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US newspapers should stop bashing China

By Patrick Mattimore (people.com.cn)
Updated: 2010-04-16 10:12
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US President Barack Obama told Zhang Yesui, China's new Ambassador to the US, that the President is determined to improve his country's relationship with China. Despite some warming of relations between the two countries in recent days, President Obama should start by reviewing just how nasty and unfounded US rhetoric towards China has become.

A good place for America's President to begin his enquiry is with some of the editorial pages from America's leading newspapers. The top five newspapers according to circulation numbers are: "The Wall Street Journal, (WSJ)" "USA Today," (USAT) "The New York Times, (NYT)" the "Los Angeles Times," (LAT) and the "Washington Post," (WP).

Those newspapers consistently bash China. Even a story about the economic success of China's Hainan Island, which appeared in The NYT, characterized the "success" as being emblematic of China's excesses.

Here are some of the other nuggets the newspapers are throwing out lately.

China has an undervalued currency which threatens the world's economy. This recurrent drumbeat is apparently meant to deflect attention from the fact that America's policies precipitated the world's worst financial crisis in seventy years.

China's aid to foreign countries is characterized as a means by which China can exert its influence elsewhere. Whether or not that is so, American foreign aid always comes with strings attached.

A WP columnist wrote recently that in America's intensifying contest with China much of the world is at stake. The author predictably linked many of his "world at stake" references to Soviet-US tensions during the Cold War.

All of the newspapers praised Google's "courageous" decision to stop censoring Internet content in China. That move was characterized as striking a blow for freedom- principled and brave.

Less principled was the newspapers' omission in not publishing financial figures as to the amounts of money that exchanges hands with Google by way of those "powered by Google" ads which appear on their web pages.

One op-ed suggested that China's specialty is masquerading weakness as strength, whatever that means.

A WSJ writer bemoaned his defeat by some Chinese swimmers many years ago and then enigmatically connected his loss to government surveillance today and why foreigners can't win in China.

The most patronizing of the editorials was written by The NYT's Nicholas Kristof. After acknowledging the importance of the relationship between China and the US and opining that it is deteriorating rapidly, Kristof explains why.

According to Kristof, China's leaders have their backs to the wall. They are insecure; trying to protect a system that Kristof believes is beginning to crack because Chinese citizens are becoming annoyed with government censorship, specifically Internet censorship.

Kristof selectively finds an outpouring of support for Google because of the wreaths of flowers left at the company's headquarters. He ignores or possibly doesn't realize that poll after poll of Chinese expressed support for the Government's action and only a minority of citizens are bothered by Google's decision to leave.

In Kristof's view, the decisions by the government to keep the yuan's valuation constant and to force Google to obey its laws are signs of the Government's weakness. From that dubious proposition, Kristof concludes the Government is vulnerable while nevertheless admitting that Americans exaggerate the disaffection of Chinese toward their Government. It certainly appears Kristof is guilty of the same exaggeration.

China bashing has become de rigueur in the US Watching and listening to the behavior and words of American louts and politicians address China is like observing an obnoxious drunk at a party. The drunk has no self-awareness and believes he is infallible. His reasoning is impaired. Unfortunately, he's often a danger to himself and others.

President Obama has his work cut out for him. His ability to lead a once-great country, restore its luster, and mend fences with China will surely be yardsticks upon which the first-term of his Presidency is judged. His recognition that the China fences are in need of repair is an encouraging sign.

The author is a fellow at the American-based Institute for Analytic Journalism.