Earlier today, at the World Economic Forum in Dalian, the ever so smug and smart-alecky CCTV host Rui Chenggang (芮成钢), successfully put himself in the limelight once more by asking US Ambassador to China Gary Locke, “I hear you flew here coach. Is that a reminder that US owes China money?”
Locke replied by saying that economy class was standard practise for all diplomatic staff of US embassies and consulates, as well as for members of the President’s cabinet.
“As a very easy-going person, I believe I’m a good representative of the way Americans do things,” added Locke. “I hope this type of openness will help Chinese and Americans to better understand each other, to break down walls, and to dispel misunderstandings, even though we may have cultural, political, economic and philosophical differences.” [Note: This has been translated from Caijing as English transcripts are not yet available]
Locke also expressed surprise at the media attention he has received for the picture of him buying his own coffee at the Seattle Airport that went viral on the internet. “I had no idea somebody was there taking my picture. When I touched down in Beijing, the media were all there waiting at the airport. I was very surprised because we had not told them which flight I’d be on and when I’d be arriving.”
Responding on his own Sina Weibo profile later in the day, Rui said, “Gary Locke is always making use of whatever opportunities he has to promote American values — only highlighting the positive aspects of the United States and ignoring its negative aspects. That’s his job. Of all the people that have ever served as the US Ambassador to China, he’s probably the one that’s most open to revealing himself, and the one best at doing so. From the haversack to the coffee to the coach and the economy class, he has cleverly used all of the photo opportunities available to him. He’s been a governor before, he knows how to handle the media.”
Rui Chenggang first caught public attention in 2007 when he raised a storm in a coffee cup by calling upon Starbucks to vacate its premises in the Forbidden City. Having a Starbucks in the Forbidden City, he wrote on his blog, “undermines the Forbidden City’s solemnity” and is “an insult to Chinese civilisation”. Rui’s blogpost attracted half a million hits within two days, and swiftly led to the ousting of Starbucks from the Forbidden City. The store was eventually occupied by a Chinese teahouse that hardly attracted any patrons.
Last year at the G20 summit in Seoul, Rui shot to international infamy for claiming to be able to “represent the entire Asia” when President Obama specifically asked for questions from the Korean media.