About the ripple effects of Barack Obama's disastrous and embarrassing trip to Asia:
"I have just returned home to Connecticut after a month in northwest China. I know you've probably exhausted yourself in venting your outrage at the pitifully poor coverage of the Obama visit to China by our 'mainstream' press, but I'm writing to add just one more voice to the chorus of people with on-the-ground experience in China, who can't seem to wrap our heads around what actually happened and what was reported.
"I was literally stopped in the streets of Yinchuan [Ningxia autonomous region, pretty remote, where these pics were taken], due to my being easily spotted as an American, by people of all walks of life who spoke and gestured enthusiastically about the impact that this American president was having and would have on their very lives. It was exhilarating for me, having all too often suffered through explanations about why American leadership doesn't 'get it' where Asia is concerned. My dinner conversations were enlivened in ways I wouldn't have imagined even three years ago.
"In a region where one dares not discuss the 'human rights' agenda of the West, we talked openly and loudly and positively, frequently led by young aspiring Party members, about Obama's subtle but effective challenge to China's leadership to open up the society. Almost all of my university colleagues and most of our students have Facebook accounts and use Twitter in this remote region of China, and all are upset... yes, angry... that they can not communicate using what they know are the most popular social media tools in the West....
"As one who has long been worried about the direction of our fourth estate, I'm feeling little comforted by what I read and watched in our Western press and cable news while in China. As an American far from home, especially during one of our most hallowed of holidays, Thanksgiving, I felt even more distant from that proverbial 'City upon a Hill.'"
James Fallows is a staff writer for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. He and his wife, Deborah Fallows, are the authors of the new book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, which has been a New York Times best seller and is the basis of a forthcoming HBO documentary.