By Tony Munroe and Michael Martina
BEIJING (Reuters) – A Chinese state TV anchor and a host from Fox Business, whose sparring over the U.S.-China trade war has been avidly followed on Chinese social media, brought their duel to the American cable network for what turned out to be a respectful encounter.
The showdown between Liu Xin of China’s state-run English channel CGTN and Fox Business Network host Trish Regan was aired on Wednesday evening in the United States but was not shown live on TV in China, though it had been hyped by state and social media.
Following U.S. moves this month to increase tariffs on Chinese imports and blacklist tech giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd the rhetoric out of Beijing has become more strident.
At the start of the roughly 16-minute segment, Liu corrected Regan to say that she was not a member of the Chinese Communist Party and was speaking for herself as a CGTN journalist. Otherwise, there was little in the way of fireworks.
Liu agreed intellectual property theft was a problem, although not only in China, and that there was a “consensus” in China that “without the protection of IP rights, nobody, no country, no individual, can be strong and can develop itself.”
Regan asked Liu her definition of state capitalism, and Liu described China’s system of “socialism with Chinese characteristics, where market forces are expected to play the dominating or the deciding role in the allocation of resources.”
Liu said state-owned enterprises play “an important but increasingly smaller role, maybe, in the economy,” and said 80 percent of Chinese employment is in the private sector.
Washington argues that Huawei, the world’s largest maker of telecoms network gear, is linked to the government and therefore poses a security risk, which Huawei disputes, arguing that it is owned by employees.
Liu had said on Twitter that because of rights issues, CGTN would not be able to show the debate live, though it would “report on it closely”.
A Fox News spokesperson said a free live stream of the debate would be available on the Fox Business Network website and the entire segment would also be available after the broadcast.
China’s internet is heavily censored and many major foreign media sites are blocked, but many people in China appeared to have followed the debate on state broadcaster CCTV’s live blog or watched via livestream.
The feud between Liu and Regan had started on air and was amplified on Twitter, which is blocked in China, with one social media hashtag on the Twitter-like Weibo garnering more than 120 million views as of Wednesday.
Liu had been critical of Regan’s China coverage and Regan has taken up the challenge, calling on Liu to have an honest debate.
“She’s so sure of U.S. victimhood, so indignant that her eyes practically spit fire, yet in carefully analysing her words, it’s all emotion and accusation, supported with little substance,” Liu said of Regan on CGTN.
Regan responded this week on air and on Twitter: “They’re launching a full-scale information war against the United States of America, and their latest target is me.”
State broadcaster CCTV and the People’s Daily newspaper had shared news of the debate on Weibo, while other Chinese media outlets had joined in, some even circulating footage of Liu in an English speech competition from 23 years ago.
Chinese state media has opened the floodgates to patriotic commentaries since the latest U.S. tariff hike and there has been a surge in internet chatter about the trade war during the past few weeks.