maybe you could stick North Korea and Iran in there too.


    TonyP4 (2)

    1. Whilst the US needs to do more to reduce its per capita pollution, one of the main reasons “pro-fumers” in the US give to not doing much is that there’s no point if China, India and other developing countries don’t join in. That is actually true because with such large populations even modest increases in per capita pollution will have massive impacts on climate change. So whilst China cannot be expected to freeze pollution in its tracks, it has to agree to slow and stop it earlier that it would have progressed previously.

    It’s a lot easier to develop in a clean fashion than clear up afterwards.

    2. Ever heard of an island called Taiwan that China has 1,000 to 1,500 missiles lined up against? Further than that China does see the US as a military competitor in Asia (and vice versa). China and the US have significant militaries that operate/will operate in the same region, yet they are still at odds over how & where they should operate.

    3. The One China matter involves Taiwan. Unification would not benefit China in that respect given that it is already overpopulated in many ways.

    In other matters like Tibet and Xinjiang, those regions don’t aid Chinese population pressure because it’s a problem of resources (supply and consumption), not living space. China’s population does not require millions of Han settlers to move to areas like Tibet and Xinjiang – especially as it will start shrinking when the tail end of the one child policy kicks in. Whilst Obama does not raise the issue of independence, giving those regions actual autonomy (rather than the sham that exists currently) would not make China’s population problem worse.

    4. Err, pegging the Yuan against the Dollar does affect currency values because it is arguably undervalued. If it floated more freely American imports would be cheaper to Chinese consumers, who would be able to afford more of them. That would actually be good for Chinese consumers.

    5. So is China going to do something about North Korean nukes, or is it happy with South Korea and Japan going nuclear too at some point?

    As for Iran, uhuh, so for the sake of oil supplies today, China doesn’t care if Iran’s neighbours followed and we had a nuclear Middle East – say goodbye to your oil imports (forever) if there’s a war in the region.

    6. “Tu quoque” isn’t a defence, especially given that Obama is trying to pull himself out of Iraq and Afghanistan – neither of which he started. He’s also looking to close Guantanamo. So actually he is in an excellent position to prod China on human rights.

    As for 30 years ago, well you know what we have the CCP to thank for much of the suffering Chinese people had then. That’s the legacy of Crackpot Mao, his Great Leap Backwards and the Cultural Annihilation. When it comes to the economy the CCP is only undoing its own ghastly work – i.e. losing about 20-30 years of economic development.

    In regards to lying, was I lying when I posted on the black jails?


    Or was HRW lying when it compiled the report?

    In regards to the US, oddly enough someone can criticise human rights in China and criticise something the US does. It’s this wonderful thing called multi-tasking. Obama criticising human rights in China does not stop him carrying out reforms in the US. A US newspaper criticising human rights in China does not stop it criticising American policy. A US citizen criticising human rights in China does not stop them voting for different politicians, writing to their congressmen, joining community projects, etc.

    If China was actually serious about improving human rights, you wouldn’t get people criticising it so much. But it isn’t. So if Chinese people tire of hearing America (and other countries) criticising Chinese human rights, perhaps they should sort their house out.

  9. Raj Says:

    Josef (4)

    Now China will not give that for free, so they want, and got commitments for their One-China Policy.

    China does not give the US money for free, it buys US bonds as an investment for its trade surplus but more importantly to keep the trade cycle going. If the US could no longer afford to buy all those Chinese imports because China stopped buying bonds, those goods would go unsold and the Chinese economy would crash. China buys US bonds out of self-interest, pure and simple.

    Taiwan’s newspaper reports that Obama added only verbally the TRA, but emphasized the three Sino-US joint communiqués.

    “Only verbally” what?

    I’m not sure how Obama has shifted American policy or otherwise helped China versus Taiwan. By referring to the TRA to Hu he was probably referring to the commitment to keep selling arms. Although the third communique refers to gradually reduced arms sales, this is something that successive US presidents have seen requires China to reduce/end its military threat towards Taiwan. Certainly whilst the “Anti-Secession Law” exists this will be hard, as will the 1,000-1,500 missile stockpile that China has for use against Taiwan.

  10. dewang Says:

    Hi Berlin,

    I was listening to that same NPR program on my way into work. At the end, Fallows was asked about the reason for the less-than-“rock star” reception in China for Obama, and he said it was because the Chinese are racist against Blacks. First of all, I don’t think prior U.S. presidents ever got any “rock star” welcome like Europe gave for Obama.

    In our Lou Jing thread, I was worried Fallows’ Atlantic readers are misled into believing the cherry-picked racist remarks within the Chinese blogsphere are misconstrued as representative of all of China.

    Now I know he already thinks the Chinese are racist. That explains for me why he didn’t bother getting other quotes that would show the Chinese in a different light. On the other hand, god help us if he relies on simply the Lou Jing incident to come to his conclusion that Chinese are racist against Blacks.

    Hi TonyP4 and All,

    Since TonyP4 mentioned that these topics have been discussed, I’ve now realized I’ve got lots of catch up reading to do (from prior posts/discussions on FM). That said, I think its okay to “rehash” previous topics. I will soak up your views here as well. Carry on and I’ll chime in once I feel I have useful thoughts to add.

  11. Berlin Says:

    I, too, don’t think racism has anything to do with Obama not receiving a rock star welcome. Some Chinese are just cautious about Obama because he took away jobs from Chinese workers due to his protectionist policies. If he presses China to appreciate the currency, that also means much of the foreign reserve China holds is going down the drain. These are some reasons I can think of. Of course, China also has tight security measures to restrict his access to ordinary Chinese. There wouldn’t be an opportunity for rock star reception. The town hall meeting with the young people in Shanghai was the best opportunity for him to shine, but the students were too disappointing.

  12. TonyP4 Says:

    Hi Berlin,
    “cautious about Obama because he took away jobs from Chinese workers due to his protectionist policies”

    For most US citizens, it is the other way round.

    However, they should be perfect trade partners – trading stuffs each cannot produce or produce cheaper than the other.

    US supplies airplanes, movies, farm products, high-tech stuffs…
    China supplies low-cost products that require cheap labor and is moving to some higher tech products like auto parts and launching sateltes.

    Why they do not sleep together?
    * Some in US think China causes all their economic problems like cry babies esp. the silly unions.

    * US do not want to sell the dual-use products – while China can get them from Russia and some EUers (those who are not 100% US puppets).

    * China should consider the high prices they’re paying: their own living standard, water and air pollution. China should not finance the US living standard over theirs for ever.

    * China should finance any projects based on return of investment, not only for jobs and hence for social unrest. Product dumping is a fool’s game.

  13. Raj Says:


    China should not finance the US living standard over theirs for ever.

    Can you explain how China funds America’s lifestyle at the price of neglecting its own? Because as far as I can see China only acts in its best interests – buying American debt so that Americans can buy Chinese goods. That keeps Chinese workers employed AND China gets the interest from the US having to service its debt (as well as keeping the capital invested to buy the debt in the first place).

    In some ways you could say that your statement is backwards, in that America finances China’s growth by sacrificing its own fiscal prudence.

  14. Steve Says:

    Raj, I agree generally with TonyP4. By keeping their currency artificially low, Chinese citizens are financing US consumption. Chinese goods sell at lower prices in the US and foreign goods sell at higher prices in China. The cost to the Chinese consumer of having a weak yuan is a lower living standard.

    So why does China continue this policy? Because the #1 concern is jobs, and the policy is to create jobs by creating manufacturing capacity. Manufacturing capacity is beyond what the Chinese market can consume, so export business is needed to absorb the excess. With the current recession, much of the export market has dried up but a lot of the investment in China recently has been used to build even more capacity in hopes of a world economic recovery. To utilize that capacity, a weak yuan needs to continue.

    But if the US doesn’t respond with increased imports from China, then that excess manufacturing capacity can cause a recession in China. That’s what the government is trying to avoid. Infrastructure improvements will suck up some of it, but probably not enough. Gloating and blaming really isn’t beneficial here since both countries are tied at the hip and both would suffer if this problem isn’t worked out somehow.

    In the ’80s, Japan also used exports to become the 2nd largest economy in the world, but couldn’t make the adjustment from exports to domestic spending and when the bubble burst, their economy went stagnant. I’ve read that in China there are projects going on today where bridges that are only a few years old are being torn up and rebuilt. If that is actually true, it is reminiscent of the Japanese approach in the early ’90s with “bridges to nowhere”, etc. I certainly hope it isn’t true.

    Neither country can disconnect from the other. If China tried to pull its money out of the US quickly, the US would simply institute capital controls. But if the US stopped importing from China, most of those jobs wouldn’t come back to the US but would be moved to other countries with the end result that Americans would pay more. Chinese manufacturing is low cost and they have kept their margins very tight. It’s best that they both work out their differences. China needs to strengthen its currency; the US needs to save more, spend less and balance its budget. The US also needs to improve its infrastructure to increase efficiencies.

    The important thing is that there is no financial “shock” to the world financial system. Trade wars, tariffs, capital controls, sudden changes in monetary value… these are all tricky to pull off. One of China’s problems is that it has waited too long to strengthen its currency and by doing so, has encouraged many speculators to sink money into China on the expectation that the currency will rise, when they will then withdraw their money to take the profit. That sudden outflow of capital would also wreck havoc on China’s financial system. But by waiting, they are allowing a stock and real estate bubble to form.

    Economic systems are too complicated to lend themselves to simple analysis and general pronouncements.

  15. TonyP4 Says:

    Hi Steve, I’ve to agree with you that you agreed with me. 🙂

    If US were a company, it may have bankrupted already – no country has bankrupted in our history but there will be one soon.

    The interest and the principle returned will worth less than original as the US dollar depreciates (while the yuen is kept artificially low). We do not see inflation today but it will be down the road (your dollar used to buy 2 apples but only 1 for simple illustration).

    My solution (just for fun and no room for debate here):
    Sell Alaska with Sarah to Russia.
    Sell San Francisco to China (no big deal as Miami is owned by Cubans).
    Sell an old carrier to China so they can use it on Taiwan. All the environmentalists will agree wholeheartedly.
    Send some NBA players to China for making some yuen. 🙂

  16. Josef Says:

    We know that China and the U.S. depend on each other and they will not start conflict so easily. But there is another point to be considered: If they join forces (China Daily called it “G2”) then they could, like the U.S. did it in standalone mode before, again twist and tweak the whole world economy for their own profit. To be more accurate: mainly the profit of the U.S., controlling the world currency. I think this support Obama was looking for and I had the impression that China was asking for something in reward (under the table).

    Probably I amplified to early the over-reaction of the (Taiwanese) DPP (comment 4), but in today’s Taipei Times, they reported already some reactions from Taiwanese lobbyist in the U.S. (I quote from this link http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2009/11/20/2003458981):

    The introduction of the bill was timely “because Taiwan supporters are disturbed by President Obama’s statements in China,” said Bob Yang (楊英育), president of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, a group based in Washington.
    “He failed to mention the Taiwan Relations Act [TRA] while saying that the US respects China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity through the three joint communiques. That’s likely to embolden China to press even harder her spurious claim over Taiwan,” Yang said.

    Now, Raj answered my comment and actually I also think we have to wait and see, if Obama really has shifted American policy. If there was some kind of this deal, it will not be announced with trumpets as success.

  17. dewang Says:

    Hi Josef, #16,

    Interesting thought. I think the U.S. and China are going to maximize the benefits of their cooperation. Every country on this planet relies on bilateral relationships to better each of the involved parties.

    But then you also have regional partnerships like EU, NATO, APEC, SCO, etc to create benefits for bigger parties.

    And then you have world bodies like WHO, WTO, U.N., etc to benefit an even bigger body.

    All these are various fronts individual nations conduct foreign policy.

    Taiwan and the mainland have its bilateral relationship too.

    Bob Yang sounds like a separatist and that’s his agenda.

  18. TonyP4 Says:

    @#16 Josef

    Taiwan is too small compared to China. Eventually they’ll reunite. Hope it is not in my lifetime, as I hate Chinese killing Chinese if it is not peacefully reunited.

    As in many other countries such as the Puerto Rico, folks want to be kings and queens, not considering what the citizens really want. The link in Taiwanese investment in China is huge. China does not really need a carrier to invade Taiwan, but just a reason. US has a treaty to protect Taiwan as shown by the fleet they sent when there was tension. This treaty is getting weaker and weaker as the mutual benefits are getting larger and larger.

    Just for a fun scenario (not to be debated).
    China cuts down the communications of Taiwan with the outside world (by shooting down the satellites and cutting underwater cables…) and sends thousands of parachute soldiers into Taipei. The government buildings are captured within 2 hours before US knows what’s happening…

  19. Raj Says:

    TonyP4 (18)

    Eventually they’ll reunite.

    Why? If China wants to wage a war of aggression, it can try to force the issue. But if we’re talking about Taiwanese people making a choice to unify with China, why would they do that? There is nothing that China can offer that couldn’t be obtained whilst being independent as they are now.

    Also what would “unification” for Taiwan actually mean? I doubt China would be satisfied with the Taiwanese President signing a bit of paper saying “yeah, ok, Taiwan is part of China”. It would have to be something more but what could China reasonably expect Taiwan to give up?

  20. tanjin Says:

    Western main-stream media has been “at war” with China since last year (remember that 2008 Olympics torch run). This is the reason why western main-stream media keeps blowing smokes out of Obama’s recent Asia tour.

    A recent media summit held in China and attend by media bosses of some outlets did not settle with a peace. Western media personnel are still banned to visit Tibet and Xinjiang region, even though western tourists are allowed.

    There is a down shift by parts of media quarters. Read this report by Peter Foster of Telegraph.

    “Barack Obama visit signals new era of US-China relations”

    “Standing on the parapet of the Great Wall of China, Barack Obama thrust his hands deep into the pockets of his coat and took a moment to inhale the frigid winter air blowing in from the Mongolian steppe.”

    “Reading from pre-prepared 1,200-word statements, the two men spoke as if from their parallel policy universes, unable even to feign agreement on most key issues. On trade, currency, Iran, climate change and human rights Mr Obama failed to win so much as an inch of ground from his hosts.

    And yet two hours later the two governments released a “Joint Statement” which is now being hailed as the most significant step forward in US-China relations since Richard Nixon reopened relations 30 years ago.

    The statement – mentioned by neither leader at the press conference – left even the most seasoned China watchers perplexed.

    “It was paradoxical,” said Richard Baum, professor of Chinese politics at the University of California, Los Angeles. “The press conference confirmed every low expectation we had for the meeting, but when I saw the statement, I said, ‘Wait a minute, are we talking about the same event?’ It is the most extensive document in 20 years, maybe ever.”

    Running to more than 4,000 words, it promised a breadth and depth of co-operation that was unthinkable even two or three years ago. On more than 40 key areas, including military and security ties, global financial governance, climate change and the economy China and America agreed to put their much publicised differences to one side and work together.

    From the general (including China’s significant first ever “welcome” to the US as an Asia-Pacific nation contributing stability to the region) to the particular (a pledge to put “millions” of electric cars on the roads of both countries) the document was described as “incredible”.

    Later that night, without irony, a Chinese army band struck up We Are the World and I Just Called to Say I Love You, as they serenaded the two presidents at a state banquet in the Golden Room of the Great Hall of the People.

    The substance of the Joint Statement has already caused some to reassess the merits of Mr Obama’s strategy in Beijing. Perhaps, by giving China so much “face”, Mr Obama may in time be judged to have saved his own.”

    “However the Joint Statement is a most extraordinary document, a blueprint for global partnership that opens a new chapter in the China-US relationship.” It was, he said, “a major accomplishment”.

    In essence, said veteran Chinese commentator, Shi Yinhong, professor of International Relations at Renmin University in Beijing, both sides have “agreed to disagree” over their core positions, which is itself an important step forward in the context of US-China relations.

    “The joint statement clearly places co-operation as the primary aspect of the US-China relationship, relegating their rivalry and competition to a secondary position. This is a position that would have been impossible perhaps even two years ago,” he said.”


  21. tanjin Says:

    Obama in China: What the media missed

    “Even through a veil of censorship and propaganda, the Chinese people managed a clearer view of Obama’s visit than the US media did.

    Let’s be frank. The strongest impression that most Chinese people have of Barack Obama is that he is black. The second-strongest is that he is young. And the third-strongest — based on his decision a few months ago to impose a punitive tariff on Chinese tire exports — is that he is perhaps just as willing to screw over China as all his old, white predecessors were.

    This is not to downplay the significance of the president’s visit here. It’s just to refrain from overplaying it. Having started with the notion that Obama just might come to China and make some history, the American media is now collectively bummed that he didn’t. This is silly.”


  22. tanjin Says:

    Many good tidings from Obama’s visit


    Americans must have some mixed emotion about the cartoon below. This is true according to my own local friends.

  23. Josef Says:

    Hi Tanjin,

    what I have seen in summaries of the meeting is that there was no substential new development. The comment from Richard Baum is only one of few exceptions. So some newspapers are reading between the lines, like in the Taiwan News with similar emphasiz on the missing quotation of the TRA in the final communique.
    Dewang, that’s coming from the same corner…
    The expectations were so big that some newspapers actually turn away from Obama (“empty words”), especially as his visit was used in Israel (absence) and his lack of actions in Afghanistan.

    Raj, I guess China could be satisfied in medium term with technology transfers, economic cooperation, opening and easing of student and scholar exchanges, lowering of travel and trade limitations and some alignment on political topics (like not inviting “un-persons”). And on long term China might have been changed too and everything is different.

    TonyP4, a successful coup d’ etat could potentially open a Pandora’s box and create a more dangerous and horrible “northern Ireland” situation here in Asia,- China’s leaders are aware of that and I think they know that they have to win the hearts first.

  24. tanjin Says:

    #23 “what I have seen in summaries of the meeting is that there was no substantial new development ..”

    All substance is in that over 6000-wording joint-statement and its follow-on implementation. The leaders of two largest nations won’t put out such lengthy statement without any significant substance in it. Given the complicated history of US-China relation and their past tricky positions, you do need several domain experts to help understand it …

    The implementation is already underway … there will be some concrete deal emerging from upcoming Copenhagen meeting … China already dispatched high-level officials to North Korea, Iran, Japan, Philipines etc

  25. hzzz Says:

    I must of listened to a different NPR segment but I remember listening to some guy trying to explain why Obama’s Chinese visit had upset so many people in the US.

    You get the Americans who are upset because they saw the picture of Obama bowing down to the emperor of Japan. I think a lot of people got the Japanese Emperor mixed up with the Chinese Hu Jin Tao. Then you get the Americans who are upset because Obama did not focus on Human rights. Finally you get a lot of folks who are unhappy because Obama did not grant an audience to the Dalai Lama. Of course, all of this is fueled by the US media, which has been rather nice to Obama in the past.

    The guy on the NPR actually made a lot of sense. Basically he said that Obama was only doing what he could, and from Obama’s record it’s pretty obvious that he is not the type who say things simply to offend. Also, he inferred that the US media is biased and has its own agendas. Lastly, he said that he does not understand why the US media hypes China so much.

    Personally I think the US media is just missing the drama from the Cold War days. It’s a lot easier to sell confrontation than to sell peace and unity.

  26. hzzz Says:

    I just read the headlines on the ESWN blog and found an interesting article from the former NYT China chief on the recent Obama trip. I think there are tons of truths in what he said:

    Part 1: http://www.cjr.org/campaign_desk/not_for_all_the_news_in_china.php
    Part 2:http://www.cjr.org/campaign_desk/not_for_all_the_news_2.php

  27. dewang Says:

    I’ve added commentary by Kissinger about the importance of the U.S. – China relationship. He was on Charlie Rose 11/16/2009.

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