Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Xi Jinping Has A Facebook Page

Photo courtesy of Want China Times
Sort of. Chinese officials in charge of "public image" created one to document his visit to the US over the past week. Strange, because Facebook is banned in China, so "technically," no one can see it.

The posts are written in English too; if this is propaganda, it's aimed at a Western audience.

So why are we writing about Putin and the Pope instead of the President of China? Why did Xi begin at Seattle instead of Washington D.C.? The 21-gun salute at the White House? Compared to the Pope, Xi has invested considerably more calculated care into his visit, but is still receiving a fraction of the media attention, including on this blog.

Sounds like a reflection of our general attitude towards China, or our innate preference for devout clergymen rather than a showy politicians. There is a general consensus in the media coverage that indicates Xi was counting on a positive reception and successful visit in order to strengthen his hold on the Communist Party back home. Ironically, Xi has presided over one of the worst periods in US-China relations, encompassing conflicts over "cybercrime/cyberespionage" (take your pick, one is Xi's term; the other is Obama's) and the US's role (too aggressive?) in the South Asiatic Sea. Was it fair for Xi to expect a warm welcome, and was his trip justified if he needed the positive publicity more than a productive visit?

Or is positive publicity generally the reason why foreign leaders visit other nations?

Another perspective on Xi's publicity campaign is that he orchestrated his visit to play the China's-economic-prowess card: Seattle, where Xi made his first stop (most people go to the White House first), is home to the Boeing manufacturing plant as well as several other name-brand headquarters (say, Starbucks?) that are gearing up to do big business with China. The tech industry's most notorious figures, including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Tim Cook, flocked to meet the president. Yet the textbook ended on a dissatisfied note: "'We get tainted fish and lead-laced toys and poison pet food'". Anyone want to explain this? How has our attitude towards China changed since 2008? For all that, what has remained the same?


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