One Visit: Two Different Stories
It was very interesting to note the differences in Tuesday’s coverage of President Obama’s visit to Beijing by The Wall Street Journal and the China Daily.
The lead story on Obama’s trip in The Wall Street Journal focused on the sharpest public critiques by Chinese officials towards U.S. policy that I have seen in some time. Here is what The Wall Street Journal reported:
China’s top banking regulator issued a sharp critique of U.S. financial management only hours before President Barack Obama commenced his first visit to the Asian giant, highlighting economic and trade tensions that threaten to overshadow the trip.
Liu Mingkang, chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, said that a weak U.S. dollar and low U.S. interest rates had led to “massive speculation” that was inflating asset bubbles around the world. It has created “unavoidable risks for the recovery of the global economy, especially emerging economies,” Mr. Liu said. The situation is “seriously impacting global asset prices and encouraging speculation in stock and property markets.”
As if that weren’t enough, the story went on:
Early Monday, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Commerce added further criticism of the Obama administration, targeting recent measures by Washington against Chinese exports. “We’ve always known the U.S. and the West as free market economies. But now we’re seeing a protectionist side,” the spokesman, Yao Jian, told a monthly press briefing. Mr. Yao also rejected criticism of China’s currency policy, saying the yuan’s exchange rate has little to do with trade imbalances with the U.S. and that China should keep the exchange rate stable.
WSJ concluded that Mr. Obama can expect blunt talk from Chinese leaders on economic issues.
Meanwhile, the headline in Tuesday’s China Daily could not have been more different. It read: President Hu Jintao Welcomes Obama. The story contained loads of pictures of President Hu and President Obama, but did not contain a single mention of the comments made by Liu Mingkang and Yao Jian.
Why the difference in coverage? The Chinese value stability above all else, so the picture of a harmonious relationship between China and the United States is what China’s leaders want to portray to the country’s citizens. In the meantime, China has some tough messages it wants to deliver–hence the well-timed comments by Liu Mingkang and Yao Jian that China knew would be reported by the foreign media.
Whatever is said behind closed doors, expect nothing but “sweetness and light” to be seen in the Chinese media.