Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images, file
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Qishan attend the joint statment reading for the closing of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing on May 4.
BEIJING – It may be Hillary Clinton’s final trip to China in her current role as Secretary of State, but China’s state media has not held back in saying what they really feel about the former first lady and, by extension, the United States.
In an editorial entitled, “Secretary Clinton: the person who deeply reinforces US-China mutual suspicion,” in Tuesday's edition of noted nationalist newspaper, Global Times, the paper took Clinton to task for her “meddling” in the South China Seas and Diaoyu/Senakku disputes.
“Many Chinese people do not like Hillary Clinton,” the editorial stated. "She makes the Chinese public dislike and be wary of the United States, which does not necessarily serve U.S. foreign policy interests.”
Other Chinese state media avoided blaming Clinton for the current heightened tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, but nevertheless took issue with America’s recent “pivot” in the region.
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Clinton has pledged to take a strong message to Beijing on the need to calm regional tensions over maritime disputes that have raised broader fears of military friction between the two major Pacific powers.
The last time Clinton visited Beijing, plans to highlight improving U.S.-China ties were derailed by a blind Chinese dissident whose dramatic flight to the U.S. embassy exposed the deeply uneasy relationship between Beijing and Washington.
This time, the irritants are disputes over tiny islets and craggy outcrops in oil- and gas-rich areas of the South and East China Seas that have set China against U.S. regional allies.
As Clinton prepares to travel back to Beijing on Tuesday, U.S. officials say the message is once again one of cooperation and partnership -- and an important chance to compare notes during a tricky year of political transition.
But the unease remains, sharpened by disputes in the South and East China Seas that have rattled nerves across the region and led to testy exchanges with Washington just as the Obama administration "pivots" to the Asia-Pacific region following years of military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Both governments, too, are preoccupied with politics at home, with the Obama administration fighting for re-election in November and China's ruling Communist Party preparing for a once-in-a-decade leadership change.
The general sense of mistrust over American involvement in these issues which China adamantly claims are regional territorial disputes was apparent in many users, perhaps most succinctly put by one user who wrote, “The Diaoyu Islands belong to Asian people, we don’t need American help on this issue.”
That position has dominated state media coverage of Clinton's visit to the region this week, manifesting itself in a consensus that the United States was behind much of the recent emboldened confrontations between other Asian powers – most notably the Philippines and Japan -- and China.
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In yesterday’s edition of China Business News, an article noted that “The U.S. is the origin of all issues,” in the region and that Clinton’s visit to the region “delivers a message that Japan and the Philippines are just two sidekicks on the stage while the U.S. is the “boss” at the backstage.”
Whether state media's depiction of the U.S. Secretary of State accurately reflected the opinions of China's population was unclear, however.
On China’s popular twitter-like service, Weibo, reaction to the editorial was mixed.
“The Global Times shouldn’t use their attitude towards Hilary to represent our collective opinion,” wrote one irate user. “I think she’s good, please don’t make fools of us.”
“History will prove that she [Clinton] is the real peacemaker," another user wrote.
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