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Pointed questions await visit by Obama

2009. 14 November

by Wang Xiang and Wang Yanlin
( China Netizens are generating a long list of questions for US President Barack Obama's visit to Shanghai, including some pointed references to Osama bin Laden and the Dalai Lama, Obama's recent Nobel Peace Prize, ongoing trade friction and even an intervention for basketball superstar Yao Ming.

The queries are being collected by Xinhua news agency and People's Daily Online for possible inclusion in a question-and-answer session with young people planned for Monday in Shanghai,
the first stop on Obama's four-day visit to China.

This is the first time that China has solicited questions from Internet users for a high-level diplomatic visit, and it allows more people to get involved in Obama's first trip to China, said Shen Dingli, executive dean of the Institute of International Studies at Shanghai's Fudan University.

Online forums are buzzing with questions that reflect a mix of anxiety and expectation toward the United States among China's estimated 300 million Internet users.

Most questions related to Obama's possible meeting with the Dalai Lama, which was severely criticized by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang on Thursday as "humiliating and bullying Chinese feelings."

"How would Americans feel if our leader hugged Osama Bin Laden like US presidents did to the Dalai Lama?" asked one Internet user. "The meeting would hurt our feelings, and we are all hoping for mutual respect in this relationship."

Some said they were disturbed by what they see as US protectionism in anti-dumping cases filed against Chinese tires and steel pipes.

"My factory suffers greatly from the pipe anti-dumping case," said one Netizen, "Many workers in my factory have lost their jobs, and I was almost let go, too."

Other Chinese were worried about the US navy cruising the world.

"Mr President, do you think it is a little ironic to receive the Nobel Peace Prize while American troops are deployed all over the world and involved in two wars?" asked one Netizen.

Obama's personal charisma may have diminished the anxieties of many Chinese, however. Some want to know his secret for squeezing time for exercise out of his busy schedule.

Another quipped, "You certainly don't worry about having a wife on magazine covers."

Other questioners seemed to give Obama credit for having more power than he actually enjoys.

One basketball fan pleaded with the president to get the National Basketball Association to allow Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets to win the championship.

Obama will arrive in Shanghai tomorrow night. He will meet top city officials on Monday morning and deliver a speech at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum on Monday afternoon, which is scheduled to be broadcast live. The question-and-answer session will be part of that appearance.

Accompanying Obama, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit the site of the 2010 World Expo on Monday.

Obama will leave Shanghai later Monday and fly to Beijing, where he will meet with Chinese leaders. The last stop on his Asian tour will be Seoul, South Korea.