My good friend Phil, who is currently studying in Shanghai and with whom I was able to spend one glorious evening in Copenhagen, hipped me to [what might be called] spin that the Chinese government is putting on what happened in Copenhagen: “Verdant Mountains Cannot Stop Water Flowing; Eastward the River Keeps on Going”
First of all… is Obama/US the “verdant mountain” and China is the eastward flowing river? Does anyone have insight to Chinese metaphors? And if the US is a verdant mountain… we sound much more pleasant than I imagine the Chinese government views us. But maybe I’m ignorant about how the Chinese media portrays the US.
In his important speech at the high-level segment of the conference, Premier Wen reiterated the consistent position of the Chinese government. He called on all sides to build consensus and strengthen cooperation to advance the historical process of combating climate change. Confronted by the complicated situation in and outside the Bella Center, Premier Wen was undeterred. With the strongest political will and patience, he shuttled between participating leaders and engaged them in dialogue and consultations. At the critical moment when the negotiations faced the risk of a breakdown, he personally talked to various parties and helped the conference reach the final accord with his painstaking and thoughtful efforts…
At 18:50, when leaders of the BASIC countries were doing the final review of their common position, they heard a clamor of voices outside. The door was opened and there stood President Obama. Although the scheduled time for the second China-US meeting had passed, Obama’s presence at that moment and that place still came as a surprise to the people inside.President Obama must, too, have felt a bit awkward. With one foot inside the door, he smiled and asked Premier Wen whether he was early and whether he should wait outside or come in and join the discussion. Premier Wen stood up and welcomed him courteously. President Obama was apparently touched. He first walked around the room, shaking hands with everyone inside, and then sat down on President Lula’s left and across the table facing Premier Wen.
This is somewhat in contrast to how US media is portraying how things happened:
Confusion reigned. Chinese officials said Wen was at his hotel and his staff was at the airport. The same was said of top Indian officials, but nothing was clear….
Obama was unaware, however, thinking he was going to meet alone with Wen. After some confusion about who had access to the room, White House aides told the president that Wen was inside with the leaders of the three other countries, apparently working on strategy.
“Good,” Obama said as he walked through the door. “Mr. Premier, are you ready to see me?” he called out. “Are you ready?”
Inside he found startled leaders and no chair to sit in.
U.S. officials denied that Obama crashed the party, saying he simply showed up for his 7 p.m. meeting with Wen and found the others there.
Whatever the meeting’s original purpose, Obama used it to help strike an agreement on ways to verify developing nations’ reductions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, a good U.S. ending to their talks with the Chinese.
Either way, both of these stories make me laugh. Most likely no one who wrote these stories was even in Copenhagen (though perhaps they were) but they certainly weren’t in the room where these scenes were happening. Every government is invested in putting a positive spin on how they handled COP15. It is certainly revealing, if you choose to read both news stories in full, how subtle modifications in wording and tone can change how one understands the same series of events.