Despite this being the meeting between both partners in the world’s most important bilateral relationship, Xi found himself the loser in the battle for media coverage amid a visit by the Pope, a diplomatic battle with Putin and Trump’s bellicose rhetoric.
While Chinese officials must have been hoping to present Xi as a popular and lovable world leader, softening China’s image in the American consciousness (there was talk of him attending an NFL game in New York), his visit failed to capture the popular imagination.
According to a report by the Financial Times, between September 20 to September 27, the Pope was mentioned nearly 21 times more frequently than Xi on television, with Time Warner Cable even launching a 24-hour channel devoted to his visit. No such luck for the Chinese president.
Research by media analysis group MediaMiser also found that the Pope was mentioned five times as often in print and three times as often in online articles.
While Xi did have some success in knocking Donald Trump off the the television for several days, he completely lost out to the presidential hopeful on Twitter, on which Xi’s visit barely registered.
At the UN General Assembly on September 27, Xi found himself speaking in between Mr Obama and Mr Putin, with his speech failing to get the attention it deserved amid the US-Russian tensions on display
The reception by media in the US is in sharp contrast to the blanket coverage he enjoyed back in China which emphasized the shows of respect Xi has been treated to in Seattle and then Washington.
Chinese officials were quick to play down any suggestion that the Pope had eclipsed Xi’s visit: “The pope’s visit, we noticed that and that … he is welcomed by the public. His visit has his own bearing here. President Xi’s visit has its own bearing,” said Chinese delegation spokesman Lu Kang.