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Week In News: Bachmann's Decision, Obama To Meet China's President

REPRESENTATIVE MICHELE BACHMANN: I will not seek a fifth congressional term to represent the wonderful people of the 6th District of Minnesota.


That's Republican Representative Michele Bachmann announcing her decision in a video released early on Wednesday morning. James Fallows of The Atlantic joins us, as he does most Saturdays. Hello, Jim.


GOODWYN: Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party darling - are you surprised?

FALLOWS: I guess not really. I mean, you have to take her at her word, in whatever statements, that she had had enough after eight years. But if you look at the numbers, she represented the most conservative part of Minnesota. It's a district that Mitt Romney carried by almost 15 points last time, and she just barely won against somebody, Jim Graves, who was planning to run against her again.

So I think she may have been looking at those numbers, and also recognizing that while politics is hard, you're always out there raising money, there's another path that is a lot easier, which is to be a sort of TV electra circuit personality. And in recent years, that's been a rewarding path for a lot of former Republican politicians from Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee to, of course, Sarah Palin and perhaps now Michele Bachmann.

GOODWYN: Another big story this week, the Chinese company Shuanghui bought Smithfield Foods, America's biggest pork producer. Normally, we don't pay much attention when one big company is bought by another even bigger company, but should we pay attention to this?

FALLOWS: I think it's interesting mainly for what it shows on the Chinese side. On one hand, this is the biggest acquisition so far of an American company by a Chinese company. And wary of any possible blowback, the Chinese company itself has asked for the U.S. government review body that oversees these transactions to give it an approval, which presumably it will.

What's really fascinating about this, I think, is that in China in the last few years, there's been a genuine public emergency about concerns over the quality and safety of the food supply. So I think this is a sign of - that a big Chinese company recognizes a brand opportunity in China to be associated with a international symbol of safer food.

GOODWYN: Are there any areas where Chinese takeovers could be a problem?

FALLOWS: You could certainly imagine that in high-tech fields where intellectual property is the crucial element of a corporation, not the pigs themselves in the way that define bacon and pork and all the rest is processed, that there could be reasons for more careful concern. And there's - a range of Chinese companies with very close ties to the government or the military, for example, the electronics firms, Huawei, have come in for close inspection. But again, it's very hard for me to see how this Smithfield deal is not good for people on both sides.

GOODWYN: And President Barack Obama will be meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week. What do you think they'll be talking about?

FALLOWS: I think there are a couple of issues where the United States would like China to essentially step up and play more of a internationally responsible role commensurate with increasing power. One would be finding out what's going on in North Korea and see if the Chinese can do anything about that. Another is trying to calm the very troubled seas, literally seas between China and Japan. And then, of course, the cyber conflict area where, I think, the U.S. and China recognize there have to be some sort of international standards that the Chinese in particular can be held to.

The most promising thing that might come out of this meeting is perhaps a new Chinese U.S. cooperation on the clean energy front where they both have problems. And the Chinese essentially are the world's test bed for putting new clean energy technologies into trial with action.

GOODWYN: We've been talking with James Fallows. You can read his blog at jamesfallows.theatlantic.com. Jim, thanks so much.

FALLOWS: My pleasure, Wade. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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