Michael Sainsbury, China correspondent for national Australian broadsheet The Australian, further reported just how skewed China’s domestic coverage of the trip has been.
After yesterday’s meeting between the two presidents, Chinese media pitched the two countries very much as equals despite the US economy being four times larger and its military vastly more powerful.
“China and the United States agreed Wednesday to jointly establish co-operative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit,” state-run Xinhua said. Reports focused on scripted comments from Mr Hu, relegating limited quotes from US President Barack Obama to the end of their stories.
One Xinhua headline read: “President Hu says important consensus reached in talks with Obama”, and another: “Obama says US welcomes China’s peaceful rise.”
Sainsbury explains that “only a handful of major media outlets, such as the People’s Daily and state run CCTV, are allowed to make their own reports on the Chinese leader’s activities—the rest must use Xinhua copy,” and noted that “no Chinese-language reports” carried Hu’s comments on human rights.
The Guardian’s Tania Branigan has a similar report, writing:
The Xinhua state news agency reported the Chinese president’s comments on human rights from the press conference, where he said China “is always committed to protection and promotion of human rights and has made enormous progress in this regard”. But the story appeared to be buried on news websites. There was no mention of the question that prompted the president’s reply or of the US president’s comments.
Branigan then went on:
Residents in Beijing said screens went blank when BBC and CNN broadcasts - available in some hotels and upmarket apartment complexes—discussed human rights and protests.
Many in China were keen to discuss Barack Obama’s remarks and the fact he raised the case of the jailed Nobel peace prize winner, Liu Xiaobo.
On Twitter—blocked in China but accessed by some users including many activists—one widely retweeted comment read: “American officials say Obama has raised the Liu Xiaobo issue with Hu and Obama reiterated that freedom of speech is a universal right. But the official refused to say how Hu answered the question.”
Bravo to the press corps for prying their admission out of Hu, regardless of who may have heard it. We will keep an eye on any reports of how the Chinese press covers today’s likely more volatile meeting between Hu and congressional leaders.