Thursday, 22 September 2011

Locke's Everyman Approach

Locke spotted at a Starbucks in Seattle
The new US Consul General to China Gary Locke already has some fans in China which has resulted in restrained annoyance in state media.
Admiration for him began even before he arrived -- one Chinese person saw Locke at the airport carrying his own backpack and trying to pay for a coffee at Starbucks with a voucher which wasn't valid at that store so he paid by credit card instead.
After those pictures were posted many Chinese were amazed to see such a high government official doing things on his own unlike Chinese officials who have minions running around, from carrying their things to holding up umbrellas when it's raining.
The praises for Locke were so great that Global Times had to write an opinion piece trying to downplay the consul's popularity saying in his position he is not supposed to have many bodyguards or that he and and family having casual strolls through hutongs aren't any different from other high profile people.
"A US ambassador should devote himself to the relationship between China and the US rather than play a role in Chinese media. A US ambassador becoming a political star in China cannot be interpreted as US respect for China," the Global Times piece says.
It goes on to chastise the media for over reporting on every move Locke makes.
"Media that actively sensationalize Locke should show restraint," it continues. "There are too many occasions and angles to criticize the corruption and bureaucracy in Chinese official circles. It is not suitable to overly praise a foreign ambassador, particularly when his task in China is rather complicated. Chinese media should be calm and rational when discussing the private lives of people like Locke."
It's very amusing to see Chinese state media make these instructive yet insecure pronouncements. It even points out Chinese media criticize the government too much whenever corruption scandals erupt -- but these incidents need to be reported.

Meanwhile Locke is probably doing what he usually does anyway, consciously scoring brownie points in what would practically be considered normal for any politician outside of China.

Can anyone imagine President Hu Jintao getting his own coffee?
There is a huge cultural divide between China and the US when it comes to perceptions of leaders. And Locke is definitely winning with his touch of soft power.

1 comment:

  1. locke sets a very good example-public officials are servants of the people. i remember in colonial hong kong at the closing of governmental letter, it is always:' I REMAIN YOUR OBEDIENT SERVANT'.