When it comes to public appearances, China’s president is no Barack Obama.
Stiff and media-averse, the 67-year-old Hu Jintao will be stepping out of character when he takes questions from reporters after meeting the U.S. president on Wednesday. It’s a White House demand that could create some awkward moments, but Hu is willing to take the risk to improve China’s image abroad.
Hu, who left Beijing on Tuesday for a four-day U.S. visit, also wants to burnish his statesman credentials at home.
“China’s rising international status is increasingly a source of legitimacy for the government, and Chinese leaders want to exploit this nationalist sentiment as much as they can,” said Joseph Cheng, who heads the Contemporary China Research Center at the City University of Hong Kong.