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Larry Lindsey

President & CEO, The Lindsey Group

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Opinion

How Chinese media covered Biden-Xi meeting

Nov 20, 2023

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Larry Lindsey

President & CEO, The Lindsey Group

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U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping recently met in San Francisco, marking their first in-person meeting in more than a year. After years of rising U.S.-China tensions, expectations for the meeting were understandably low.

Straight Arrow News contributor Larry Lindsey examined Chinese domestic media coverage of the meeting to identify the hopes, expectations and perceptions of the Chinese public regarding the events in San Francisco. Lindsey concludes that Chinese domestic coverage was overly favorable and propagandistic, yet also very plausible, and that Chinese writers ultimately noted a number of sound arguments and observations.

President Biden and General Secretary Xi Jinping had their first meeting in a year in San Francisco. Expectations were low. The U.S. media basically said it was a snooze. Or, as Winston Churchill said, it’s still a good thing, “It’s better to jaw jaw than to wah wah.” Using Churchill’s accent, it rhymes.

Well, the Chinese media had a different take. They called what happened the creation of “the San Francisco vision.” They said this summit is a strategic and far-reaching meeting, leaving a profound mark in the history of U.S.-China relations. Well, of course they’re going to tell that to their own people, because they’re trying to make Jinping look good. Okay. So, certainly their reaction was propaganda. But it was not totally implausible propaganda. I think that looking at it, they had three good points.

First, Xi established China as America’s equal in the world. Now consider Xi’s line that was repeated over and over again: “The world is big enough to accommodate both our countries.” Fair enough. How about everyone else, like the Philippines, which is having its navy ships and fishing boats rammed by the Chinese navy all the time, or the other nations that border on the South China Sea, which China is trying to claim in its entirety, right up to the three-mile limit of the other countries, or Japan, which [has] had interdictions between planes of their two air forces? So Xi, what he was trying to do with [this] line is not trying to say peace, but saying, “Hey, it’s really just the two of us. We’re all that matter.

President Biden and General Secretary Xi Jinping had their first meeting in a year in San Francisco. Expectations were low. The U.S. media basically said it was a snooze. Or, as Winston Churchill said, it’s still a good thing, “it’s better to jaw jaw than to wah wah.” Using Churchill’s accent, it rhymes.

Well, the Chinese media had a different take. They called what happened the creation of “the San Francisco vision.” They said this summit is a strategic and far-reaching meeting, leaving a profound mark in the history of U.S.-China relations. Well, of course they’re going to tell that to their own people, because they’re trying to make Jinping look good. Okay. So, certainly their reaction was propaganda. But it was not totally implausible propaganda. I think that looking at it, they had three good points.

First, Xi established China as America’s equal in the world. Now consider Xi’s line that was repeated over and over again: “The world is big enough to accommodate both our countries.” Fair enough. How about everyone else, like the Philippines, which is having its navy ships and fishing boats rammed by the Chinese navy all the time, or the other nations that border on the South China Sea, which China is trying to claim in its entirety, right up to the three-mile limit of the other countries, or Japan, which is had interdictions between planes of their two air forces?

So Xi, what he was trying to do with [this] line is not trying to say peace, but saying, hey, it’s really just the two of us. We’re all that matter. In fact, the Washington Post, which tends to reflect thinking at the top levels of the American elite, said, for audiences in China, Xi’s comments position China as an equal to America as a global superpower. One person they also cited was supposedly an American expert at a Shanghai Think Tank. He said, Xi is saying China and the U.S. are superpowers on equal footing. Well, okay, I really don’t care what he thinks. But Xi thinks that he bested Biden, because he established China, which had been thought of as number two, as an equal with America.

The second thing that was in all of the Chinese news was stories about the rather fawning treatment by corporate America. They listed all the attendees at the dinner that Xi had with American business executives. They ran stories about how businessmen, top-level businessmen, were scrambling for seats, and were standing outside the venue in hope that some last-minute seats might become available for them. In other words, they described it as about as fawning as it could be, and a number of the executives that spoke after the dinner were very praiseworthy of President Xi. In other words, it made Xi look good, not only to his home audience, but it looked like he had very important allies here in America.

Third, in San Francisco, though not at the summit, Senate Democrats scored an own-goal against Biden and for Xi. For many months now, President Biden has been trying to advance the Inter-Pacific Economic Framework, IPEF. This would be a deal which would establish trade relations between the U.S. and non-Chinese Asian countries. It was our main offensive against China. Well, what happened?

Oh, Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, who is Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and Ron Wyden, who’s Chairman of the Democratic Senate Finance Committee, prevailed on Biden to pull the trade deal. So there would be no Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. Biden had been hoping to present that in San Francisco, with Xi there as sort of a push against G. We now have no push against Xi. The President’s main initiative was blocked by his own party colleagues in the United States Senate. And not only that, Biden’s U.S. trade representative, who had previously served in the Obama administration, said that it was the Obama administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership that then-candidate Clinton endorsed, that was the reason Clinton lost the 2016 election. So this was all about U.S. politics.

And the Chinese media noted that they weren’t necessarily counting on Biden to follow through, because he is now going to be consumed with his reelection and controlling the Congress. But again, that was a put down to the U.S. So, was it like the media said in the U.S., that it was basically a snooze? Or was it like what the Chinese, said that Xi clearly bested Biden? Well, let’s face it, the Chinese media is full of propaganda. But at least in these instances, it sure seems like plausible propaganda. This is Larry Lindsey for Straight Arrow News.

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