It's that time of the year again for the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. It is astonishing that "Washingtonâ€™s planned delegation as of Wednesday numbered about 200 people (and it could end up being more), including at least 15 Cabinet secretaries and agency chiefs." How Many Officials Can You Fit In a Single Summit? - China Real Time Report - WSJ "* May 22, 2010, 12:12 AM HKT How Many Officials Can You Fit In a Single Summit? Hillary Clinton and Timothy Geithner at last yearâ€™s Strategic and Economic Dialogue Most people would agree that itâ€™s desirable for the worldâ€™s two most powerful countries to talk. But can you have too much of a good thing? Reading the list of U.S. participants in the annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue that starts Monday, one could be forgiven for thinking that most of the executive branch of the U.S. government is temporarily relocating to Beijing. Washingtonâ€™s planned delegation as of Wednesday numbered about 200 people (and it could end up being more), including at least 15 Cabinet secretaries and agency chiefs. Among them, in addition to mission leaders Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Council of Economic Advisers Chairwoman Christina Romer, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren, U.S. Export-Import Bank Chairman Fred P. Hochberg, FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair, and U.S. Trade and Development Agency Director Leocadia Zak. And then of course there is Ambassador Jon Huntsman and his staff of more than 1,100 at the giant U.S. Embassy in Beijing, many of whom will be assigned to help work on the megasummit. The Chinese clearly have no intention of being outdone. â€œAs for the make up of the Chinese delegation, I want to tell you as the host of this round of the S&ED China has a very big team,â€ Assistant Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao told a briefing Thursday. â€œThe size of the Chinese delegation will certainly be larger than the US delegation because China is the host.â€ The U.S.-China talks were already a rather unwieldy affair in the pre-ampersand era. Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who dominated the U.S. relationship with China and spearheaded the semi-annual â€œStrategic Economic Dialogueâ€ from its start in 2006, included other agencies like the Energy Department and the EPA, but the focus of the talks was explicitly economic. With the Obama administration, and its much more powerful secretary of state, the â€œandâ€ was added, turning it into the S&ED (or, our preferred shorthand, the SnED) and, in a stroke, making its purview encompass almost the totality of bilateral relationsâ€”which, given the size and importance of the U.S. and China, includes most of whatâ€™s important to talk about in the world. And while more than doubling the range of content, the Obama administrationâ€”in conjunction with Beijingâ€”halved the number of sessions per year, to one. So the question is whether hundreds upon hundreds of officials in a handful of meetings scattered between photo ops and banquets spread over roughly two days a year can actually get anything substantive accomplished. Measured in terms of â€œdeliverablesâ€ (diplo-speak for actual announcements or agreements to do things), probably not. â€œOur expectations for significant deliverables at this yearâ€™s S&ED are low,â€ Damien Ma, analyst at New York-based consulting firm Eurasia Group, wrote in a note Wednesday. He said â€œheadline issues like currencyâ€ will reside â€œin the rhetorical realm. Concrete steps are unlikely to be reached in the two-day session.â€ Ma says the only deliverables may be on green energy, and argues that some of the discussion on Monday and Tuesday is merely aimed at signaling agendas for other bilateral meetings, like the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, or JCCT, slated for July. (Donâ€™t ask.) But even without deliverables, there may be value to having American and Chinese officials get together for an annual chat. As Ma says, the event can â€œshowcase both sidesâ€™ comfort in raising thorny issues without outright conflict.â€ The importance of the relationship being what it is, thatâ€™s certainly worth somethingâ€”although perhaps it could be accomplished without all 200-plus of those officials, just in case somebody needs to make a decision in Washington when the SnEDâ€™s in session. â€“ Jason Dean"