That’s right: Joe Biden is huge in China.
Even as the U.S. and China face off amid quickly rising tensions over China’s new air-defense zone and a longstanding territorial dispute with Japan, many Chinese are looking past suspicions about Washington’s intentions to extend a hearty welcome to the American vice president.
The state-run China News Service called Biden, who arrived for a visit to Beijing on Wednesday, ”a familiar face,” while news magazine Beijing Review described him as an “old friend.”
And the Xinhua news agency’s Globe Magazine even suggested his presence in the country could be “beneficial for improving U.S.-China ties” at a time when many Chinese see the U.S. as favoring Japan in the regional dispute over a strategically located group of islands known as the Diaoyu in Chinese and the Senkaku in Japan.
And why is Biden, who has suffered much lampooning in the U.S. media and on late-night talk shows, so welcome in the People’s Republic? Part of it is about noodles.
Back in 2011, Biden impressed the Chinese public by eating a popular soybean noodle dish at a simple family-owned restaurant in Beijing, along with his family and U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke. His modest meal and general affability immediately generated huge media coverage and delighted many Chinese netizens, who were used to senior leaders staying aloof and distant from common, noodle-eating folk.
The Chinese press went so far as to praise his “noodle diplomacy.”
Two years later, China hasn’t forgotten. Even among comments critical of U.S. policy, many Chinese Internet users are posting recommended meals for his latest visit, including such popular favorites as Mongolian hot-pot with Chinese vodka, as well as lamb-soup-soaked pita bread, a common delicacy at Beijing’s Chinese Muslim restaurants.