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2019-05-30 10:21:49

A much-anticipated trade war debate between anchors from Fox News Group and China Global Television Network, or CGTN, may not have aired live in China, but that doesn’t mean it went unnoticed in the country.

At around 8:30 Thursday morning China time, Trish Regan, who hosts a primetime show on Fox Business Network, and Liu Xin, host of The Point with Liu Xin on CGTN, squared off in a live debate on issues surrounding the protracted trade war between the two countries. During their 15-minute discussion, the two newswomen touched on tariffs, intellectual property, capitalism, China’s status as a developing nation, and the tenuous trade talks themselves.

The live broadcast was the culmination of sharp, then tempered tweets exchanged between the two women. Regan had invited Liu to have a “meaningful debate” on her program, an offer Liu accepted. Earlier this month, Regan had accused Beijing of “stealing $600 billion in intellectual property from us every year,” prompting a rebuttal from Liu on her own show that Regan’s words were “supported with little substance.”

On Thursday morning, China Central Television — the domestic counterpart to the globally oriented CGTN — posted transcripts and a few clips of the debate. Though CGTN initially said it would air the debate live for Chinese audiences, the network was only allowed to temporarily post short segments of the broadcast due to “copyright reasons.”

On microblog platform Weibo, several hashtags about the debate have appeared among the site’s top-trending topics since Thursday morning. A hashtag translating to “Liu Xin was interrupted by Trish at least three times in less than 30 seconds” — a claim CCTV had made early into the debate — was ranked highest, viewed over 420 million times by Thursday evening.

“I hate the interrupting the most,” one user commented under a related media post. “It’s super annoying and it’s such impolite behavior.”

Others who watched the debate, however, tried to explain that the supposed “interruptions” were the result of a bad satellite connection. “It’s obvious that the signal is getting delayed or cut off, and Trish even said ‘Please forgive me,’” commented another Weibo user under the same post. “Media shouldn’t sensationalize such things and stir dissatisfaction between Chinese and Americans.”

Under another hashtag about the broadcast translating to “CGTN anchor Liu Xin and Fox anchor debate,” many netizens said they found the much-anticipated meeting “harmonious” and more like an interview, while others said they valued the constructive exchange.

“I think this is more like a dialogue and serves a positive purpose. Fox TV is the media base of American conservatism, and its news is full of prejudice against China,” posted one Weibo user. “Even if it’s just for ratings, talking to each other and expressing opinions without having to be meek or rude is a positive starting point.”

China’s state-controlled media outlets, too, roundly praised the debate and the apparent open-mindedness it represented. “This short dialogue obviously wasn’t thorough enough — and far from meeting people’s expectations — but it should still be seen as beneficial,” wrote Shan Renping, a favored pen name of Hu Xijin, editor in chief of the nationalist newspaper Global Times. “Our hope is that this brief dialogue can remind people to pay more attention to the importance of in-depth exchanges between China and the United States, so that future dialogues between the two sides will be free from political shackles.”

In a follow-up interview with CGTN, Liu referred to the debate as a “chat” and said she had “never approached it as a confrontation, a tit-for-tat intellectual debate.” In a separate interview with CCTV, Liu expressed her hope of bridging the conversational divide between Americans and Chinese.

“Maybe Americans have a lot of misunderstandings about the Chinese people, and are even annoyed and angry,” Liu said. “I can only speak frankly to them about my thoughts and hope to dispel such feelings.”

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: Fox Business Network anchor Trish Regan (left) and Liu Xin of CGTN’s The Point with Liu Xin face off in a live debate about the China-U.S. trade war, viewed on a smartphone in Shanghai, May 30, 2019. Daniel Holmes/Sixth Tone)