With Chinese leader Hu Jintao in Washington, you got some of what you might expect inright wing media outlets–Rush Limbaugh doing a fake Chinese accent, and Bill O’Reilly opening his Fox show last night with crack about a Chinese dinner that wasn’t take out.
Meanwhile, on public television’s Charlie Rose Show, the hour was spent with… Henry Kissinger. I had to go back to the Extra! archives to remember the Kissinger/China connection, which includes most notably his defense of the Chinese crackdown on Tienanmen Square. From Extra!, 10-11/89:
In recent months, Kissinger has used his high media profile in a spirited defense of China. In a Washington Post/L.A. Times column (“The Caricature of Deng as a Tyrant Is Unfair,” 8/1/89), Kissinger argued against sanctions: “China remains too important for America’s national security to risk the relationship on the emotions of the moment.” He asserted: “No government in the world would have tolerated having the main square of its capital occupied for eight weeks by tens of thousands of demonstrators.”
Kissinger’s defense of China and other repressive governments has sometimes raised eyebrows. What it has not raised is tough questions from TV interviewers about Kissinger’s business ties to these same governments. In a column alluding to FAIR’s study that found Kissinger to be Nightline‘s most frequent guest, the Washington Post‘s Richard Cohen (8/29/89) sounded an urgent appeal: “Will someone please ask Henry Kissinger the ‘C’ question?” The “C” stands for conflict of interest.
When he’s not pontificating in the media about foreign affairs, he’s engaging in foreign financial affairs through his secretive consulting firm Kissinger & Associates. The firm, representing some 30 multinational companies–including American Express, H.J. Heinz, ITT and Lockheed–earns profits by “opening doors” for investors in China, Latin America and elsewhere (New York Times, 4/30/89).
A Wall Street Journal article by John Fialka (“Mr. Kissinger Has Opinions on China–and Business Ties,” 9/15/89) reported that Kissinger also heads China Ventures, a company engaged in joint ventures with China’s state bank. As its brochure explains, China Ventures invests only in projects that “enjoy the unquestioned support of the People’s Republic of China.” The Journal article was unusual in exploring the private business interests behind U.S. foreign policy, not the media’s strong suit–even when, as in Kissinger’s case, they are rolled into one person.
DidCharlie Rose want to interview someone on China with skin in the game? That would be a strange standard for public television.