Roger L. Simon

One from column Boeing, two from column Microsoft

Why should it be surprising that the first person Hu Jintao called on on his visit to the US was Bill Gates? After all, the Head o’ Microsoft and the Head o’ China both have more longevity in office than any US President (with the nod probably going to the man from Redmond). The meeting had all the trappings of a state visit and (most likely) better food:

Touring Microsoft’s suburban Redmond campus earlier Tuesday, Hu said he admired what Gates had achieved. He also sought to reassure Gates that China is serious about protecting intellectual property rights, a key concern for the company as it battles widespread piracy of its Windows operating system there.

“Because you, Mr. Bill Gates, are a friend of China, I’m a friend of Microsoft,” Hu said through a translator. “Also, I am dealing with the operating system produced by Microsoft every day,” he added, to laughter.

The new obeisance to “intellectual property rights” is another sign of the extraordinary economic growth of China. Their businesses are moving up past simple manufacturing into technological innovation with their own executives calling for protection of these rights to encourage creativity. As for the “friend of China” boilerplate, we all know what that means – You keep your mouth shut about democracy and I’ll keep those operating system dollars rolling your way and throw in some spare renminbi for MS Office as well.

Forget Karl Marx. What would Mao himself, whose face still decorates those renminbi, think about all this? He’d probably approve, because, as the song goes, “Ideology is only skin deep, yeah, yeah, yeah…” To add to the dark comedy of all this, another greeter of Hu was apparently Starbucks Corp. Chairman Howard Schultz, the man who made jillions off the yuppiefication of the 1962 Greenwich Village coffee shop. Having been a denizen of those places as a teenager, I remember well the face staring down at us from the pipe smoke-stained walls. It was… Chairman Mao!

MEANWHILE: No word from Gates’ State Department about Chinese blogger Hao Wu.