With many in China angered by the perceived arrogance by officials toward the tragic Wenzhou high-speed rail crash, some have held up recent actions by visiting U.S. officials as demonstrating humility by the powerful and elite. First, a photo of new U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke holding a backpack and getting his own coffee with his daughter has gotten a lot of attention. From the BBC:
It was Mr Locke’s arrival in China that started the debate.
After being photographed at the airport in Seattle ordering coffee with his young daughter, the new ambassador arrived in Beijing at the weekend.
His family carried their own bags from the airport and were then driven away in a minivan.
Chen Weihua, writing in the China Daily, said that while to most Americans this would not be out of the ordinary, to Chinese people “the scene was so unusual it almost defied belief”.
“In China even a township chief, which is not really that high up in the hierarchy, will have a chauffeur and a secretary to carry his bag,” he said in an editorial headlined “Backpack makes a good impression”.
Then visiting Vice President Joe Biden ate a cheap meal at a simple restaurant after meeting with China’s heir apparent, Xi Jinping. From the same BBC story:
The debate continued when Mr Biden, who is paying a five-day official visit to China, ate noodles and dumplings at a family-run restaurant after his talks with Vice-President Xi Jinping.
Netizens reported that his bill came to $13 (£8), and compared it with the more lavish meals enjoyed by top leaders.
On his blog, the New Yorker’s Evan Osnos writes about another reason Chinese citizens are lauding Biden:
At the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner a couple of years ago, the Chinese-American comedian Joe Wong, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, earned a standing ovation for some good-natured swipes at Vice-President Joe Biden, who was in black tie nearby. (In preparation for the gig, Wong told the crowd, he’d read Biden’s memoir. Beat. But compared to meeting him in person, “I think the book is much better.”)
Biden howled—and he may be surprised to hear that the memory of that reaction could serve him well this week, when he touches down on Wednesday in Beijing for an official visit. Anticipating his arrival, some Chinese commentators recalled the gig and gave the Vice-President high marks for laughing at himself, which, they point out, is not a trait widely shared by China’s top brass.