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US-China anchors' face-off lets down fans

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AFP Beijing
A much-hyped war of words between anchors from Fox Business and China's state broadcaster CGTN left Chinese viewers disappointed as the trade debate Thursday ended without the anticipated fireworks following a social media feud.
With the US-China trade talks on hold, thousands of Chinese viewers, media and even economists tuned in to watch CGTN host Liu Xin take on Fox Business Network presenter Trish Regan in the rare debate.
China's state media had drummed up interest in the showdown in recent days with articles and social media posts, and even the foreign ministry chipped in to encourage viewing.
The verbal spat erupted when Liu, host of "The Point", took offence to a description of China on the Trish Regan Primetime show, but while the anchors went after each other on Twitter, the on-air face-off was more diplomatic.
"I appreciate you being here," Regan told Liu at the end of the show.
Later, Liu told AFP in an interview that getting into a heated debate would not have been good for the American and Chinese people.
"I didn't want to get into a catfight, people were expecting that," Liu said in her network's Beijing office.
But Chinese viewers were left angry when the "debate" turned more into civil interview between host Regan and her guest, with some baulking at the American talk-show style and bashing Regan for repeatedly cutting off Liu.
Regan had Liu backpedalling from the start, welcoming her on the show by claiming she spoke for China's ruling Communist Party -- a charge which Liu vehemently disputed.
"When you're debating with Americans, you can't be a polite woman following in their footsteps, when dealing with barbarians you must adopt a barbarian-like attitude, otherwise you'll suffer," wrote one viewer on Twitter-like Weibo.
Regan's interruptions climbed to the top of trending topics on the platform.
CGTN refrained from running the segment live, claiming rights issues, but many Chinese appeared to watch it via internet streaming.
"The so-called war of words was over in a quick 15 minutes, and to sum it up, Liu Xin dished out some stuff from our high school politics textbook," said one man on WeChat.
China's state media replayed clips of the duel Thursday and Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of nationalist state-run tabloid Global Times, praised Liu's demeanour and the debate on Weibo.
"Effective exchange of opinions between China and the United States is difficult and it's better to have an attempt like this than nothing at all," Hu wrote on Weibo.
Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang, who had encouraged people to watch the debate, said he had followed it.
"Under the circumstances of Sino-US relations, we would like to see people from all walks of life in China and the US engage in some open, honest and rational thinking and dialogue," Lu told reporters.
Liu told AFP she wanted "the American people to give us the benefit of the doubt, to take a moment to hear us." She said she also wanted her compatriots to understand that "we shouldn't heat up the discussion, we should cool down."

But earlier, Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Hanhui didn't mince words, saying at a press briefing that the US was conducting "naked economic terrorism".
The two anchors, meanwhile, found some common ground on intellectual property theft -- a key issue in the trade dispute as Washington accuses China of stealing US know-how.
"I do not deny that there are IP infringement, there are copyright issues or there are piracy or even theft of commercial secrets," Liu told Regan.
"I think that is something that has to be dealt with." Their Twitter exchanges had been more heated.
"Hey #China State TV - let's have an HONEST debate on #trade. You accuse me of being 'emotional' and not knowing my facts - wrong! You name the time and place, and I'll be there!" Regan tweeted last week.
Liu took her on but warned: "I don't want to play any mud throwing game, if that's what you prepare to do." On camera, the tone was much different.
"If you want to come to China, you're welcome, and I'll take you around. Thank you, Trish, for the opportunity," Liu ended.
"I'd love it," said Regan.

Disclaimer: No Business Standard Journalist was involved in creation of this content

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First Published: May 30 2019 | 7:55 PM IST

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