Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vice President Biden's trip to China...

...comes at an important time, if for no other reason then it provides the White House a chance to assure China's leaders about the economic situation in the U.S.

Mr. Biden's visit did not begin well...for the journalists who are covering it. The Los Angeles Times reports that pushing and shoving soon followed after Chinese officials tried to escort the reporters out.
"It is my fond hope that our personal relationship will continue to grow," Biden said to [Chinese vice president] Xi [Jingping], who is widely expected to be the next Chinese president.

It was right about this time that a near-brawl was breaking out about a hundred feet away from the diplomatic exchanges in the Eastern Hall of the Great Hall of the People.

Only minutes into Biden's remarks, Chinese officials had begun to direct reporters toward the exits. Most reporters and the vice president's staff objected, saying it was important to cover the entirety of Biden's opening statement, as had been the agreement between officials beforehand.

A Chinese press aide said Biden was going on far too long for their liking. But in fact, including the consecutive translation of his comments from English to Chinese, Biden spoke only two or three minutes longer than Xi had.

Soon the stern shooing turned into forceful shoving. As reporters tried to stand their ground, Chinese officials locked arms and pushed forward in a show of overwhelming force. Soon enough Biden did finish, but reporters had difficulty hearing the entire thing because of the fisticuffs.

Hours later, Biden held another meeting with the chair of the National People's Congress, Wu Bangguo. And again, Chinese officials attempted to force reporters from the room even as Biden was still speaking.
It is perhaps ironic that "cooperation" between the U.S. and China is one of the themes behind Mr. Biden's visit. The New York Times notes, however, that the economic situation in the U.S. is not far from anyone's mind.
Mr. Biden, on his first trip to China since becoming vice president, is touring the country at a time when Chinese officials and scholars are raising questions about the stability of Chinese investments in U.S. Treasury securities, given the recent debt-ceiling debate and near-default by the United States government. On Wednesday, the state-run newspaper Global Times ran an article about Mr. Biden’s trip under the headline “Biden Faces Tough Talks in China.”  
Of course, the treatment of journalists and the corresponding disdain among the Communist leadership for providing full access to information is one issue that strains U.S.-Chinese relations. It might have been coincidental, but in the hours leading up to the vice-president's visit, the Chinese government sharply criticized Baidu, China's principal domestic search engine. 

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