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Chinese summit coverage focuses on 'new relationship,' not hacking

June 08, 2013|By Barbara Demick

BEIJING -- Chinese media coverage of the two-day summit between President Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping has glossed over cyber hacking concerns, clearly not an issue that Beijing wishes to emphasize.

Instead, Chinese commentary is stressing the need for the two nations to forge a “new relationship’’ -- a phrase officials here used repeatedly in advance of the summit.

"Not to deny each other’s legitimate interests and to cooperate as much as possible in ways that will promote our mutual interests," is how Shen Dingli, an American studies professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University defined it. The two countries "should not deny each other’s social systems. [The U.S.] should not tell us how to govern."

The two presidents are meeting this weekend in Rancho Mirage and White House aides have indicated that cyber security would be high on the agenda of the meetings as a result of allegations that China has spied on U.S. government entities and private companies.

In an editorial on Saturday, the Global Times, which is closely tied to the Chinese Communist Party, observed that China’s gross domestic product is expected to exceed the United States’ by the end of Xi's decadelong term in office.

In foreign policy, Beijing’s most immediate worry is that the United States will support its neighbors -- particularly Japan and the Philippines -- in increasingly pitched disputes over territorial waters. Although Hillary Rodham Clinton, before resigning as secretary of State, promised U.S. neutrality, Xi is thought to be planning to press Obama for more explicit assurances.

Many Chinese believe Washington's plans to focus further on Asia is meant as a containment policy to thwart their country's ambitions.

"What will happen when a rising power and a great power encounter one another?" began an editorial in Saturday’s Global Times. "The U.S. is trying its best to maintain its status quo, in order to retain its hegemony. China has entered the international order in which Western countries prevail, but is accumulating its strength peacefully .... It is eager to become a world power under the rules approved by Western countries."

On the evening news Saturday, Chinese state television lavished considerable footage on the pomp and protocol of the meeting, showing their president animatedly chatting with Obama. Noticeably absent from the coverage was Xi’s wife, Peng Liyuan --- perhaps to avoid embarrassment over the fact that First Lady Michelle Obama did not attend.

Chinese foreign policy experts are upset about the absence, which they regard as a deliberate snub.

"We are hurt. The Chinese first lady would not have come if she knew Michelle would not come," said Shen. “China has a long history of civilization and knows about courtesy, and this in our view was not hospitable behavior."

Chinese media also appeared skittish about a photograph that had appeared earlier in the trip which showed Peng taking a picture with her iPhone, especially in light of the revelations of an espionage program in which such devices were used for intelligence. On the Chinese Internet on Saturday, searches for “Peng Liyuan and iPhone” were blocked by censors.

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