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From Spy Balloons to Chocolates: Chinese Propaganda Frames Xi’s US Pivot

As the dynamics of international relations continue to evolve, recent developments in the relationship between the United States and China have taken a notable turn. Just eight months ago, tensions were high after the U.S. shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon, with President Xi Jinping attributing challenges to China’s economy to what he termed “all-round containment.” Fast forward to today, and the narrative has shifted dramatically.

In their first face-to-face talks in a year, held at a summit in California, both the U.S. and Xi Jinping agreed to open a presidential hotline, resume military-to-military communications, and work together to curb fentanyl production. Despite ongoing challenges, including unresolved issues such as U.S. sanctions on chip exports, Chinese state media is projecting a different narrative, focusing on Xi’s positive interactions during past visits to the U.S.

Chinese social media is awash with clips from the summit, showcasing Xi and President Biden walking in gardens and engaging in fireside chats, with discussions on U.S. tech curbs and tension over Taiwan taking a back seat. This shift in rhetoric aims to portray Xi as an equal to Biden, emphasizing his commitment to stabilizing ties as China grapples with economic challenges.

Analysts suggest that this messaging serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it seeks to demonstrate Xi’s ability to manage China-U.S. relations effectively and position him as the authority directing the course of bilateral ties. Secondly, it signals approval to the Chinese bureaucracy and businesses to engage more positively with their American counterparts.

The Chinese domestic propaganda machine has played a crucial role in shaping this narrative, evident in Xi’s pledges during a dinner with U.S. executives where he positioned China as a “partner and friend” to the U.S. with ample room for bilateral cooperation. While official diplomatic ties may still be strained, Chinese state media is emphasizing people-to-people relations and the potential for cooperation, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

A Xinhua editorial highlighted the international community’s anticipation of the meeting, emphasizing the regional impact of positive China-U.S. relations. The state news agency also ran a lengthy report reflecting on Xi’s past visits to the U.S., underlining his belief that people are key to state-to-state relations.

The report recounted Xi’s interactions in Iowa, including a 1985 trip where locals coordinated his visit, praising his “smile that would not stop” and curiosity. Xi’s fondness for Iowa is portrayed as genuine, but critics argue that it is also strategically used for propaganda purposes, providing a humanizing image and a connection to the American people.

While the official commentary received praise for its public relations finesse, even censored Chinese social media platforms saw some users expressing critical comments. Questions about the improvement of relations, including tariffs, chips, and studying overseas, were raised, highlighting the complexity and ongoing challenges in the China-U.S. relationship.

As the two nations navigate their complex ties, the recent summit signifies a notable shift in tone, with both leaders expressing a commitment to reducing tensions and finding areas of cooperation. However, the road ahead remains uncertain, with unresolved issues and differing perspectives continuing to shape the course of this crucial international relationship.

For more updates stay tuned to FELA News!

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