Economic experts say the Chinese currency is undervalued by 25 to 40 percent and that this is artificially lowering the price of exported Chinese products. But China's leaders aren't considering revaluing the yuan. They are ignoring Obama's complaints about the exchange rate with the same nonchalance they showed when they dispatched lower-ranking officials to negotiate with him in Copenhagen.
China think it can afford to behave in this way. In Africa and Asia, Beijing's authoritarianism is regarded as a successful model worth copying.
At home, the Communist Party is intensifying its brutal methods. It allowed an apparently mentally unstable British drug smuggler to be executed, and Liu Xiaobo, a respected civil rights activist who only exercised his right to free speech, was sentenced to an outrageous 11 years in jail.
Minorities striving for autonomy like the Uighurs and Tibetans are ruthlessly oppressed. A resurgent Han nationalism has replaced all other ideologies as the cement holding society together.
Beijing's leaders are behaving like the masters of the world, as aloof as if they could walk on water. The Dalai Lama says he prays every night for the enlightenment of the Chinese. He dreams of the rebirth of Chinese virtues like modesty and a sense of proportion. He can dream on.