Timothy Geithner comes to Beida. And who precisely cares?

On June 1st, Timothy Geithner came to Peking University and gave this speech. Yes, it’s now the 10th. I waited nine days before posting because 9 is an auspicious number in China, signifying eternity – like the eternal prosperity I wish for Sino-American relations. Obviously.

Two nicely consecutive articles about the speech are the Washington Post’s “Geithner Tells China Its Holdings Are Safe” and the Global Times’ “Geithner’s assurances fall on deaf ears“, which claims such assurances

even drew laughter from the primarily student audience at Peking University, where he studied Chinese in the 1980s, reflecting skepticism in China about the government’s huge holding of US government debt…

What’s for certain is that Geithner was all smiles and telling China exactly what it wanted to hear, whether they believed it or not. The speech clearly must have been mind-numbingly boring to sit through. There isn’t much chance of anything interesting in a political speech given to a country who is bankrolling the speaker’s treasury. Come to think of it, there isn’t much chance of anything interesting in a political speech, full stop.

I’m not the only uninterested one here. Tony and I were chatting about the speech, which didn’t attend (although he was at John McCain’s similarly soporific one on campus last month), partly due to the draconian control on who could get in. The student audience who “laughed” at Geithner were selected by the Office of International Relations (I’d be surprise if the Global Times journalist wasn’t exaggerating the facts to fit his argument). And the questions were pre-selected, reminding Tony of Bill Clinton’s speech at Beida in 1999 – shortly after the NATO bombing – where the questions were supposedly allocated to students by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

All in all, Tony tells me, he can’t bring himself to care much about what Timothy Geithner said. So for anyone thinking the visit of Timothy Geithner sent ripples through the student population at Peking University – whether in reassuring them ala the Washington Post’s headline or angering them as in the Global Times’ – think again. Granted, I’m at the far edge of the Beida pond, but no ripples reached me.

Stay online for an essay by Zhangning which spins off this topic at another angle, after the jump.