Obama charisma? China keeps it in tight check.
On first Obama trip to China, the message is clear: This is about China's rise, not Obama popularity.
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Hu doesn't warm to spontaneitySkip to next paragraph
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Mr. Hu, however, generally seems highly uncomfortable on the rare occasions on which he is shown talking to ordinary people. So uneasy is he with unscripted public events that he has reversed the policy of predecessors such as Jiang Zemin and Deng Xiaoping, and does not give press conferences. Tuesday's "joint press conference" with Obama was in fact simply an opportunity for the two leaders to read prepared comments. No questions from the assembled journalists were permitted under rules the Chinese hosts imposed.
White House officials say they did not push to give their boss the kind of opportunities for public interaction in China that he has relished elsewhere.
"Once we had internally settled on wanting to do a town hall [meeting], that is the only outreach event we discussed and worked out with the Chinese hosts," said a senior administration official.
A carefully screened 'town hall'
Asked whether the Chinese side had deliberately curtailed Obama's chances of showing how popular he is here, deputy Foreign Minister He Yafei insisted that "Obama's agenda was agreed by both sides," and that the town-hall event in Shanghai on Monday offered the US leader an opportunity for "exchange with the Chinese public."
That meeting, with about 400 students, was televised only on local TV, however, and only around 7,000 people in China managed to log on to the live streamed version carried on the Internet, according to ConnectSolutions, the firm that helped the State Department organize the webcast.
The US president has one more chance to make his views known to a wider audience than the senior officials with whom he has scheduled meetings on Wednesday. He will be giving an interview to Southern Weekly, one of the bolder Chinese newspapers that has regularly clashed with the authorities, in what is clearly a sign of US support for a freer flow of information in China.