After tensions between two prominent television hosts reached a boiling point, Fox Business's Trish Regan and Chinese state-owned TV host Liu Xin are taking their online trade war spat into the limelight in the form of a live, televised debate on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. EST.
According to the New York Times, the two hosts will discuss trade and technology - a debate which is unlikely to be seen by the Chinese public.
Barbs began to fly earlier this month when Regan argued that American tariffs on Chinese goods are an appropriate and necessary response to the Chinese theft of American intellectual property - which costs the US economy up to $600 billion annually.
Liu, host of "The Point With Liu Xin" on the China Global Television Network, has accused Regan of "economic warmongering" and being "all emotion and accusation supported with little substance."
Regan didn't take Liu's comments lightly, challenging the Chinese host to a debate:
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! #TrishRegan pic.twitter.com/D0QMp0cIz4— Trish Regan (@trish_regan) May 24, 2019
In response, Liu accepted - tweeting: "Hi @trish_regan, if you do mean an HONEST debate on #trade, let's do it Monday evening live on your show - on your turf."
Hi @trish_regan, if you do mean an HONEST debate on #trade, let's do it Monday evening live on your show - on your turf. Contact me via Twitter. My name is not #China State TV. It's LIU Xin and please, feel free to call me Xin. See you Monday evening your time, if you will.— LIU Xin (@thepointwithlx) May 24, 2019
It should be noted that Liu is an English major and an accomplished debater from the eastern province of Jingsu. She was the first Chinese student to win an international public speaking competition in London in 1996, after which she began working for CCTV the following year. She spent six years as the station's Geneva bureau chief, where she covered the Syria conflict and the Iran nuclear talks, before returning to China to launch her own show.
Meanwhile, Chinese social media has blown up over the debate.
On the Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo, the hashtag “Fox News female anchor proposes debate after being accused by CCTV of being emotional” — using a former name for CGTN — has been viewed over 120 million times. Many users posted messages of encouragement for Ms. Liu and praised her for stepping up to defend her country.
“Challenge accepted,” wrote one user on Weibo, calling on Ms. Liu to teach Ms. Regan “how to be a decent human being.”
In the days leading up to the debate, academics and ordinary Chinese have rallied around Ms. Liu, gathering data and facts that could be useful in sparring with Ms. Regan. -New York Times
"Let’s put our heads together, focus on the debate and back her up with specific data and strategies," said Jinan University professor of international relations, Chen Dingding, who told a WeChat social media group he created for the debate which now counts over 450 members: "Please avoid talking about the issue in general terms."
As the Times notes, regardless of the outcome of the debate - the broadcast will expose American public to the Chinese Communist Party's narrative regarding trade.
"“With this opportunity, they are really going to become famous," said retired journalism professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, Zhan Jiang. "They are showing that they aren’t weak, that they’re not going to remain passive in the face of a challenge. This is different than before."
Chinese officials have also chimed in to support Liu.
"I hope everyone can watch," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang in a Tuesday comment. "You know, in China we have a saying: The truth becomes clearer through debate."
Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, in recent years has emphasized the importance of the state news media’s absolute loyalty to the party. But he has often cautioned that it needs to “tell China’s story well” by projecting a compelling, party-sanctioned narrative of China’s rise to global audiences.
Some reporters from state media outlets seem to have responded to Mr. Xi’s call with an enthusiasm that borders on nationalistic bullying. Last fall, Kong Linlin, a CGTN reporter in London, was charged with common assault after she heckled a human rights activist and slapped a volunteer at a public talk about the erosion of freedom in the semiautonomous Chinese territory of Hong Kong.
When she faces off with Ms. Regan on Wednesday night, Ms. Liu may take a different approach, one honed from years of personal experience talking to her husband, a German man of Turkish descent, and their children at home about “China’s story.” -New York Times
"Because they are greatly influenced by the West, if I tell them, ‘China is this way’ or ‘China is that way,’ then they’ll say, ‘Mom is praising China again,’" Liu told Chonese online media outlet The Paper. "After that I learned, O.K., you can’t come on too strong."