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Ordinary Chinese Wait For Obama's Deeds, Not Words

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Ordinary Chinese Wait For Obama's Deeds, Not Words


Ordinary Chinese Wait For Obama's Deeds, Not Words

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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President Obamas visit to China this week is the first time the Chinese people have had a chance to get a close look at the American president. In many parts of the world, Mr. Obamas arrival has been greeted with rock star receptions. The Chinese have been more subdued, even a little wary. NPRs Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing.

ANTHONY KUHN: One of President Obama's main messages on this trip is that the U.S. does not seek to contain China or force its values on it. Many Chinese welcome that message, but they don't necessarily trust it. Beijing resident Hu Balking(ph) stops to comment as he exits a bookstore. He says the presidents humble approach is a shift in tactics, not aims.

Mr. HU BALKING: (Through translator) This humility is kind of posed. Of course, as Americas president, you have to protect American interests. And I suspect that could harm Chinas interests. For example, he slapped high duties on imports from China, and this has had a big impact on us.

KUHN: Beijing-based blogger Rao�Jin acknowledges that President Obama is charismatic, but he sees little difference between President Obamas China policies and those of his predecessor.

Mr. RAO�JIN (Blogger): (Through translator) Chinese peoples opinion of him will only change when he does things that bring substantial benefits to U.S.-China relations, such as refusing to meet with the Dalai Lama, stop taking protectionist trade measures and stop selling arms to separatist forces such as Taiwan.

KUHN: Last year, Rao Jin founded Anti-CNN, a Web site devoted to exposing perceived bias in Western media reports about China. The U.S. embassy in Beijing invited Rao to blog yesterdays town hall live, but Chinese organizers had already picked the audience and Rao didn't get in. Rao argues that President Obamas use of the Internet has won him many online fans in China. But, he says, he has also created unrealistic expectations of a more friendly United States.

Mr. JIN: (Through translator) When these fans discover that he can't make good on his promises, the mood on the Internet could coalesce very quickly and turn into a force against him.

KUHN: One online survey by the Global Times newspaper showed that 86 percent of respondents were indifferent to Obamas visit, while 46 percent said they disliked the U.S. president. The Global Times is known as a nationalist tabloid, but the poll still suggests a big change since the end of last year, when an online poll by the China Daily newspaper found 75 percent support for President Obama.

Other Chinese, meanwhile, had hoped that President Obama would raise the human rights issue more forcefully with the Chinese government. Pu Zhiqiang is a Beijing-based civil rights lawyer.

Mr. Pu Zhiqiang (Civil Rights Attorney): (Through translator) I can't say that I don't feel any sense of loss. Over the past decade, Ive had to convince myself not to hope that external forces can change China.

KUHN: Pu is particularly critical of the highly stage-managed town hall events.

Mr. ZHIQIANG: (Through translator) This kind of event does not represent the thinking of Chinas youth. Its the same as previous visits to China by American presidents. This sort of rehearsed performance is disrespectful to our guests and deceitful towards our own people.

KUHN: Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.

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