Now that the big Asia trip is history, it’s natural to judge it on the basis of known results from its biggest portion — Obama’s three days in China. For the American president, there were no obvious breakthroughs on exchange rates or trade, climate or human rights, so maybe this visit was not the most successful. On the other hand, viewed in the context of America’s recent history with East Asia, there was a certain welcome absence of drama. Expectations were managed, there was no brinkmanship. Maybe that could be considered an achievement.
An overseas trip by a U.S. president is always costly, logistically challenging, and full of colorful backdrops. President Obama’s trip to Japan, Singapore, China and Korea is no exception. If anything, there will be more excitement than usual, since it is his first trip to the region as President and there is still tremendous foreign public interest in this appealing, young, intelligent leader, his inspiring speeches, and his photogenic wife.
Why, then, is the mood so downbeat among the U.S. press corps — the “traveling press” — as they begin covering this trip?
Two recent developments in China point to the tools of media and public opinion control available to the Chinese government and how they are used.
Most recently, Japan-China relations have deteriorated on the heels of an old dilemma: How Japan handles history.