Impotent in China

Where to begin with Obama’s Visit to China!  It was an absurdity from beginning to end, from the media coverage to serious questions like currency and human rights.  Let’s begin with the media coverage.  Cries of “censorship” went up in the Western media on Obama’s first day in China.(1)  The offense in this case was that Obama’s speech and Q&A to University students in Shanghai was “only” carried on local TV in full, with the national TV  coverage “only” showing excerpts.  (The viewers in Shanghai were remarkably few; Obama’s well-oiled routine was unable to compete with a rousing game of Mahjong or some bracing Tai Chi.) 

Now consider for a moment what the Western media is asking for here.  In the first place, the US networks did not carry Obama’s speech “only” showing a few seconds of excerpts.  But think a little more – let your mind wander far back into the distant mists of history, apparently inaccessible to the Western media:  April, 2006, to be exact.  At that time Hu Jintiao, President of China then and now, visited the US.  He too gave a speech to University Students, at Yale University – which was not carried in full on the national US networks!  Blatant censorship, of the most cunning and devious sort, without a doubt.  In fact this writer does not even recall excerpts appearing on network news. I would wager that even New Haven TV did not carry the full speech.  Nor do I recall that the U.S. government or any major news agency offered a streaming account in real time over the Internet as done in China.  Double standard anyone?  In fact no foreign visitor, not even the Prime Minister of the mother country, Israel, not even the Pope is given that privilege in the US.  Why should a US President visiting China be accorded this very unusual exposure?  What is the assumption here?  Is it that the US President is emperor of the world. The Chinese apparently do not think so nor does most of the planet, but the Western media seems to assume it.  That media looks pretty silly to anyone who gives it a moment’s thought.

Next came the fact that the Chinese students were apparently “screened,” although I do not know the evidence for that.  But has anyone considered that there are a number of reasons for such selection?  There is a growing nationalism among a segment of Chinese youth, many of whom are fed up with the condescending and hostile attitude of the US, the West and Japan toward China.  Obama was spared their questions – for better or worse.

The students were polite.  Consider again President Hu’s visit to the US.  His press conference with Bush was interrupted by the shouts of a protester from the nutty cult of Falun Gong who disrupted the proceedings.  How she gained a press pass to the proceedings remains a mystery to this day – especially since she had a record of interrupting high Chinese officials visiting abroad.   The Chinese also asked that Hu’s visit be an official state visit, and they wished for an official state dinner such as will be given to the Indian PM in the US in a few days.  Both requests were refused and the visit was only accorded the status of a “working meeting.”  In many ways Hu was not only “censored” by the standards of the Western media as applied to Obama in China – but downright “insulted.”  Are not Americans ashamed of this?

In fact I am suspicious that claims of “censorship” in China are vastly exaggerated.  On a recent visit, I went into the lobby of a hotel at which I was staying which had free wireless and a coffee shop/restaurant/bar.  Anyone could use the wireless there if he or she bought a cup of coffee or tea.  Chinese were wandering in from the street all the time.  There I searched the Internet for a number of items that I assumed would be banned – including National Review, New York Times, CounterPunch (of course), Washington Post, and many other things like “Tank Man,” Tiananmen and on and on.  I got full coverage of each of these items – including YouTube coverage of Tank Man, the lone student who stopped the tanks in Tiananmen Square in China.  So perhaps we need to examine more closely the question of censorship in China and no longer take the mainstream media’s word for it.

Human Rights.  The hectoring of the Chinese on human rights by Obama was downright comical.  I know full well that there are abuses of human rights in China, although I do not know the extent and seriousness of them.  But for Obama, the Torturer in Chief, the Commandant of extraordinary renditions, the Overseer of the CIA’s black prisons, the Suspender of habeas corpus, the Funder of the Gazan atrocities, to lecture others on such matters is the height of absurdity and hypocrisy.  And although Obama was not so foolish as to meet the Dalai Lama in person (not yet at least), how silly it is for the US to choose as a representative of human rights a theocrat who ruled over a society of serfs and oppressed women.   A fancy golden robe is not enough to cover that up.

Currency.  On the first day of Obama’s visit Fed Chief Ben Bernanke gave a talk before a large group of Wall St. “financiers,” aka banksters, covered on the front page of the NYT, in which he promised a strong dollar. (3)  A strong dollar is crucial to this criminal class, which has visited more pain than usual on the American people recently, because it is the key to their power and that of their Imperium.  They can have Bernanke print money and it has value throughout the world for this reason.   But there was quite a different message being conveyed to Main St.  All quarters of the punditry from Paul Krugman on down screamed for the Chinese to increase the value of the yuan.  Such an upgrade supposedly translates into an ability of Americans to export to China.  But a stronger yuan means a weaker dollar.

And in this double-talk there is little doubt that the decision will be made as the banksters command.  It is that simple; we all know who runs the show after the federal bailout of the banksters at the considerable expense of all others.  (And as Paul Craig Roberts also points out, the exports from China back to the US are quite often those of American-owned factories.  These American capitalists like the banksters to whom Bernanke spoke, some of them one and the same, are not going to opt for a stronger yuan and weaker dollar.)

Obama looked quite silly and weak in his Beijing appearance.  He was all bluster and PR, and the Chinese were all business.  The US President did not appear to be a serious man.  And the Western media looked worse.  Shame on them.  Shame on us for tolerating them.

JOHN V. WALSH can be reached at john.endwar@gmail.com

1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8363669.stm
This example comes from the BBC, certainly not usually considered a wooly corner of the Western media, but the very restrained, understated British variety.  Notice that the inset to this piece shows that the Chinese newspapers treated Obama well,
 2. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8363260.stm
This writer’s experience is that as long as mutually beneficial economic projects can be joined, the average Chinese is able to forgive and forget the depredations visited upon China by Japan in WW2 and the US in its support of Chiang Kai-shek.   The West would do well to build upon this as Japan seems bent on doing – and soon.



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Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Roberts’ How the Economy Was Lost is now available from CounterPunch in electronic format. His latest book is The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.

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