Postcards From the Middle Kingdom, No. 3

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The big question here in Beijing is, when is the President going to do his first rope line? Here's a guy who loves rope lines (shaking hands with a crowd held back from the dignitaries by a rope), but he still hasn't done one here. He had two opportunities today at Beijing University, and it's not clear why he didn't take them -- the security officials on both sides here say there's no reason he shouldn't do one.

Clinton's staff felt the President hit a home run on the human rights issue in Saturday press conference with Jiang Zemin. They were ecstatic about the debate between Jiang and Clinton -- they thought they'd never see anything like it -- and that it was broadcast live to the whole nation.

The President was looking tired and a little puffy. His allergies are causing congestion, with all the pollution. Jiang looked more lively than Clinton on Saturday, but Clinton had stayed up all night refining his Tiananmen Square statement.

It's pretty clear now that the main strategy here is to let Clinton be Clinton. He's really acting in campaign mode, doing town meetings and stuff that he'd do in America. He's giving them a little exposure to U.S.-style pizzazz. But we're still waiting for that first rope line.