In watching and reading news coverage about Hu Jintao’s visit to the US this week I had a strange feeling similar to when you take your boyfriend to meet your closest male childhood friend for the first (or maybe seventh or eighth) time. You, of course, hope that everything will go well. You hope that the two apply a balanced measure of pomp and circumstance along with practical getting-to-know-you conversations. You also hope that the two are on their best behavior, tip toeing around anything that could be potentially taboo or offensive. But you want each to impress in their own ways, showing that they’re worthy of being part of your life.
I’m not big on foreign policy, I happily let Phil be an expert on things pertaining to governments and current events. So take this blog post with a grain of salt. But I found myself fascinated and actually rooting for China to look good in their recent state visit to the US. I was hoping that maybe this visit would make it a little clearer to Americans that while China is a giant, wealthy and increasingly powerful country, its not something to be scared of. I guess you could say that we’re a little more invested in US-China relations out here than the average American.
As a foreigner living in China it was interesting to see the US media take on Chinese politicians. The press dissected every nuance of the visit from Lang Lang’s song choice at the State dinner to a lost-in-translation human rights question at a press conference. Remarks were even made about the lack of toe tapping to the jazz program at Thursday night’s dinner and how human rights practically had a place at the table.
My favorite coverage by far has been the comedians though because amazingly enough that seems to be where the most truth is located in the media these days. That aside though, they do a very candid but classy impression of the situation. Jon Stewart does fantastic in poking fun at the financial obligations the US has to China. As does Andy Borowitz in his interpretation of the Hu-Obama experience (my favorite quote from imagined-Obama: “To be honest, we’ve got as much leverage with China as a guy who’s three months late on his car payments has with the repo man.”).
Unfortunately it has not been always a positive depiction of China in the media throughout this visit. It’s disappointing to see that even though this country has pulled itself up by the bootstraps and become (almost) the No.2 economy in the world, prejudices still remain, and scarily so. Jeff Sommers writes in the New York Times yesterday, “‘The notion that China grows at everybody else’s expense is at least three years out of date,’ he said. China’s rapid growth, he said, gives the United States economic recovery a very good chance of being more robust than expected over the next few years.”
From the other side of the world it seems that things went well. Pandas get to stay put for five more years, Hu got to check in on his investments and Barbra Streisand established that we all come from humble beginnings. Now that both sides have gone back to their corners I can rest easy knowing that while they may not like each other all the time, and who knows what was really accomplished behind closed doors, but the experience was had without too many disasters and maybe relations over time will continue to improve.