Posted at 09:20 AM ET, 02/13/2012

Xi Jinping stirs nationalistic sentiments ahead of trip to U.S.

BEIJING -- Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's written comments to The Washington Post, saying the Pacific Ocean has “ample space” for the two powers, was a hot trending topic Monday on Chinese microblogging sites, with some users praising Xi for standing up for China as he begins an official visit to Washington.

In advance of his visit, the Chinese government invited The Washington Post to submit written questions to the vice president.  The Post on Sunday published a transcript of his written answers, as translated and provided to The Post by the Chinese government. In one answer, China's leader-in-waiting wrote:

“The vast Pacific Ocean has ample space for China and the United States. We welcome a constructive role by the United States in promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the region. We also hope that the United States will fully respect and accommodate the major interests and legitimate concerns of Asia-Pacific countries.”

One user on weibo, China’s version of Twitter, posted the comment: “This sentence is awesome, but Japan, Korea and Australia won't be so cool about it.”

Another weibo user, using the name “Smiling Big Dog,” said that sentence showed “Older Xi has great wisdom, Chinese-style humor, and sharpness behind a gentle appearance.”

A user identified as Zhang Hongliang wrote: “The first day Xi visited the U.S., he criticized the US... and specified the Pacific region is the space where China and the U.S. are mobilized.”  The writer added, “It let Chinese people find their sense of pride again,” and concluded, ”Chinese people have finally stuck out their chest in front of the Americans and finally found their sense of equality.”

Weibo. (Nelson Ching - BLOOMBERG)
Weibo has become a relatively open forum for Chinese to express views on many topics once taboo.But authorities are taking steps to rein it in, including soon requiring users to register with their real names.

Chinese media, including on-line media, have been intensely following Xi's trip, his biggest turn so far on the international stage after visits last year to several Southeast Asian countries.  Many of the reports noted that Vice President Biden planned to accompany Xi all along his U.S. route, including stops in Iowa and California, which the papers here saw as almost royal treatment for a visiting leader.     

The Global Times, a newspaper owned by the Communist Party, pointed out the new role played by public opinion and weibo in China's global diplomacy, suggesting Washington policymakers needed to pay heed to growing Chinese nationalist sentiment. “In the past, elitism played a dominant role, and the top leaders set the tone of Chinese policy. Now, public opinion can influence foreign diplomacy,” the newspaper said in a Monday editorial about Xi's visit.

“The rise of public opinion brings new complexities to Chinese diplomacy,” the editorial said.  “The U.S. has to face not only a stronger China but also a more complex China.” 

Washington Post researcher Liu Liu in Beijing contributed to this report.

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By Keith Richburg  |  09:20 AM ET, 02/13/2012

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