Western media hypes small quarrels into big stories

Source:Globaltimes.cn Published: 2016/9/5 19:50:09

The skirmishes occurring between Chinese and US officials when US President Barack Obama arrived in Hangzhou for G20 summit on Saturday have been exaggerated by some US officials and attracted undue attention from some Western media outlets, which has dismayed Chinese netizens and observers who see it as fresh evidence of arrogance and enormous ego of some in the West.

According to reports, an exchange of words took place on the tarmac as soon as Air Force One arrived in Hangzhou on Saturday. Obama's National Security Advisor Susan Rice had a little quarrel as she crossed a media line and was stopped by a Chinese official from walking to the US motorcade. An argument also purportedly happened later over US press access to the venue of Obama's meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Besides, Obama was seen to have left his plane from a rarely used alternative exit, though an anonymous Chinese foreign ministry official told the South China Morning Post that it was the US side that had turned down the Chinese provision of rolling staircase.  

Although in their bilateral talks Xi and Obama reached a long list of outcomes in a wide range of fronts such as economy, security and climate change, the achievements didn't seem to be as intriguing as the tiff for the Western media which immediately read a lot into it. 

The Guardian used the headline "Barack Obama 'deliberately snubbed' by Chinese in chaotic arrival at G20,"and quoted experts accusing China of deliberately arranging a welcome that made "the Americans look diminished and weak." Reuters wrote that the row at the Hangzhou airport is "an awkward start" for the US and China, while The Washington Post said explicitly that the spats is "a fitting reflection of how the relationship between these two world powers has become frayed and fraught with frustration." These do represent the views of many foreign media. 

But this is unacceptable for some Chinese netizens. "Your plane lands on our Chinese territory. You have to follow our rules. The US has been so arrogant,"commented one netizen. "US security guards even checked the airport ground before Obama's plane landed. Isn't your president's safety that Chinese officials also tried to ensure?" wrote another one. 

Some in the US still consider their country superior to other countries and the most important player in G20. And with unreasonable reports, the US media wants to put the US above others in the summit, Li Haidong, a professor with the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Sunday. "But these media outlets totally disregard China's efforts in security precautions for such a huge gathering and constructive role in advancing its relations with US, and instead aggressively make a fuss of the spats. They are muddying the water," he added.

Zhang Jiadong, a professor with the Center for American Studies, Fudan University, thinks differently. For China, security precautions are also part of state sovereignty and it cannot subscribe to every demand of other countries. China surely respects Obama, but it has to make some relevant adjustments and the row may be triggered by different ideas of staff from the two countries on some details, Zhang told the Global Times. 

"Actually, diplomatic skirmishes as happened between China and US at the G20 are nothing unusual (at major events) and we shouldn't read too much into it."

Unlike the media excited about hyping the story, Obama appeared willing to downplay the disagreement. At a press conference later, he asked not to "overcrank the significance" of the row and said that such thing often happen as the size of the US delegation could be "a little overwhelming."    

"Western reporters seized the quarrel between Chinese and US officials to link the small row with the big picture of Sino-US relations. They are always good at it," Yang Xiyu, a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times.

"The arguments over security precautions actually reflect the conflicts between China's idea of security first and US perception of media access as a priority," Yang said, adding that the spat is no barometer for China-US relations, yet the extent of the coverage does show some tensions in bilateral ties.

Posted in: Diplomacy

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