Hillary Clinton’s Last Tour as a Rock-Star Diplomat
On May 3, the day after an artful deal to end the diplomatic crisis over Chen Guangcheng, China’s now-famous dissident, unraveled spectacularly, Hillary Rodham Clinton followed a scrum of Chinese ministers around an exhibition of clean cookstoves. These are safer, portable alternatives to the crude stoves used by hundreds of millions of women in the developing world — at grave risk to themselves, their children and the planet. Not long after becoming secretary of state in 2009, Clinton took up the cookstove cause, one of what she describes as “smart power” issues — though skeptical veterans of American foreign policy tend to deride them as soft more than smart.
In September 2010, Clinton announced the creation of a partnership led by the United Nations Foundation to provide 100 million cleaner and more efficient stoves around the world by 2020, and she has since used every opportunity to implore world leaders to adopt policies to encourage their use. Among them was China’s top foreign-policy official, Dai Bingguo, with whom she first raised the issue over lunch at the State Department in May 2011. Clinton can recite the arguments by rote: The smoke from poorly ventilated stoves kills nearly two million people a year, more than malaria. Foraging for wood consumes the time and effort of women and children and exposes them to attack. The stoves are a significant source of black carbon in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. After a year of discussion, Dai agreed to put it on the agenda for their annual meetings this year in Beijing, raising the prospect that China, which accounts for more than a quarter of the world’s deaths from the old stoves, would become the 33rd country to join the partnership that Clinton started.