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Beijing Residents React to President Obama’s Visit

November 16, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST
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GlobalPost correspondent Josh Shin gets reactions from Beijing residents about President Obama's three-day trip to China.
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JIM LEHRER: And now some other thoughts about the president’s visit to China. They come from Beijing residents who talked to GlobalPost correspondent Josh Chin last week. GlobalPost is an international news Web site.

WOMAN (through translator): Obama merchandise generally sells well in China. So, we have always sold Obama postcards and other knickknacks. The T-shirt is something we just came out with this summer.

JOSH CHIN: If Barack Obama takes a stroll down the alleyways of old Beijing, he will find plenty of chances to buy images of himself. But what kind of reception can he expect from the people who live here, and what are the issues they expect him to address? I took my own little stroll to find out.

Do you know who the American president is?

MAN: Obama.

JOSH CHIN: That’s right. What kind of person do you think he is?

MAN (through translator): Regular people don’t understand much about that.

MAN (through translator): President Obama is a very capable, very skillful president.

MAN (through translator): My image of President Obama is pretty good, because, from the skin color perspective, he’s black.

WANG YAN, software auditor (through translator): Overall, I’m not very satisfied, because recently, for example, with the financial crisis, Obama has engaged in trade protectionism, in the interests of his own country’s economic growth.

JOSH CHIN: What issue in U.S.-China relations do you think is most worth paying attention to?

YONG BAOYU, factory worker (through translator): I think it’s the Taiwan question. Taiwan belongs to the Chinese people. We will never give her up. She’s part of Chinese territory. She’s a member of our family, but America is always selling her weapons. We find that hard to understand.

MAN (through translator): It’s to adjust the balance between countries, for example, North Korea, Pakistan, al-Qaida, all kinds of problems. Come to China. Coordinate things a little.

WANG YAN (through translator): Obama coming to China, I think it’s mainly intended to help the U.S. economy. Doesn’t he need China to keep buying U.S. debt? I think that’s the reason he’s here. But, from the perspective of the environment and new sources of energy, I think Obama and China will make progress, because this is a topic Chinese leaders also care about.

JOSH CHIN: If you were to run into Obama and had time to ask him one question, what question would you ask him?

YONG BAOYU (through translator): I would ask him about Taiwan, his economic policy. What I mean is how do develop hand-in-hand with China’s economy.

WANG YAN (through translator): How well does he understand China, that is, over the course of his life? What sort of impression has China left on him? Because I feel regular Americans probably don’t understand enough about China.

WOMAN (through translator): I would ask him what he thought of our merchandise.

JOSH CHIN: Do you think he would like it or not?

WOMAN (through translator): I think he would laugh.

JIM LEHRER: You can find a link to the GlobalPost Web site on our own, NewsHour.PBS.org.