Presidential visit treated in low-key way

The Chinese government likes to bring out top helmer Zhang Yimou when it has major political events to choreograph, but the “Red Sorghum” director was absent when U.S. President Obama made his maiden voyage to China.Zhang would certainly have injected more life into what turned out to be a rather reserved visit by the president.

China is the biggest buyer of Treasury bonds, making it America’s biggest creditor, which means Obama was always at a disadvantage when it came to pressing home the issues dear to his heart. After all, it’s not good politics to be overly critical of your biggest lender.

Obama made his point about human rights, Tibet, freedom of speech and other areas where China and the United States have agreed to disagree. He did not appear to mention piracy or copyright issues, and the pirate DVD shops and sellers on the street sold their wares only furtively — Hollywood is one of the United States’ biggest exporters and no one wants a reminder that intellectual property theft is a big business in many parts of China.

While the president was in China, both Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk addressed the American Chamber of Commerce-People’s Republic of China members, and U.S. companies were hoping for more help from Washington in combating intellectual property theft. Piracy remains a major stumbling block in relations between Beijing and Washington and is one of the key reasons Hollywood is less than enthusiastic about going all-out to build a presence in China.

The reaction to Obama’s visit on the Internet has been mixed.

“Don’t attach great importance to Obama’s China visit. American people always view their interests as their priority,” wrote Gao Peiyu, from Liaoning province, on Sina.com.

“I think Obama is very charming. I like him very much. I understand the trade conflicts between China and the U.S. Obama is trying to fight for the interests of his country. His speeches are humorous and polite, much better than some boring speech! I support Obama!,” wrote Hua Yi from Chongqing in southwest China.

Generally, young people in China seem fond of Obama.

“Even though sometimes I don’t fully understand what he says, I can still feel his passion and enthusiasm. He is a new idol in this world. I hope the relationship between China and the U.S. can be friendly and peaceful. But it seems very hard. I basically don’t care about politics,” says Zhang Zhenli, 26, who works for the government.

The proceedings probably could have done with Zhang’s guiding hand, as there was little sign of chemistry between Obama and China’s leaders, including President Hu Jintao. However, despite the lack of warmth, the visit did underline the increasingly close links between the two countries. And Obama certainly cut quite a figure on the Great Wall in his leather jacket.

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