Liu shows flair in trade debate

Editorial | Mary Ma 31 May 2019

Liu Xin and Trish Regan must now be the two of the best known TV anchors in the wake of their highly anticipated "debate" on the issue of the Sino-US trade war.

But contrary to expectations, the predicted fireworks failed to materialize - except for a brief moment when Liu countered her Fox Business Network opponent by saying she wasn't a communist cadre and was speaking only as a China Global Television Network journalist.

Their employers are politically on a par with each other: CGTN is owned by China's state mouthpiece, CCTV, whereas Fox is heavily partisan toward US President Donald Trump.

The most cynical in the audience may remain skeptical about Liu's "confession." However, unless evidence surfaces to show otherwise, her claim that she isn't a card-carrying communist party member should be taken at face value.

It was rather disappointing the event wasn't broadcast live in the mainland, for anyone who finished viewing the episode would agree that Liu outperformed Regan during their 16-minute exchange.

Liu grabbed the opportunity Regan unexpectedly gave her to present China's perspective directly to Trump's supporters - a chance so rare even paid commercial time couldn't possibly secure.

CGTN's explanation for the delayed broadcast was just silly. The international arm of CCTV explained it had wanted to show the event live in the mainland, but was unable to because it didn't have the rights without the other party's authorization. That other party could only be Fox.

It was a stupid statement - doesn't it take two to tango? There wouldn't be the Regan-versus-Liu show without the latter's participation. So, CGTN and Fox should have equal stakes in the television event. If CGTN had wanted to broadcast live, Fox would have agreed to let them do so.

The delay had everything to do with a lack of confidence among the state censors. Not knowing what Regan was going to say, they feared she might reveal something mainlanders weren't supposed to know about.

While Liu defended her country, it's regrettable that others overseeing the matter stepped back to adopt a wait-and-see attitude.

As the event unfolded, it became clear the fears were unwarranted. Instead of a spirited debate, it seemed more like Liu was being interviewed. For example, Regan, 46, asked about intellectual property theft, saying evidence showed China had stolen enormous amounts of intellectual property worth hundreds of billions of US dollars.

Had the same question been put to Chinese foreign ministry spokesmen Lu Kang and Geng Shuang, they would have at most answered with the standard robotic line that Beijing was serious about intellectual property, and had been taking steps to protect foreign companies' legitimate rights.

Liu was closer to the layman, saying copyright theft happens everywhere - including in the United States - and the issue shouldn't be oversimplified to say America or China was stealing. However, she admitted intellectual property theft was a problem and had to be dealt with.

Perhaps the Chinese foreign ministry should consider recruiting the 43-year-old Liu to be its trade war spokeswoman. Her fluent English, with a bit of an American accent, would help drive home Beijing's message in Uncle Sam's courtyard.

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