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24 Nov 2017 5:39
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  •   Home > News > International

    Donald Trump: How his high-stakes meeting with Xi Jinping was covered in the Chinese press

    While Donald Trump's Beijing visit was being portrayed in the West as one of an unpredictable man ready to settle the some of the region's toughest issues, the Chinese press remained blank-faced and stoic about the entire affair, keeping its focus on its

    As United States President Donald Trump makes his way through Asia, the Western media has been tracking how the rabble-rousing American leader is handling his high-stakes meetings with Asian-Pacific leaders.

    Of particular importance was arguably the centrepiece of Mr Trump's tour, China, where the US leader was expected to finally tackle head-on some of the region's most critical issues — chiefly, trade and regional stability — with President Xi Jinping, whose country he had long accused of being a "currency manipulator" that does not pull its weight to rein in North Korea.

    But while Mr Trump's Beijing visit was generally being portrayed in the west as one of an unpredictable man with low approval ratings tasked with settling some of the region's toughest issues, the Chinese media remained largely blank-faced and stoic about the entire affair, keeping its focus on its own generous hospitality and global dominance, while adding that dealing with China would actually require some "real" diplomacy.

    Beijing hosted a 'delegation', not just Trump

    While trade and North Korea were most certainly prominent in the Chinese press, from the get-go the high-stakes meeting was depicted more as one of an American "delegation" coming to discuss "common interests," rather than the western spectacle of Mr Trump himself.

    In fact, Mr Trump's Twitter-happy antics and abuse towards Beijing over the years — which is easy to forget that the large majority of Chinese people are shielded from with the Great Firewall — were entirely ignored while a red carpet "state visit-plus" was rolled out for the "delegation" of Mr Trump.

    "Unveil the secret of the 'luxurious' business and trade delegation that will accompany Trump's China visit: more than 100 applicants [companies]," the Communist Party's official People's Daily read, in reference to its "state visit-plus".

    The same article also pointed how these 100 American applicants were coming to China to "dig gold" while expert Dr Song Guoyou pointed out that Mr Trump brought more "traditional" energy delegates rather than the "new" energy types former president Barack Obama had brought.

    Meanwhile, another commentary maintained that as China becomes stronger on the global stage, it will no longer be engaging in the west's "old fashioned zero-sum thinking" in handling relations.

    Trump doesn't blame China after 'state visit-plus'

    Interestingly, "state visit-plus" is not a term that really existed before Mr Trump, as many Chinese observers pointed out — Mr Obama just had a normal "state visit", meaning he was sent on a guided tour around the Forbidden City, whereas Mr Xi personally walked Mr Trump himself through the majestic palace.

    In the Chinese press, this was massive, and while it was unclear to the west what the actual significance of the different tours made, many observers had suggested that Beijing had finally "figured out how to play Trump".

    They even let him use Twitter to post videos and photos of their tours together, and the local press was infatuated while many critics were infuriated on how on the second day a sitting US President was changing his Twitter backgrounds to Chinese locations with his new "great friend" in a country where the platform is banned.

    And so the following day after the two leaders sat face to face supposedly to discuss trade deficits, North Korea, the South China Sea, Mr Trump came out of that meeting "giving China credit" for its acumen in having ripped off the US — the polar opposite of what Mr Trump had long campaigned for.

    "I don't blame China; who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit," Mr Trump said.

    The US President reportedly secured some $US250 billion in business deals during his trip — in part to placate Mr Trump's anger about an ongoing trade deficit — but whether the full financial value of these deals will actually be realised remains to be seen.

    "Currency manipulation," the South China Sea, regional stability including North Korea, or even the details of said economic deals, however, hardly even made a bleep in the Chinese press beyond some platitudes, with some outlets even throwing a few punches at the US for good measure.

    Tackling China will require 'real' diplomacy: People's Daily

    "The Pacific is big enough to accommodate both China and US," Xinhua News Agency quoted Mr Xi as saying.

    "China and US need to actively cooperate in the Asia Pacific region, allowing more and more regional countries join the shared friends circle of China and US," Xinhua added, the emphasis on "need to cooperate" suggesting that little had changed.

    And at the same time, while the west noted that Mr Trump had arguably achieved little, some pieces in the local press even went so far as to remind Mr Trump that China was not "in the grip" of the US like Japan and South Korea, and that for the US to take on the "world's second-largest power", it will require "real" diplomacy.

    "While Japan and South Korea, the first two destinations of Trump's trip, are allies of the US, China isn't," one English-language piece in the Communist Party's official People's Daily noted.

    "For a long time, some US elites regarded the attitude of US allies as coordinates for the other parts of the world, but they have it wrong.

    "It's impossible for the US to dominate the whole world in the way it dominates Japan."

    'Frankly you're missing a lot of the story'

    And while on the topic of press coverage regarding Mr Trump's visit, following the official joint statement by the two leaders, journalists were not even allowed questions at the end, which Mr Trump was fine with, breaking tradition set by the previous three US presidents — who all allowed at least one question — in part to make a statement on the west's valuing of an open and free press.

    "The Chinese journalists started clapping whereas many American journalists starting yelling questions, some reasonably provocative questions, mainly directed at Donald Trump," ABC News journalist Bill Birtles noted overnight.

    "The coverage here in the media has focused very heavily on President Trump's granddaughter … her Chinese language ability. There's also been a fair bit of coverage about the size of the business deals.

    "But the problem is that session where Donald Trump made those really strong comments today about the trade relationship, that has been glossed over.

    "And frankly if you read or watch the Chinese media and you watch the coverage of this visit, it really sort of looks like a couple of leaders holding hands and singing kumbaya. It's all very, very positive.

    "Frankly you're missing out on a lot of the story."

    © 2017 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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