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October 09, 2006

Customer Call - A Prehistory

President Hu Jintao of China is not happy about the interruption.  Bad enough that North Korea’s “Dear Leader” has dissed him by testing a nuke near China’s border after explicit warning; now George Bush is insisting on talking to him “personally”.

“Mr. President,” says his aide, “we do suggest you take this call.”

“Why? Asks the Chinese President.  “That GeorgeBush is so tiresome and he will be overthrown in just two years.  A coup is scheduled in that crazy country just three weeks from now.”

“He says he is calling as our biggest customer,” says the aide humbly.

“OK, OK.”

“Howdy,” says the US President.  “What are you planning to do about those evildoers with nucular weapons just east of you’alls border?”

Pause while the interpreters deal with “nucular”.

“We think the action of the DPRK was brazen and do not condone it.  We are appealing for calm.”

“Are you’all going to vote for or against a complete embargo on North Korea until they agree to scrapping their nucular weapons and inspections to make sure they do what they say?”

“We think such actions might further inflame the situation.  We prefer a more diplomatic approach.”

“Mr. President,” says the President of the United States, “I respect the sovereign rights of the great nation of China.  I would like to share with you’all what the US will do if there is no acceptable action THIS WEEK in the UN.”

“Mr. President, says the President of China, “I hope the United States will do nothing to further inflame a dangerous situation.”

“The United States of America,” says the President of the United States of America, “will declare a complete economic boycott of North Korea and…”

“Mr. President, “ the President of China interrupts, “that would be inflammatory.  And it is unlikely that it will have much effect since the US currently has no significant trade with the DPRK.”

“Mr. President, “the President of the United States continues, “you didn’t let me finish.  We will declare a complete economic boycott of North Korea AND ALL THOSE WHO TRADE WITH IT.”

The President of China says he will call back.  He consults with his advisors.

“They cannot do this,” he says but it is really a question.

“Well,” says the bravest of the advisors to the Chinese president, “ we don’t supply them with food and we don’t supply them with energy and…”

“But their Christmas is coming.  Their shelves will be empty.  He wouldn’t dare.”

“Honorable President, “says his trade chief, “ the Christmas goods are already at sea.  If they let them land,  there will only be minor shortages.”

“Call the President of Wal-Mart,” says the President of China.  “Call Dell Computer.  We will not stand for this.”

The bad news is reported back promptly.  The presidents of Wal-Mart and Dell are in urgent talks with alternate suppliers in Malaysia, India, and Taiwan.

“They owe us money!” the President of China shouts.  “We hold zillions of dollars of their bonds.”

“There is an old Chinese proverb,” he is reminded: “if you owe the bank one hundred dollars, they own you.  If you owe the bank a million dollars (let alone a zillion), you own them.”

“He won’t dare! His domestic opposition will not allow it.”

“Already American factories are rehiring in anticipation of no competition from China.  The head of the AFL-CIO had dinner at the White House last night.  Lou Dobbs is calling for a third term.”

“What is the AFL-CIO? What’s a Lou Dobbs?” asks the President of China.  All is explained to him.

Now you know why China made the motion for sanctions in the UN (I wish) and insisted that, no matter how Russia and France vote, the great nation of China will exercise its sovereign right not to send aid or permit any trade which would underwrite the nuclear ambitions of the brazen despot to its east.

You can never tell what’ll happen when a CEO has to take a call from his biggest customer.

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