16 August 2007

Big bosses

Today is the start of the annual summit for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an economic and military alliance involving China, Russian, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The government of Kyrgyz Pres. Kurmanbek Bakiev is milking all the public relations potential possible from the event. Millions of dollars have reportedly been spent sprucing up the city. A Kyrgyz colleague at the university said yesterday she wishes the summit was held here every year because there is new paving, new streetlights, the water fountains work, and the streets are clean—at least those along the routes the dignitaries are taking. And there are security personnel everywhere. One of the government-funded billboards for the summit has the six presidents standing shoulder to shoulder as semiotic equals with Bakiev strategically placed between Pres. Vladimir Putin from Russia and Hu Jintao, the president of China. In this billboard, Bakiev, the leader of a nation of 5 million people that is the size of South Dakota, shakes hands with Hu, who represents the world’s largest nation and arguably the economic powerhouse of the 21st century. Oh, this has to swell the head of Bakiev, who may be the least secure of the six rulers and, perhaps not coincidentally, the leader of the most democratic of the SCO nations.

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