Long on rhetoric, but short on practical steps?
The World News Journal thought that the “opportunities for engagement” between the two countries were increasingly “rich and stable”.
But Xinhua, like most of the Chinese press, preferred to highlight the parts of the discussions that focused on “respecting Chinese territorial integrity”.
It noted too that there would be another round of “dialogue” on human rights, but that this week’s meetings had “underlined” that each country had the right to choose its own path.
Not exactly a redux of Nixon’s breakthrough visit in 1972, thought the Wall Street Journal, and AFP agreed that Obama couldn’t work his normal magic amid the media censorship and “staid diplo-speak.”
But the president seems to have hit at least one home run, by holding his own umbrella in a Shanghai downpour. This impressed many Chinese viewers, more accustomed to the umbrella-holding flunkeys accompanying their own top officials. “Why don’t we learn from the spirit of umbrella-holding by Obama?” enquired one blogger. “The United States is not a heaven, nor is it a hell.”
Still, the trip marked a change in the tone of relations?
The Beijing Legal Times was confident that a new era had begun, with a “decisive role” for China in US affairs. “For the first time in US history”, crowed the China Daily in an opinion piece, “an American president appears willing to listen to the voices of the other nations.”
Previously contentious issues (such as exchange rates) seemed to be downplayed, China Business noted. ChinaStakes.com was a little more complimentary, praising the president’s easy charm. But it couldn’t have been an easy trip for a man “shadowed by the cold, hard reality of the US economy.”
In 1998, when Bill Clinton stood before television cameras in the Great Hall of the People, the US owed more money to Spain than to China, sighed the Washington Post. The changing power dynamic was evident in the markedly “conciliatory and sometimes laudatory tone” from the US delegation.
Still, the band of the People’s Liberation Army did its best to lift American spirits at the Tuesday night banquet. Hu, Obama and guests were serenaded with a selection including Wonderful Tonight, We Are the World and I Just Called to Say I Love You. It all had the “whiff of a karaoke playbook,” reported the Reuters correspondent.
What happens next?
The Changjiang Times thinks Obama’s foreign policy is starting to take shape, and that a positioning of China as a “friendly competitor” is fair enough.
But it’s all rather complex, complained the Wuhan Evening News. In some cases bilateral cooperation is essential, as the two sides’ interests are “inseparable”. But tensions seem inevitable too; while the US is currently the global leader, China is “widely considered the most likely to become the country with leading capacities”.
Many Western analysts thought the most significant comments of the week came before Obama had arrived on Chinese soil, courtesy of banking regulator Liu Mingkang. Liu spoke out against the falling dollar and low US interest rates, warning that this was creating “unavoidable risks” in the global economy.
But Forbes magazine thought Liu would have to grin and bear it: a cheaper currency boosts US exports and the Fed won’t raise rates at the risk of choking the economy.
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