REPORTING FROM BEIJING -- Chinese scholars and commentators lashed out with barely repressed anger at President Obama's trip to Asia, complaining that his efforts to shore up U.S. influence in Asia were by implication aimed at containing China.
"The United States has alienated 1 billion Chinese. It's not smart public diplomacy," Shen Dingli, a professor of American studies at Shanghai's Fudan University, said Monday.
The English-language China Daily in its lead editorial on Monday accused the United States of "scaremongering" over the perceived threat of China's rise and a signed Op-Ed article on Sunday declared, "East Asia not U.S. playground."
"The aim of America's strategic move east is in fact to pin down and contain China and counterbalance China's development," echoed Jiefang Daily, a Chinese-language version of the official Xinhua news agency, in a commentary on Sunday.
Chinese reaction during Obama's trip to Australia and Indonesia had been relatively muted, but it seems that hard-line anger is mounting with time to parse over events of the nine-day trip, which ended Sunday.
In Australia, Obama announced plans to locate 2,500 Marines in Darwin by 2016 -- troops that Beijing fears could be used for the defense of Taiwan. He also outlined a new trade alliance called the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would most likely exclude China because of strict environmental and labor standards.
At a summit of East Asian countries in Bali, Obama also pressed a reluctant Premier Wen Jiabao into discussing China’s territorial claims to the South China Sea, despite Beijing's past insistence that disputes be handled with each country individually and not in an international setting. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have all complained about China's territorial claims.
In the deluge of editorials published in the past few days, Chinese newspapers mocked the weak U.S. economy and accused Obama of anti-China posturing to bolster his presidential campaign. At the same time, editorials went out of their way to insist that Beijing actually was not angry.
"China takes U.S. return with aplomb," was the headline of an editorial Monday in the Global Times, a hard-line newspaper with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
Despite the headline, the clenched-teeth editorial went on to say that "the United States doesn’t have the strength to encircle China now. What can it provide to the Asia-Pacific countries?"
If anything, the rhetoric was harsher in the English-language than the Chinese-language press.
"It's obvious that they don't want the regular Chinese people to know what’s happening, but they want the foreigners to know they’re angry," said Ni Lexiong, an international affairs professor at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.
-- Barbara Demick
Photo: President Obama listens as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao speaks during their meeting on the sidelines of the Assn. of Southeast Asian Nations and East Asia summits. Credit: Saul Loeb / Getty Images