World To Tweet or Not to Tweet Is the Question as Trump Visits China

13:01  08 november  2017
13:01  08 november  2017 Source:   Bloomberg

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US President Donald Trump visiting the Forbidden City with China 's President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China on Nov 8. — Reuters. This is not a trick question : Should President Donald Trump tweet from China ? Of course, he will if he can, administration officials say

This is not a trick question : Should President Donald Trump tweet from China ? Of course, he will if he can, administration officials say – even at the risk of flouting the privilege in a nation that generally denies Western social media to its own people.

The Twitter Inc. accounts of U.S. President Donald Trump, @POTUS and @realDoanldTrump, are seen on an Apple Inc. iPhone arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a visit to the White House planned for next week after Trump on Thursday reinforced his demand, via Twitter, that Mexico pay for a barrier along the U.S. southern border to stem illegal immigration.: Via Twitter, Trump Threatens To Cancel Mexico Visit To White House Over Wall© Bloomberg/Bloomberg Via Twitter, Trump Threatens To Cancel Mexico Visit To White House Over Wall (Bloomberg) -- This is not a trick question: Should President Donald Trump tweet from China?

Of course, he will if he can, administration officials say -- even at the risk of flouting the privilege in a nation that generally denies Western social media to its own people. And Trump could create diplomatic tensions by tweeting unless the U.S. first discussed it with the Chinese government, which isn’t clear.

So it’s not a small consideration. The answer has implications for cybersecurity, diplomacy, business and human rights.

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China blocks Twitter for most of its citizens.

Why not?' President Donald Trump will still be able to Tweet from China even though the site is blocked to Chinese citizens. To Tweet or Not to Tweet Is the Question as Trump Visits China 5mth.

The White House convened internal discussions and tapped U.S. counterintelligence officials to consult on the matter before the president left for Asia last week, said a person familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Staff traveling with the president were advised to leave their personal cellphones behind and instead carry travel phones, people familiar with the matter said.

China blocks Twitter for most of its citizens. though people with access to virtual private networks, or VPNs, have been able to bypass social media restrictions despite government efforts to crack down on the practice.

China has occasionally allowed brief access to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter when it hosts international summits. And Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government has made Twitter available to various high-level foreigners, said Adam Segal, director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program with the Council on Foreign Relations. Ahead of Trump’s arrival, he said, the Chinese government has signaled that if Trump wants to tweet no one would stop him.

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Trump ’s refusal to answer questions from the media in China marked a break from examples set by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. In February, he tweeted that the media is the “enemy of the American people.”

Smith said Trump tweeting about China during his visit could embarrass Xi and force state media to acknowledge the existence of the Great Fire Wall, something it is normally loath to do. He predicted the US President would stay off Twitter in Beijing.

Burner Phone

The question may be how -- not if -- the U.S. president brings his tweets to China.

“Most people worried about security, when they go to China, don’t bring their own phones, or bring a burner phone,” Segal said. “On the security side, I assume they’d prefer he didn’t use his phone.”

And in fact, all White House staff have burner phones that will be “purged” when they get back.

Sophie Richardson, China Director for Human Rights Watch, said in an email that Xi’s government has imposed “Orwellian controls” on free expression and social media use, imposing cybersecurity and national security restrictions, unchecked surveillance and prosecutions of critics.

“If President Trump is able to tweet from China it’s because he enjoys privileges President Xi systematically denies to people across that country -- access to circumvention technology, an actionable right to free speech, and of course an ability to leave China freely should the authorities there dislike what he says,” said Richardson.

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Jeremy Diamond with CNN tweeted , “ Trump just became the first US president since George H.W. Bush to not Trump , the leader of the free world, is the first president since George H.W. Bush to roll over to the Chinese request and not take questions from reporters during his state visit to China .”

Donald Trump wrapped up his state visit to China today and boarded Air Force One for the APEC summit in Vietnam, the fourth leg of his lengthy Asia tour. In other words, Trump ’s tweets in China were mostly positive messages to Xi or China .

‘Censored and blocked’

Twitter declined to say whether its representatives had consulted with the Trump administration ahead of the visit, citing a policy of not commenting on discussions with government officials.

“Our consumer service is censored and blocked in mainland China today,” the company said in a statement. “As a global platform, we are already engaged with advertisers, content providers and influencers across Greater China to help them reach audiences around the world.”

The U.S. president has overturned convention at home with his use of Twitter to announce policy, stoke culture wars, settle personal grievances and generally bypass the filters of his own aides and the media. Trump continues to get as many likes and retweets as ever, and he tweeted as many as 109 times in one week in September amid an uproar over some National Football League players kneeling during the national anthem, according to Talkwalker, which analyzes social media data.

He has kept up the pace on his Asia visit so far, tweeting dozens of times from Air Force One and during stops in Tokyo and Seoul on issues ranging from Hillary Clinton to the stock market to the shooting in Texas to the trip itself.

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After twice tweeting out his gratitude, Trump on “ Trump fundamentally calls that into question when he’s praising the Chinese political system — and not getting much in exchange.” China ’s Communist Party-controlled press seems pleased, for now, with Trump ’s visit , for what he said and didn’t say.

Chinese vice foreign minister Zheng Zeguang dismissed questions about Trump ’s social media habits. Not only will Trump be able to tweet while in China , he will be able to share more of his thoughts with his followers.

But there isn’t much precedent for how he should deal with China.

Obama in China

Trump’s immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, was the first sitting president with a Twitter account. But that didn’t happen until late in his presidency, and he didn’t tweet with nearly Trump’s frequency. A review of his account during his last official trip to China in 2016 shows that he didn’t tweet during his time on the ground.

One former Obama adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said all government travelers -- particularly those with security clearance and access to the most sensitive information -- were advised not to take their own cell phones into China. They were told that anything officials carried into the country should be disposable and to assume any equipment used was being monitored.

Former White House press secretary Josh Earnest recalled Obama did use an iPad in China. He said an aide had to hold it at all times and it couldn’t be connected to the Internet through local networks. The U.S. government would scan devices before entering and after leaving China, checking for any changes.

As to whether Trump tweets in China, Earnest said it may not have much impact with an audience that overwhelmingly lacks the ability to access the message.

“He should do a Twitter town hall and take questions that Chinese submit through social media,” Earnest said. “That would make a statement in support of a principle.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Talev in Washington at mtalev@bloomberg.net, Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at jjacobs68@bloomberg.net, Justin Sink in Washington at jsink1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Joshua Gallu

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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