In 2011, at the annual East Asia Summit dinner in Bali, Indonesia, R&B icon Quincy Jones surprised everyone by appearing on stage and asking President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to join him in singing “We Are the World.” An impromptu invitation for the leaders of the United States and China to sing in front of a gathering of world leaders is just the sort of unscripted event that makes presidential aides freeze in their seats, minds racing with embarrassing headlines and videos gone viral.
Needless to say, Obama and Wen did not join Jones on stage. But the event reflected a nervousness that’s widely shared across Asia—is China a friend or foe? And most of the time, this anxiety cannot be laughed off.
The above excerpt was originally published in The New Republic.
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