China’s a-flutter with Obama buzz
U.S. President Barack Obama will make his first state visit to China on November 15th until the 18th. After a 2-day stay in Tokyo, a 1-day stint in Singapore (meeting with both Singapore president Lee Hsien Loong and the 10 ladies and gents of ASEAN), Barack and First Lady Michelle arrive Monday, November 15th in mainland China (for full itinerary details, click here).
Their first stop?
Starting the morning off with a meet-and-greet with Shanghai mayor Han Zheng, Obama will hold one of his famous “town hall” styled forums with a select group of Chinese students to discuss current and future affairs in China . A focal point of the president’s brief stay in Shanghai, the question-and-answer forum strives to bring an open dialogue between the American President and Chinese youth.
Well, the Chinese government just ain’t having that.
All over this one like the white on sticky rice, the government has stepped in to make major changes in the forum in an overwhelming desire for censorship and control. Changes include: 1) the 1,500 students expected to participate in the forum has been whittled down to a measly 600; 2) all media is banned, excluding, of course, CCTV–the state run broadcast television station); 3) as of now, the event will not be broadcast live on television or the Internet.
These ramifications leave some sources questioning if the Q & A will happen at all. But in the meantime, let’s hope this story takes a turn for the better as administrators work out the major, but initial kinks. After all, during his 1998 visit both live radio and TV airwaves carried President Clinton’s candid talk with Jiang Zemin regarding human rights, religion and the ever elusive Tienanmen square debate. Let’s hope the Party realizes that stifling the almighty Obama from its own fresh-faced youth will majorly put a damper (and negative Western media spin) on the prez’s first visit to 中国.
Speaking of the “almighty” Obama…the mainland’s got much love for America’s new President and there’s nothing like the power of Chinese love to proliferate the mass production of cheap commodified goods. Welcome consumers to the Oba-Mao!
This new trend capitalizes off the recent resurgence of Mao memorabilia within Chinese society (which in itself is definitely strange and a bit confusing — think mass produced pins, hats, bags and t-shirts propagating an intensely deified but hotly hated (and, um, dead) ruler. Politically insensitive? Funny? Or just plain creepy? Who knows, but it’s all over stores in urban Beijing). Now mash this Mao paraphernalia with Obama’s goofy grin and you got Oba-Mao!
First appearing in Beijing tourist shops at the close of summer ’09, Oba-Mao swag has sold like hot cakes to visitors and foreign tourists alike. But you won’t see any citizens sporting these tee’s and caps while the President is in town. This week the Beijing Municipal Government has issued that all Oba-Mao goods be strictly off the market while the Chief Executive makes his visit.
To Welcome Obama: T-Shirt with Obama in Red Guard Uniform Taken Off the Shelf
According to some business owners, they got calls last week from Beijing Municipal Government demanding them to stop the sale of this kind of T-shirt immediately. And inspection officers even came to stores to make sure the T-shirts are off the shelf.
Business owners have been notified that after Obama ends his visit to China, they can resume the sale.
Well, sadly, Barack can’t join in the fun and sport a shirt with his own face mashed with Mao. But maybe his Interim White House Communications Director, Anita Dunn, can! According to Glenn Beck she’s a die-hard Maoist and another tyrant in Obama’s inner circle. (insert sarcastic tone here).
So far we’ve had the bad, the weird and the ugly side of this edition of the Obama’s visit to China countdown. What about the good, you ask?
Well let’s turn back to my personal favorite stop on the China trail: Shanghai!
Official reports have confirmed that Barack and First Lady will be staying at the Portman Ritz-Carlton for their brief stint in Shanghai. (I bet they booked the “Presidential Suite” :-)) The hotel will be shut-down from November 14th – 16th for the occasion and security will be tight with a capital “T”.
Lastly, Obama will not be stopping by the sight of the Shanghai Expo 2010, but he will be surprised by a very special “gift” from the government upon arrival.
In addition to having hundreds of schoolchildren wave vivid red flowers to welcome United States President Barack Obama at the airport for his first state visit in mid-November, the Chinese government has also prepared a huge gift for this very special friend — a $3.6 billion Disney theme park contract.
Mickey Mouse in Shanghai: “Huge gift” or “Creepy Image.” You decide.
I leave you now with a great video of the Obama buzz (and crazy-ness) that’s flitting around the mainland. Courtesy of Reuters, the video has everything from a $15,000 Obama statue engulfed in flames at the push of a button, to Obama inspired haircuts at just 2 bucks a pop.
More updates as the Obama-mania Chinese Edition continues…