Ying Chan: Obama Loses a Round (Updated)

Ying Chan, director of the Journalism and Media Studies Center at The University of Hong Kong, writes an op-ed in the New York Times about the images portrayed during President Obama’s visit to China last week:

While the jury is still out on what President Obama’s China visit has achieved for the long term, the president has most decidedly lost the war of symbolism in his first close encounter with China.

[…] The final image of President Obama in China that circulated around the world is telling: A lone man walking up the steep slope of the Great Wall. The picture is in stark contrast to those of other U.S. presidents who had their photographs taken at the Great Wall surrounded by flag-waving children or admiring citizens. Maybe Mr. Obama wanted a quiet moment for himself before returning home. But a president’s first visit to the wall is a ritual that needs to be properly framed. Mr. Obama could have waited until the next visit, when he could bring the first lady and the children. Instead, he went ahead by himself to pay tribute to China’s ancient culture. In return, the Chinese offered nothing, no popular receptions, not even the companionship of a senior Chinese leader.

See also Ying Chan’s piece for China Media Project, “Obama in China: an information war behind the scenes.”


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