Odd things happen on China’s internet. A good example: the disappearance earlier this month of a photo showing America’s ‘First Family’ (in it they were watching TV and cheering on the United States women’s football team).
The New York Times says social media sites banned it after netizens forwarded it with a caption joking that even the Obamas were watching Beijing’s military parade on TV – and were delighted by the display.
But what, in fact, was Obama doing when his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping was inspecting the troops earlier this month (see WiC294)?
As it turns out, the president was trekking through the Alaskan wilderness with British TV personality Bear Grylls, a former soldier who now makes his living showing celebrities how to survive from pine cones and elephant dung.
According to media reports in the US, Grylls did a little better with the culinary options for the Obama episode, serving up a salmon carcass previously pawed by a bear.
Obama’s survival special was filmed during a three-day trip to Alaska. He wasn’t the only visitor: five Chinese naval vessels were in waters a mere 12 miles from the Alaskan coast too. Coincidence? “I wouldn’t call this something we are very worried about,” a Pentagon official told the New York Times, adding that American warships often ply routes close to the coast of China.
Back in China the news of the vessels stirred a little patriotic excitement. “Obama didn’t want to attend the parade so we brought our warships to his doorstep,” someone scoffed on weibo.
“It is a reminder to Washington to repay the money we are owed [US Treasuries],” quipped another.
Others, mind you, preferred to compliment the US president for appearing on the survival show. “Obama did great by not being eaten alive by Grandpa Bei [Bear Grylls’ nickname in China],” one fan suggested.
“Look, Obama is preparing the state banquet for President Xi’s visit,” another joked about the salmon feast.
The Alaskan adventure with Obama looks like a perfect marketing stunt for Grandpa Bei’s business in China too. In mid-October Grylls will bring Survivor Games to Chinese television. A collaboration between state giant Shanghai Media Group and the Discovery Channel, the series will be similar to Running Wild with Bear Grylls with former Olympic gold medallist Liu Xiang said to be on the list of invitees, Shanghai Daily reports.
No one held out much hope that Xi Jinping might be tempted to copy his American counterpart and join Grylls on a wilderness adventure.
“Xi might go fishing with Putin, but never with Grandpa Bei,” was the verdict of one netizen.
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