Chinese President Jiang Zemin auditions for a trip to Texas.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin auditions for a trip to Texas.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin auditions for a trip to Texas.

What the foreign papers are saying.
Feb. 22 2002 3:36 PM

Friends?

During his 30-hour visit to Beijing this week, President Bush was on the receiving end of a Chinese charm offensive. Several papers, from the Financial Times to the South China Morning Post, claimed that Chinese President Jiang Zemin is desperate for an invitation to Bush's ranch in Texas when he visits the United States this fall. An analyst told the FT that everything depends on whether Jiang qualifies for "friend" status, "Because only friends go to Crawford." Jiang tried to show what a fun guest he'd be by serenading Bush with "O Sole Mio" at a state dinner. The Times of London said he "became the life of the party," dancing with Condoleezza Rice as the People's Liberation Army band played "The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You." But when Jiang tried to coax President Bush to the dance floor, he declined. An FT editorial concluded:

When President George W. Bush looks into the soul of Jiang Zemin, the Chinese president, he clearly does not like what he sees. It was all so different with Vladimir Putin. Last year Mr Bush warmly embraced the Russian leader and invited him to his Texas ranch. It was a signal that the two men could do business. There was no invitation to a Crawford barbecue yesterday. And there is no sign of warmth between the US and Chinese leaders.

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Another clue to Jiang's behavior might be found in a front-page commentary published in the People's Dailyjust before the lunar New Year. "Sending Warmth to Needy Masses by Displaying New Working Style" admonishes, "The practice of formalism and formality must be resolutely opposed. … Displaying a new style of work, cadres should pass the concern and warmth of the Party and government to the people in their hundreds of millions, particularly the masses in difficulties."

The South China Morning Post reported Bill Clinton is most mainland Chinese's favorite U.S. president. A senior Communist Party member told the paper, "We knew Clinton did not care about communism but he hoped to change it by co-operating with us. Bush didn't say let's work together in Asia. He says Taiwan is ours … everywhere is ours." A Chinese academic added, "Bush says to us we want to be friends but you have to follow our requirements. If not, then you are our enemy. If you say that to me, I don't want to be your friend."

June Thomas is managing producer of Slate podcasts.