Feature

A shoe-toss for China

Premier Wen Jiabao gets the Bush shoe treatment in Britain

“You know the drill,” said Jimmy Orr in The Christian Science Monitor. “If you don’t like someone’s speech—throw your footwear at him.” Like George W. Bush in Iraq, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was the victim of a shoe attack at Britain’s Cambridge University (see video). Due to poor aim, Wen didn’t need Bush’s “ninja-like moves” to avoid the sneaker, but while Bush cracked a joke, Wen "was not nearly as amused.”

And why should he be? asked The Middle East Times in an editorial. Freedom of speech is important, but “we draw the line at freedom of shoe throwing.” It is surely tempting to tell authoritarian leaders like Wen “to shut up” when they hypocritically lecture about democracy, but this is too much. At least the British thrower, unlike his Iraqi inspiration, wasn’t a journalist.

He also wasn’t British, said Richard Spencer in Britain’s The Telegraph, he was German. So while Wen was “very nice to say that the shoe-throwing incident won’t affect UK-China friendship,” it would be irresponsible to blame Britain for the behavior of a foreign guest. The thrower's homeland, though, has at least one reason to be embarrassed: “Why did he miss so badly?”

Wen's “extraordinary” tour of Western capitals has been unsettling, said The Times of London in an editorial, but not because of the shoe toss. Wen’s “Journey of Confidence” tour would have been unnecessary, and uncharacteristic, a year ago as Chinese businesses boomed. If China’s engine of economic growth is at risk of sputtering out, that’s a global problem.

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