What happens when Asians suddenly aren't quiet and agreeable? If China needs to earn respect as a responsible world power, when it comes to getting what they want, should its men and women ask politely, demand assertively, or join the army to go protect the country's economic and political interests around the world?
We find something of an answer in Rui Chenggang, the face of Capitalist China and CCTV anchor who created an enormous stir this week after he stepped forward to ask American president Obama a question when Korean reporters wouldn't, ostensibly what any reporter should have done, in what otherwise might have been a press conference cut too short.
Party paper Southern Daily ran an editorial calling Rui “the greatest obstacle to China's rise” [zh] (‘well then who else is supposed to give it momentum?’, quips one reader), but then early bridge blogger Isaac Mao also mentions that:
Here's the video of the exchange between Rui and Obama:
In his own defense, Rui has written on his Sina blog that things off-camera weren't exactly as has been reported, translated here by Roland Soong at EastSouthWestNorth:
This was the fifth time that I have seen Obama. In order to bring the proceedings to a close, as well as seizing the opportunity to have emerging countries have a say, I raised my hand from the first row and I stood up. I reminded him that I am from China. He waited a little bit longer but still no Korean reporter raised a hand. So we began to talk. Afterwards a white reporter who claims to be working in Korea raised his hand and asked a question. So Obama's gesture towards Korea was finally accepted.
The atmosphere at the scene was quite light-hearted. People were humorous. G20 was being held in Asia for the first time, and also the first time outside the eight developed countries. It would be regrettable if the American President's press conference did not have any voice from Asia. I wanted to see the interaction with the Korean reporters too but nobody was talking. No authentic Korean reporters raised their hands. We Asian reporters may be very professional in our work, but we are somewhat shy compared to our American and European colleagues.
Actually, it is no big deal to ask an American president a question. Obama faces various kinds of challenges, even verbal attacks, on a daily basis. This is part of his job. However, he deals mostly with American media. In Asian countries (including Japan), there is a lot of room for improvement in terms of soft power, international communication and influence as compared to the developed nations. The top-level international news conferences are frequently hosted and dominated by American and European media. But things are changing now, as we in Asia (especially the Chinese media workers) are rapidly internationalizing. I have sensed this strongly while crossing the globe over the last couple of years. Our support comes from our rising national power in these times.
Note in the video how Obama initially mistakes Rui for a Korean reporter? In situations like these, asks Sina blogger Wang Luzhi, now studying in the US, who's really representing who?:
I'm a bit agitated, I hope everyone can understand. Sure, we don't like being represented, but taking things out of context is even worse.
Also check out this hilarious parody interview from 2008 with Rui and American comedian Rob Riggle: