Media's sweet and sour theme

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 November, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 November, 1997, 12:00am

The front page headline of the New York Post seemed to sum up the stateside impression of the Sino-US summit: 'Sweet and Sour'.

'Chinese prez sticks to his guns - defends Tibet tyranny and Tiananmen slaughter', the tabloid continued on its inside pages.

And if the coverage in the heavier national papers was slightly more diplomatically worded, the basic theme was much the same.

News reports of the summit and the presidential press conference focused heavily on the human rights disagreements between presidents Jiang and Clinton.

Although the White House had frequently warned the media beforehand that this was not going to be a one-issue summit, its pleadings were ignored as, across the board, editors made the human rights issue the central plank of their coverage.

And while Mr Jiang's media-friendly demeanour and relaxed performance at his first big bilateral press conference did not appear to have won over a sceptical US media, Mr Clinton was widely awarded top marks for his tough remarks on human rights.

Mr Clinton 'showed plenty of spine', said an editorial in The New York Times.

'It was heartening to see Mr Clinton address these issues bluntly in his private and public discussions with Mr Jiang.

'Though China's promises on nuclear proliferation may be shaky, Mr Clinton did an otherwise good job of affirming America's democratic values while promoting its strategic and commercial interests.

'Mr Jiang's stony defence of the 1989 massacre suggests that no greater tolerance for political reform will come of his visit.' Several columnists in the Washington Post were not particularly friendly to either president.

Berating 'America's China apologists', George Will attacked Washington figures who were too liberal towards Beijing. 'China's leaders are perhaps encouraged in their delusions by those Americans whose moral stance towards China can best be described as crackpot cosmopolitanism,' he wrote.

Overall, the summit was largely relegated to second place behind the latest stock market moves.