Well, President Obama’s first trip to China is now officially over. A lot of things happened, a lot of people talked about it, but nothing too groundbreaking occurred. Obama seemed to have a good trip: he visited famous Chinese landmarks, met with his brother, even talked a bit of politics along the way. But a lot of us were ultimately left with a feeling something like disappointment: for various reasons, the mythic qualities of the American president were overwhelmed by the totalizing nature of China and Chinese politics.
In any case, the media has been struggling to put it all together, trying hard to draw some sort of conclusion to the whole affair. We understand: now that it’s over, it’s time for some closure. Here’s a breakdown of what’s being said around the ‘net:
- The New Yorker’s “Letter From China” correspondent Evan Osnos tried to see the light in Obama’s pleas for human rights: “After a half-day of private meetings between Obama, Hu, and aides, Jeff Bader, the senior director for Asian affairs at the national security council took pains to stake his name on the fact that human rights did not get shortchanged. “I’ve been involved in the China relationship for over thirty years,” he said, “and I’ve been on previous presidential visits, visits by secretaries of state to China. This was as direct a discussion on human rights as I’ve seen by any high-level visitor with the Chinese.”
- Mike Whitney of counterpunch.org saw through the formalities of economic discussions to the “real” reasons behind the trip. “Summary: Geithner and Co. see the US economy languishing in a low-grade Depression for the foreseeable future. Thus, Wall Street is planning a major shift in its base-of-operations to Asia. This is the real reason behind Obama’s trip to China. There’s no truth to the rumor that US policymakers give a hoot about “currency manipulation” or the ongoing trouncing of the American worker. China’s “dollar-peg” essentially serves the interests of the giant multinational corporations and Wall Street speculators who own the media, the courts, the congress, the White House and most of the country.”
- The Dalai Lama was pleased with Obama’s handing of the issue of Tibet, saying that he understood “that ‘limits’ existed beyond which the US is not able express itself on the Tibetan issue”
- The American Chronicle has a hilarious satirical write up of the tensions between the two leaders, and the awkward, symbolic things that may or may not have happened: “Obama committed another faux pas during dinner when he told Hu “I like the Lama.” Admiration for the Dalai Lama, Tibet´s spiritual leader, is strictly taboo in China. When Obama noticed the frown on Hu´s face, he quickly recovered, adding “I like the alpaca, too. My wife has an alpaca sweater.”
- NPR tries to assess the tricky balance between environmental and economic issues that punctuated Obama’s trip, noting that the potential for progress at next month’s climate change conference in Copenhagen seems slim. NPR also has a more overarching assesment of the trip from All Things Considered.
- Time has an article on China’s increasingly deft approach to getting what it wants from the United States while avoiding the responsibilities of international policeman that the US would like to thrust on it.
- Finally, The BBC has some video coverage of Obama’s trip, including a video of the president at the Great Wall. Frankly, we’re distracted by their other videos, specifically “affectionate cat distracts policeman.”
Photo from Time