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By Ben Blanchard
BEIJING, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Chinese media praised President Hu Jintao’s visit to the United States on Friday as a diplomatic “masterstroke” in easing tensions, but reports largely ignored thornier questions of currency and human rights.
State television news channels gave blanket coverage of the ceremony of Hu’s state dinner and welcome at the White House, in a reflection of China’s desire for its leader to be portrayed as a valued and honoured player on the world stage.
The usually nationalistic tabloid the Global Times, not known for kind words towards the United States, praised the trip as an “important contribution towards world peace”, but some bloggers questioned Sino-U.S. relations, which have been also strained over issues ranging from U.S. arms sales to Taiwan to China’s control of the Internet.
“The world should applaud Hu Jintao’s trip to the United States and the outstanding foresight of Chinese and American leaders,” the Global Times wrote in an editorial. “China’s and the U.S. attitude has set aside numerous fears in the Asia-Pacific region.”
The official Xinhua news agency said the visit was “a historic masterstroke of China-U.S. diplomacy with global significance”.
While Hu’s awkward answer to reporters’ questions about human rights was essentially ignored by Chinese media — hardly a surprise in a country that carefully stage-manages its leaders’ public image — there was some oblique reference to currency issues.
Hu did not publicly address this issue, which has angered many U.S. lawmakers, who argue that China keeps its yuan weak to boost exports, costing millions of U.S. jobs and increasing a trade gap that Washington puts at $270 billion.
Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily said in a front page commentary on its overseas edition that the United States also had an obligation towards its own currency, especially as China is the world’s largest holder of U.S. government debt.
“As the issuer of the world’s main reserve currency, the United States should adopt a responsible attitude and maintain reasonable stability in the supply of the U.S. dollar, avoid the misuse of the dollar causing global inflation, economic imbalances and upheavals in financial markets,” it wrote.
Chinese bloggers for their part questioned who would pay for the $45 billion in deals signed and criticised President Barack Obama for treating Hu as a “god of wealth”, even as China struggles with inflation and widespread poverty.
“I was so angry when I listened to the news of Boss Hu’s visit this morning. Obama treated Hu as the god of wealth, but Hu cannot think like that,” wrote one user on Sina.com’s popular microblogging site. “Is there any god of wealth whose family is so poor or CPI (consumer price index) so high?”
“The Yankees are happy to have won this $45 billion order, but I’m wondering if this is money I have paid as tax,” wrote another.
The Global Times, which is run by the People’s Daily, also cautioned against excessive optimism following the visit.
“President Obama said that the ‘U.S. welcomes China’s rise’. This message has not been widely accepted in the United States. The acceptance and judgment of China’s rise in the United States will largely decide the direction of Sino-U.S. relations.”
Relations between China and the United States last year were strained over territorial issues such as the U.S. arms sales to self-ruled Taiwan, an island China considers its own, a meeting between Obama and the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing reviles as a separatist, and differing claims to parts of the South China Sea.
The two countries clashed over human rights, the value of China’s currency, trade, investment rules and the Chinese regulatory environment, especially control of the Internet.
The United States has also pushed China to be tougher in helping to rein in Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programmes. (Additional reporting by Michael Martina, Simon Rabinovitch and Sabrina Mao; Editing by Nick Macfie)