Tuesday evening was wet and cold, but it did not rain on Esther Coopersmith's parade. A who's who of Washington politicos and society showed up at a barbecue hosted by the diplomatic doyenne to welcome her new neighbors, Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong and his wife, Xie Shumin.
The event was moved inside Coopersmith's S Street mansion, but it lacked nothing in festivity and graciousness toward the newcomers.
Cabinet members, lawmakers, executives from oil, high-tech and accounting companies, World Bank suits, think tank types, philanthropists and cultural players waxed on about the endless ways to enhance dialogue and trade between the United States and China.
Coopersmith treated her guests to a spread of finger-lickin' barbecue ribs, corn on the cob, baked beans and pecan pie. The guest of honor received a Redskins T-shirt and cap, and his wife got a black and fuchsia purse with an elegant bamboo handle and dotted with Chinese and American flags.
Zhou, who attended the University of Bath, the London School of Economics and Beijing University, took up the ambassadorial post in Washington in April. He served here previously as a junior diplomat, as well as in China's consulates in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Zhou was optimistic that a visit to Washington by his president, Hu Jintao, postponed last month after Hurricane Katrina, would be rescheduled for next year. In the meantime, Zhou has basked in the limelight of Chinese ballet and theater performances at the Kennedy Center.
Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said he signed an agreement with the Chinese government last year to increase the number of flights to China from 54 to 249 a week. "As our trade increases, one of the things that has to keep pace is transportation infrastructure, whether it is in maintenance or top-of-the-line aircraft," Mineta said.
In a toast, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said dialogue between the U.S. and Chinese congresses had been productive. "On all our issues, we learned so much. It is a learning process for both of us. We realized we have more in common than we have differences. . . . We need to address them. As it unfolds, it is going to be one of the most dynamic relationships ever known, and we have to work hard to make it strong."
Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) said he had recently joined the newly formed China Caucus on the Hill to get a handle on this complex world. "Our differences are great and our challenges are great because both our countries are great," he said. "We both have a great responsibility to solve problems well beyond our borders."
Lest anyone forget Coopersmith's Democratic roots, she recalled that she had organized barbecues across the country for President Lyndon B. Johnson. "And it never rained on my parade," she joked.
Zhou said Coopersmith was decorating a new home the last time he saw her. "Every time you move, your house gets bigger," he told his hostess. He thanked her, describing her generosity and friendship as "heartwarming and memorable."
Retooling the Afghan Police
German diplomat Helmut Frick, brought out of retirement to oversee the training and transformation of the Afghan police forces, recently consulted with officials at the Pentagon, the National Security Council, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department after visiting Kabul, the Afghan capital.
Germany was selected by the U.N. Security Council as the lead country in efforts to restructure the Afghan police. About 7,000 recruits have gone through a revamped police academy, Frick said in an interview last week.
Frick said the 50,000-member force was being trained to bring life back to normal. He said border and customs police had been instilled with a new ethic to be faithful to their state institutions and not succumb to bribes.
Frick said about 30 German police officers were assisting Afghan police officers in and around Kabul who had graduated from the academy. "We are developing a mentoring system," he said. "We are well on our way, but certainly not ready to hand the operation over yet. Afghan ownership is the ultimate aim."
The German police contingent has been in Afghanistan since 2002.
Acts of Courage
The International Women's Media Foundation presented three journalists with its 2005 Courage Award on Tuesday in New York.
The recipients were Sumi Khan, 35, of Bangladesh, who has been detained and attacked for her reports on crime, fundamentalism and violence against women; Anja Niedringhaus, 40, a German photographer for the Associated Press who has covered conflicts in the Balkans and the Middle East; and Shahla Sherkat, 49, editor of the Iranian magazine Zanan (Women), who has faced threats and fines for drawing attention to women's issues.
Sherkat was introduced by Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of The Washington Post.
Judy Woodruff, a former CNN anchor and the chairwoman of the Courage in Journalism Awards, said the women's work "makes them champions of a free press."
"What they do is really a refreshing reminder of what our work is all about," Woodruff said after the ceremony.