The Cable

Biden’s basketball diplomacy in Beijing

Vice President Joe Biden is in China to kick off a week-long Asia tour and the first thing he did after arriving at the Beijing airport was to speed over the Olympic basketball arena to take in a game between Georgetown University and the Shanxi Brave Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Association.

"Once again, sports diplomacy lives in U.S.-China relations!" Victor Cha, former National Security Council Asia official and Georgetown's director of Asian Studies, told The Cable. Cha is accompanying the team on their tour of China. He compared it to the ping-pong diplomacy between the U.S. and China that helped thaw the relationship ahead of President Richard Nixon's visit there in 1972.

Cha told The Cable that Biden interacted extensively with the Chinese spectators and there were good vibes all around. The loquacious vice president reportedly carried on a conversation in English with an entire section of Chinese spectators, telling jokes and receiving many high-fives. Biden was joined at the game by the new Ambassador to China Gary Locke, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, NSC Senior Director for Asia Danny Russel, and China's ambassador to the United States Zhang Yesui.

On the Georgetown delegation, in addition to Cha, were Georgetown University President Jack DeGioia, as well as Chairman of the Board and former National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

Not only that, the Hoyas beat the Dragons 98-81.

Their next game tomorrow night is against the Bayi Rockets, the Chinese People's Liberation Army team. Cha said that the upcoming game was "a great way to expand people-to-people contacts with the military, another goal of U.S. policy."

But the Hoyas are going to have to conduct that part of their diplomatic effort without Biden's help. He's off to the Southwest China city of Chengdu before returning to Beijing and then heading off to Mongolia and Japan.

The White House said Georgetown's two-week trip to China, "reflects an ongoing push to expand people-to-people exchanges between our two countries, as well as an effort to strengthen the U.S.-China relationship through sport."

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The Cable

Mandy Moore leads bipartisan staff delegation to Cameroon

At least there's one person who is bringing Democrats and Republicans together this summer. Actress, singer, and humanitarian Mandy Moore recently led a bipartisan delegation of congressional staffers on a trip to Cameroon to promote foreign aid and disease prevention there.

Moore spoke with The Cable late last week from the Cameroonian capital of Yaounde, where she was finishing up a visit before the lauch of Cameroon's upcoming country-wide campaign to give out long-lasting insecticide treated anti-malaria mosquito nets. The visit was organized by Nothing but Nets, run by the U.N. Foundation and the global health organization Population Services International (PSI).  Moore has been an ambassador with PSI for over two years.

"Every 45 seconds a child dies of malaria and this is the number one leading cause of death here in Cameroon," Moore told The Cable. "I'm here with this bipartisan congressional delegation to learn how this net distribution actually happens.... I've loved coming here with them because they ask some hard hitting questions."

The delegation visited a clinic run by the Chantal Biya Foundation, met with private sector leaders and UNICEF representatives, filmed a public service announcement in a rural area that is receiving nets, and distributed nets at a local orphanage. Moore also met with Prime Minister Philemon Yang and Minister of Public Health André Mama Fouda.

Moore's trip comes right in the middle of a fight over foreign aid funding in Congress. Moore said the plight of the Cameroonians was one issue that shouldn't fall victim to partisan bickering or short-term cost-cutting.

"I think it's lovely that it's a bipartisan delegation. I think this is an issue that effects and unites both Republicans and Democrats," she said. "African economies are critical to the health of our economy, from manufacturing to consumer goods, and even with some of the things that I do in terms of music and films."

"One of the things I love about our country is that we are a generous country and the work that we're doing here and elsewhere in the developing world is having real, measurable results and I feel fortunate that the congressional staffs can see that as well."

Moore didn't perform during the trip, but the Cameroonians put on a show for her and her team. They threw a gala that included traditional dancers who had the name "Mandy Moore" painted in pink letters on their stomachs.

The Hill staffers on the trip included Michael Shank, communications director and senior policy advisor for Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA),  Julie Nickson, chief of staff for Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Steven Shearer, chief of staff for Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL), Richard Hudson, chief of staff for Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), Rachel Dresen, legislative director for Rep. Ben Quayle (R-AZ), Jenn Holcomb, legislative assistant for Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), and Jessica J. Lee, legislative assistant for Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA).

"For what I pay every day for lunch at Longworth House Office Building cafeteria, I can save two lives in Cameroon from deadly malaria, which kills a significant portion of this country's population each year," one of the staffers on the delegation told The Cable. "Major props to Mandy for making this a priority in South Sudan, Central African Republic and now Cameroon, and for dedicating her platform to malaria prevention."