A follow up to “How the Liberal Media Behaves With Abject Obsequiousness to Barack Obama” — now some fellow at Spiegel is jumping into the “Obama’s China trip a failure” pool. Apparently Chris Matthews (and we know how sterling his judgment is) is calling Obama “Carteresque,” meaning weak. Conventional wisdom is saying that Obama is a sock who doesn’t now how to behave around those tough Chinese.
However, people who actually know something about China, especially those living there or who have lived there, are saying just the opposite.
Richard at Peking Duck writes, “The townhall was a triumph, and it is beyond comprehension why the media is determined to brand it – and all other aspects of the trip – a failure.” Well, it’s because that’s what our media does — somebody feeds them a narrative, and they write their news stories around the narrative. And the narrative they settled into is “the China trip failed.” What actually happened is irrelevant.
The townhall event was a live broadcast that went to 100 million Chinese. This is remarkable, because the Chinese government really doesn’t like live broadcasts. But they caved in. Obama spoke to an audience of young people — Communist Party youth, yes. James Fallows quotes a Mandarin speaking businessman who was in China at the time:
But the comment from President Obama that I think will have the most impact inside the firewall was not the one about US principles that you quoted in your followups. It was this one:
‘Now, I should tell you, I should be honest, as President of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn’t flow so freely because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticizing me all the time. I think people naturally are — when they’re in positions of power sometimes thinks, oh, how could that person say that about me, or that’s irresponsible, or — but the truth is that because in the United States information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear. It forces me to examine what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis to see, am I really doing the very best that I could be doing for the people of the United States.’
“Wow! As a resident of China for two decades and a Mandarin-speaking China-watcher for three decades, I can say without any doubt that those words will resonate far more deeply — and potentially more “subversively” or “destabilizingly” — than any overt thumb-in-the-eye hectoring that any foreigner or foreign leader might muster, in public or private. Those words are ***precisely*** the kind that Zhongnanhai [Chinese term equivalent to “the Kremlin”] fears the most, and rightly so.”
This was reported in the U.S. as a failure. The Communist government outmaneuvered the Obama advance team by allowing him only a local broadcast (that went to 100 million Chinese), and Obama backed off from saying anything about human rights.
You see the disconnect. Obama’s words are not remarkable to an American, but apparently they had an entirely different effect in China.
Fallows quotes some other people who had a closer look at the China trip than most of us did, and they were far more positive toward the trip than anyone watching from here.