ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
NPR's Anthony Kuhn joins us from Beijing now, to give us a sense of what people in China are hearing, reading, seeing about President Hu's visit to the United States. Anthony, New York Times headline today about this visit, “Bush and Hu Vow Cooperation, No Progress on Key Issues” and also “Gaffs at Ceremony”. That's one take on what's happened so far. Comparable to what people in China might be seeing in a major newspaper headline about this visit?
Mr. ANTHONY KUHN reporting:
Only as far as the first part is concerned, that is, the two sides vow to increase cooperation. The Chinese media focused very much on Hu's pledge to keep ties between the two countries strong. Remember, now, that coverage of diplomatic events in China focuses very heavily on the protocol, so you don't just get a soundbite of the Chinese National Anthem, you get the whole thing. And so a lot of the coverage was devoted to the honor guard, the 21-gun salute, the dinner, all that sort of thing. Of course, minus the heckler and minus all the other gaffes there. But we get the impression that the Chinese were certainly very hurt, and very disturbed and frustrated at those incidents.
SIEGEL: Let's hear some of those incidents, what Americans heard from the visit. First there was, the moment as President Hu was speaking, when a woman we later learned was 47-year-old Won Wang Yee(ph), a reporter with the newspaper that's said to be allied with Falun Gong, starts heckling him and starts shouting out in the middle of his speech. What we're told in Chinese was President Hu, your days are numbered. President Bush make him stop persecuting Falun Gong.
(Soundbite of Won Wang Yee heckling)
Unidentified Woman: (Speaking Foreign Language)
SIEGEL: People wouldn't have heard that in China as they were seeing this event or hearing it?
KUHN: No they would not have heard a word of it.
SIEGEL: What if they're watching CNN in the hotel? You're watching live coverage of the event at the White House?
KUHN: Then the screen would've gone blank and stayed black for several seconds. That happens a lot when there's something that's related to human rights or particularly the Falun Gong. That is one of the most sensitive spots for the Communist Party here. They are really sworn enemies and they really want to wipe them out.
SIEGEL: And the one dimension of coverage of the Hu visit to Washington was coverage of the quite a few protestors who turned out. In this case outside the White House, who could be heard chanting against the Chinese president.
(Soundbite of protestors)
SIEGEL: I assume they were not featured in Chinese coverage of the trip.
KUHN: No there was no glimpse of people waving Tibetan flags or the human rights activists. That was just completely airbrushed out of the picture.
SIEGEL: And then there was this odd moment when the National Anthems of China and the United States were introduced. And the introducer got the name, the formal name of China just a little bit wrong.
Unidentified Male #1: Ladies and gentlemen, the national anthem of the Republic of China followed by the national anthem of the United States of America.
SIEGEL: It's the Republic of China, not, he didn't say the People's Republic of China.
KUHN: That's right. He should've said the People's Republic of China, instead he said the Republic of China, which is the formal name for Taiwan and which Beijing says has ceased to exist after 1949. After they won the civil war against the nationalists who then retreated to Taiwan. So in China's eyes, that is an insulting sort of gaffe. It's a very serious matter. And had it been heard in China, which it was not, it could've really stoked a nationalist backlash among the people, and could've cost President Hu Jintao a lot of political capital in Beijing.
SIEGEL: Anthony, in the past you've described to us how the curious and technically adept Chinese news consumer might be able to get around, say, censorship on the internet and find out what's being reported elsewhere. In this case, if somebody cared to, could they easily, with the proper equipment, get a fuller account of President Hu's trip to the U.S.?
KUHN: Yes, this material is available on overseas Chinese websites and in the Hong Kong and Taiwan press. And so it will be interesting to see in the next few days how people in China react to these gaffes and whether there is a sort of feeling that Hu was treated poorly or shabbily by his hosts in the U.S.
SIEGEL: Anthony Kuhn thank you very much for talking with us.
KUHN: Thanks Robert.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Anthony Kuhn, our correspondent in Beijing talking about coverage there of the Chinese president's trip to the United States.
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