Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's visit to the United States heralded a shift in public opinion of China's leaders in the American mainstream media, an international relations expert said Thursday in Beijing.
Zhu Feng, deputy director of the Center for International & Strategic Studies at Peking University, speaks at a seminar on the 40th Anniversary of the Shanghai Communiqué sponsored by China.org.cn in Beijing, Feb. 23, 2012. [Chen Boyuan/China.org.cn]
A self-proclaimed fan of NBA basketball and American movies, Xi watched an NBA game between the Lakers and the Phoenix Suns, and also visited Hollywood during his trip to Los Angeles. He also had tea with an American family he had known for the last 27 years in Muscatine, Iowa, whom he met when he visited the town as a provincial official.
Zhu said that Xi's visit carried the message to the American people that Chinese people love and respect American culture. From his actions, one can tell that Xi clearly understands American culture, he said.
"Xi has brought the cultural exchanges to a new height," Zhu said. "High level Chinese and American officials started their active interactions in cultural area instead of just some simple encounters."
Former U.S. President Richard Nixon's visit to China was of strategic importance because it meant the world's largest capitalist country was reaching out to the largest socialist country, Zhu said. Likewise, Xi's visit was all about the basic interests of the Chinese and American people, and about their basic lives, he said.
During his visit, Xi emphasized that importation of inexpensive goods from China has saved US consumers over US$600 billion, which has helped the American people improve their real spending power and living standards. Xi also announced that China will import another 14 Hollywood films. Also, six Chinese business delegations signed 149 contracts and cooperation agreements worth US$38.6 billion, including deals for purchasing U.S. goods and equipment totaling US$27 billion.
While Nixon's visit to China was a breakthrough in China-U.S. diplomatic relations, Xi's trip focused on more down to earth issues, Zhu said.
"Today economic issues are our top concern," Zhu said. "And what we care most is what the two nations ought to do to complement each other in improving their people's lives."
Major American media gave wide and timely reports of Xi's visit. The Washington Post started warm-up reports a week before his visit. Zhu, who was in the U.S. at the time of Xi's visit, also noticed that both CNN and Fox News broadcasted updates on his activities during the prime time news hour.
An additional benefit of Xi's visit is that it has encouraged the American media to increase their reporting about China, which in turn will help Americans have a better understanding of the world's most populous country, Zhu said.