Why China Thinks Hu Jintao's Visit Was A Success

President Hu Jintao is back in China, after paying a last-day visit to my hometown, Chicago.  On Friday, I went on CCTV News Dialogue to give my perspective on what the trip accomplished.  You can watch the show here.

Prior to Hu’s visit, I appeared on Chinalogue on the Blue Ocean Network (BON) along with well-known Chinese blogger Michael Anti, to offer a preview of the trip.  You can watch that discussion here, and compare before and after. 

CNN’s Jaime FlorCruz, who served as TIME Magazine’s long-time bureau chief in Beijing, offers his own post-summit analysis, including a couple of quotes from me.  You can read his column here.  I talked a little bit about how people in China see the visit, and the role of China’s state media in shaping their perceptions:

Says Tsinghua University’s Chovanec: “Nothing makes the Chinese media more excited or more nervous than an official state visit, with this kind of pomp and circumstance. Given the disagreements that have taken place on a whole range of issues in the past year, it’s very important for China to project a positive image to the United States. Just as important is the image that the Chinese leaders project back into China — about whether or how they are respected abroad.”

As I told Jaime, China had a somewhat lower bar for success than the Americans:

How to judge Hu Jintao’s visit? It depends on who you ask. Americans, analysts say, tend to set higher bars to measure whether a state visit is a success.

“They want specific things — more market access, Chinese movement on the currency, cooperation on North Korea and Iran — and if at some point they do not see those things happen, then it’s viewed as a non-success,” said Patrick Chovanec, associate professor at Tsinghua University.

It’s much simpler for the Chinese.

“It’s not like they are going to Washington looking for specific things from the U.S.,” said Chovanec. “They’re mainly looking to avoid too much criticism, to avoid a big blow out, and project a generally positive image. Then it is a success.”

James McGregor, senior advisor at APCO Worldwide, an American public affairs consulting company, agreed: “All Hu Jintao needs is a smooth visit with no embarrassments.”

By the way, Jim McGregor’s brief comment there gives me an excellent excuse to mention his (relatively) new blog, “One Billion Ambitions,” which you can find here.  His blog may be new, but Jim – a former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, now a senior counselor for APCO Worldwide based in Beijing — is one of the most seasoned and perceptive China veterans around.  If you haven’t read his book, “One Billion Customers” — a series of recent case studies that illustrate key lessons for doing business in China — you really should check it out.

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