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Trump’s Visit to China Provides a Propaganda Bonanza

The Chinese state news media used President Trump’s visit to Beijing as a propaganda opportunity.

People's Daily

The Chinese state news media used President Trump’s visit to Beijing as a propaganda opportunity.

BEIJING — #TrumpHasArrived! The Chinese news media broke out the hashtags this week as soon as Air Force One landed in Beijing, delivering both President Trump and an irresistible propaganda opportunity for President Xi Jinping of China.

Mr. Trump made it easy, flattering Mr. Xi at every turn and blaming the massive trade deficit between the United States and China on previous American leaders.

  • 檢視大圖 An image on the front page of People’s Daily, a state newspaper in China, appearing to show Mr. Trump applauding President Xi Jinping of China.

    People's Daily

    An image on the front page of People’s Daily, a state newspaper in China, appearing to show Mr. Trump applauding President Xi Jinping of China.

  • 檢視大圖 Some Chinese social media users mocked Mr. Trump for his tie and for staring at the ceiling during an opera performance.

    WeChat

    Some Chinese social media users mocked Mr. Trump for his tie and for staring at the ceiling during an opera performance.

  • 檢視大圖 An internet post by the United States Embassy in Beijing that was critical of North Korea was deleted by Chinese censors on Weibo, a state-approved platform. Another version of the post appeared on Twitter, which is banned in China.

    United States Embassy, Beijing, via Twitter

    An internet post by the United States Embassy in Beijing that was critical of North Korea was deleted by Chinese censors on Weibo, a state-approved platform. Another version of the post appeared on Twitter, which is banned in China.

Government censors helped control the message, deleting posts about Mr. Trump’s comments on North Korea.

Here is a look at how Mr. Trump’s visit, part of a five-country tour of Asia, played in the Chinese news media.

Applauding President Xi

Mr. Trump’s visit came just weeks after Mr. Xi won a second five-year term as China’s leader. Wielding vast powers unseen since the days of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, Mr. Xi used the American president’s visit as a way to legitimize his authority at home.

The above photo, printed Friday on the front page of People’s Daily, China’s most read state newspaper, appears to show the American president applauding Mr. Xi as the Chinese leader basks in the cheers of well-wishers outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

The photo reinforces the view that world leaders see Mr. Xi as a great leader, and that China is a superpower on par with the United States.

‘Descendants of the Dragon’

A hallmark of Mr. Xi’s tenure has been a re-emphasis on traditional Chinese culture, after decades in which the Communist Party sought to bury much of the country’s history. Critics say Mr. Xi is selective in retelling history, and that he is seeking to counter the spread of foreign influences.

An offhand comment by Mr. Trump in the Forbidden City gave Mr. Xi a chance to promote his nationalist version of history.

Mr. Trump asked Mr. Xi if it was true that China’s history dated back 5,000 years, before adding that “I guess the oldest culture, they say, is Egypt,” with 8,000 years of history.

Mr. Xi interjected, saying that China had the longest continuous civilization in history. “We have the same black hair and yellow skin that we inherited,” Mr. Xi said. “We call ourselves descendants of the dragon.”

A clip of the exchange between Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi soon went viral. So did a video of Mr. Trump’s granddaughter, Arabella Kushner, singing a Chinese song from 1953. Chinese internet users celebrated the video as another sign that Chinese culture had made it on the world stage.

Poking Fun at President Trump

Mr. Trump was warmly received in China’s most prominent news outlets, which praised him as a pragmatic leader who, nevertheless, could be friendlier toward China. But in some forums online, the president was mocked, with social media users describing him as goofy, impulsive, clownish and cute.

On WeChat, China’s popular messaging app, users circulated posts analyzing the clothes worn by Mr. Trump and his wife, Melania. Some users described the president’s necktie as “shallow and exaggerated.”

A widely shared article delivered a lengthy analysis of Mr. Trump’s psyche, which suggested that flattery was the trick to winning him over.

Another well circulated photo of Mr. Trump showed him looking to the ceiling during a performance. “The slow humming of Chinese opera doesn’t seem to suit Trump’s temperament,” read the caption. “Trump looked like he was about to fall asleep.”

Limiting Exposure

China’s army of censors went into overdrive as interest in Mr. Trump surged during his visit.

Censors prevented internet users from commenting on several reports about Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi. Officials deleted posts that touched on topics the government deems sensitive, including North Korea and how Mr. Trump was able to evade China’s firewall and use Twitter. Twitter, like Facebook, is banned in the country.

Perhaps most striking was the removal of at least two items, written by the United States Embassy in Beijing, and posted to Weibo, a state-controlled microblogging platform.

One deleted post quoted Mr. Trump, in a news conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, saying “the era of strategic patience is over” when it came to dealing with North Korea, an ally of China.

The government also did not broadcast live a joint news conference between Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi on domestic channels on Thursday.

 

Copyright © 2017 The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.
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